Shahmat al-Ard, the “fat of the earth” or “grease of the earth”, is a worm that contracts into a bead if touched. Al-Qazwini, who called it the Kharȃti, said that it was long, red, and lived in damp areas. On the other hand, al-Zamakshari believed it to be small, white, speckled with red spots, and resembling both a white fish and the hand of a woman. Hurmus said that it smelled good, and was immune to fire, being capable of crawling through a bonfire unharmed.
Its primary value is in the variety of medicinal benefits it provides. Its fat, if painted onto one’s skin, will protect from fire. The entire worm, dried and eaten, cures jaundice and scrofula; dried and taken with water, causes immediate delivery in the case of a difficult birth. Roasted and eaten with bread, it dissolves bladder-stones. A shahmat al-ard reduced to ashes, mixed with oil, and applied to the head will cure alopecia and restore hair growth.
Nonetheless it is not generally eaten, since as a filthy worm it is unclean and unfit for human consumption.
al-Damiri, K. (1891) Hayat al-hayawan al-kubra. Al-Matba’ah al-Khayriyah, Cairo.
Jayakar, A. S. G. (1908) Ad-Damiri’s Hayat al-Hayawan (A Zoological Lexicon), vol. II, part I. Luzac and Co., London.