Saint Hubert's Key

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St. Hubert’s Key is a charm in the form of a metal nail, cross, or cone.[1] It was used in Europe until the early 20th century as a traditional cure for rabies and was named for St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians, and metalworkers.

The key was heated, and the head pressed to the area where a person had been bitten by a dog believed to have rabies. If performed soon after the bite had occurred, the heat had the potential to cauterize and sterilize the wound, killing the rabies virus.[2] The practice was endorsed by the Christian Church (and subsequently the Catholic Church after the Great Schism), and such keys were used by priests at places with which St. Hubert was associated, where the skin of humans and animals was branded as a protection against the bites of rabid dogs.[3] This practice is recorded in the 1870s in the Ardennes region of France, where dogs were branded with St. Hubert's Key, as "a sure preventative of madness".[4]


  1. ^ "St Hubert Key, Belgium". Small Blessings. 
  2. ^ Example of St Hubert's Key from Belgium, c. 1880-1920[dead link]
  3. ^ Rublack, Ulinka (17 October 2002). Gender in Early Modern German History. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-521-81398-3. OCLC 50271654. 
  4. ^ Reports and Papers of the Architectural and Archaeological Societies of the Counties of Lincoln and Northampton, 1873