"We have sometimes wondered where the idea came from to powder the leaves with snake essence, but after some fruitless speculation we have eventually concluded that the origin of customs, especially when they are useful and successful, is lost in the mists of time. One fine day the city must have realized that its population was inadequate for the collection of each year's leaf fall and that only the intelligent utilization of the mongooses, which abound in the country, could overcome this deficiency. Some functionary from the town bordering the forests must have noticed that the mongooses, completely indifferent to dead leaves, would become ravenous for them if they smelled of snake. It must have taken a long time to reach this conclusion, to study the reaction of the mongooses to the dead leaves, to powder the leaves so that the mongooses would go after them with a vengeance."
—Julio Cortázar, "Around the Day in Eighty Worlds," pg. 77