Traditional Witchcraft

Appalachian Folk Magic charms ARTICLE by Ginger Strivelli:

In the magical mountains of Appalachia the folk magicians of the area have for generations used herbs, and such to treat common aliments. (Of course, once should not consider these a substitute for your modern doctor.)
Some of the most common treatments are quite effective. Some of the charms are rather odd and almost frightening sounding to our modern sensibilities. Many of these contain dangerous ingredients, kerosene and turpentine being commonly used in many various charms, and remedies. However many are quite useable even today, and all should be remembered for their historical value.

As with most culture the common cold inspires many treatments but no cures. Colds, flu, and 'the Croup' are treated by various charms, a couple of the best are a simple dose of grated alum, mixed with twice as much sugar, and taken by the teaspoonful.

Another treatment for this illness is a mixture of rock candy (In some families honey or licorice instead,) and moonshine (any white spirits, in these modern days, will work in moonshine's stead.) This 'sweet shine,' is also used to treat menstrual cramps, body aches and nearly everything else. Body aches are also treated with marigold cider. To make marigold cider; steep marigolds in apple cider vinegar, and use to wash the sore muscles. Cramps of any kind can also be banished over night by placing your oldest pair of shoes upside down under your bed. Similarly a knife place under the bed of a woman in childbirth, is said to 'cut the pain.'

Diarrhea is treated most successfully by blackberry juice, which is much more pleasant and often more effective than modern medicines for the illness. Another treatment for this is an equal mixture of salt, vinegar, and water. However, the blackberry juice is preferable for obvious reasons.

Heartburn is treated with a mixture of black cherry bark, wintergreen, and yellow dock, and 2 quarts of water, to be reduced over heat to 3 pints. It was taken in small amounts daily. Another treatment is drinking a 'soda' …NOT a cola, but soda powder mixed with water. For sickness of the stomach without the reflux, a steep of white poplar roots is used. Nausea is treated with egg gruel. (Make egg gruel; VERY hard-boil 3 eggs, then grate these into boiled new milk with a pinch of salt.) Nausea can be prevented by chewing on peppermint stems.

Fever sores are treated by washing the sores with strong sumac tea. Chapped lips can be healed with a washing of white oak bark. The bugleweed, called 'the talker' by the Cherokee is believed to cause one to become more eloquent if rubbed on the mouth. It is a common remedy for 'smart mouthed children,' persons slow learning to talk, or persons too shy to speak in public.

Infants also benefit from herbal folk cures. Catnip tea is used to treat jaundice, colic, and teething. Teething is also treated with rubbing the gums with vanilla extract, and even lancing the swollen gum to allow the tooth to break though before the fever caused brain injury, of course this was used before easy modern fever-reduction treatments were common. When one's baby is weaned, and they wanted to dry up their breast milk, a poplar leaf is placed on the beasts to cause the milk to dry up faster, and prevent the pain of engorgement.

Lack of beauty can also be 'treated.' Acne is treated with a lemon cut in half and rubbed on the face, then the lemon half was buried or fed to a pig. This is a common charm for warts as well, though a potato half is used for them. Limp, or weak hair can be washed with a tea of the plant known as catgut, or 'di-sta-i-yi' ('they are strong,') to make it strong and healthy looking. Troubling sunburns can have the 'sting taken out' with a wash of vinegar, but it is a painful washing…afterwards the sting is indeed gone, if you want to trade short pain for long discomfort. Less effective, but also more tolerable treatments for sunburns are a wash of equal parts lime juice and olive oil, or 'Almond milk' made by half an ounce of blanched bitter almonds in half a pint of well or spring water. Poison ivy rashes particularly are troublesome. One can avoid the plants rash by addressing it as ''hi-gi-na-li' or 'my friend' when one sees it in the wild, but if you find you have already touched your friend, then rub it with the pounded flesh of a crayfish before the rash appears. Once the rash is seen on the skin, treat with a wash of mother's milk or a buttermilk and vinegar mixture. Then cover with red clay and let dry, which will speed up the healing.

Several charms are used as panaceas, like the before mentioned moonshine and rock candy mixture. Spider webs, mother's milk, tobacco, liniments and poultices are also widely used for many various complaints. Ginseng is used as a preventative for most conditions. (One must carefully gather ginseng roots…always passing by the first 3 plants they find, and only starting to harvest on the 4th plant, after a prayer of thanks, and leaving an offering in that roots place.)
Spider webs are used to banish scrapes, warts, and bruises, by simply covering the area with a web. They also were eaten on moldy bread to cure infections. Webs are 'read' like tealeaves were, looking for messages from the Cherokee Spider

Grandmother, Goddess of fate, fire, the sun, and story telling. They also are carried as protection charms, and used in spells and charms anytime one needed to bind things together. Tobacco is another cure-all used. It is smoked to calm the nerves, treat sleeplessness, and hysteria, and commonly used among the Cherokee to bind all oaths taken. It is used fresh to treat bee stings, and in ashes to treat 'barber's itch' (Commonly known are bartenders rash, today.) The smoke was even used to treat earaches. Mother's milk is also used as a wash for various problems including earaches, 'the pink eye', rashes and burns. Burns are also treated with a mixture of cornmeal and crushed slippery elm bark.

Liniments are also widely used for various conditions. Some of the best recipes are;
1) 2 ounces each of camphor, olive oil, and chloroform, and a dash of sassafras.
2) 2 ounces of oil of spike, 2 ounces of origanum, 2 ounces of hemlock, 2 ounces of wormwood, 4 ounces of sweet oil, 2 ounces of spirits of ammonia, 2 ounces of gum camphor, and 2 ounces of spirits of turpentine.
3) A particular mixture for stiff joints is a mixture of bark from apple trees, and white oaks, boiled down in a bit of water, and mixed with oil.
4) My favorite is a mixture of eucalyptus oil, camphor, menthol, added to petroleum jelly, or lard…turpentine or kerosene was often added to this mixture as well, though it makes it stronger and must be used more sparingly if mixed so.
Poultices are also common. Spice poultice is made of equal amounts of cinnamon, cloves, and Cheyenne pepper mixed with flour, honey and moonshine (again any white spirits will do.) Another poultice is made from milk, breadcrumbs, and glycerin. Almost every family had at least one family recipe for poultices so they are allot of variations on the charm.
So many of these ancient and magical charms are being lost and forgotten of late, it is important that we preserve the wisdom of our ancestors by cataloging these charms and sharing them, whether we are still using them or not.


Mountain Magick By Edain McCoy
Llewellyn 1997

In Grandmother's Day
By Jean Cross
Wings Books, 1980

Myths of the Cherokee
By James Mooney
Dover Publications, 1995

A List of various Appalachian Granny Witch Remedies

(of course, folks, use your common sense, and see a doctor when needed!)
~~(this list is a work in progress, as I can quiz my grandmothers, I shall add more...)

Like all Appalachian Granny Magic folk lore these charms/potions/spells are basically, Cherokee, Irish, and Scottish in origin, often a strange mixture of the three, like myself. Hope you find them interesting!
Lady Ginger

Chicken pox
Soak in an oatmeal bath twice a day

Posion Oak/Ivy
Washing with Clorox bleach then buttermilk, (I suggest the latter only, unless you have a high pain threshold.)

Menstrual cramps
Take your oldest pair of shoes and place them upside down under your bed. Also a potion containing equal parts of sourwood honey, raspberry tea, or juice, and moonshine (any clear spirit,) is said to help, if take one shallowful at a time as needed, and I bet it does!

Take one cup full of, what my Mawie calls 'Soda,' so don't ever offer me a 'soda,' and be surprised when I recoil. Soda is hot water, and baking soda. Eating a raw potato or chewing on a mint leaf is also prescribed.

Cuts and scrapes on the skin
Place a spider web over the area, and blow on it.

Bladder/kidney infection
Drink large amounts of dandelion tea.

Drink blackberry juice. (This one cured my son when he was in the hospital when he was just a baby, and the doctors had proved useless. Some canned blackberry juice from one of my grandmother's old relatives cured him the first day we gave it to him, after weeks of his being sick!)

Urine drops in the ear, or blow tobacco smoke into the ear.

Take a vinegar bath. (This one gave me a past life memory of being boiled in oil during the Inquision, it hurt so bad...but it didn't hurt a bit after that. Still I've never used it again!

Never throw your hair clippings away, throw them out for the birds to make nests from, or you'll have headaches, but I've heard this in reverse as well, that if the birds get your hair you'll have headaches, so you should bury it. Also an old sock tied about the head for a night, then burnt is prescribed.

Catnip tea is recomended, it is used as a preventative measure even for newborns.

Putting vanilla on the tooth, or sleeping on wet ashes is often prescribed.