Traditional Witchcraft

Appalachian Granny Magic

Wednesday, March 07 2007 @ 12:00 AM PST
Contributed by: firewytch
Views: 4,879
Appalachian Granny Magic is only recently being heard of by many people even though the tradition is very old, dating all the way back to the first settlers of the Appalachian Mountains. In the 1700's immigrants came and brought along their Irish and Scottish traditions. Those two traditions were then blended with the local traditions of the Cherokee Indians. Although it has been around for a long time there is very little information written about it. It is known to be an earth based tradition passed on by Scottish, Irish and Cherokee ancestors. It is the belief that nature is sacred. The Appalachian Witch respects and reveres nature however they do not worship it.

Appalachian Granny Magic was passed on from parents to their children for many generations and usually was not passed outside of the family. The Appalachian communities were small, rural and secluded, so the customs, wisdom, and practices were not as often lost, forgotten, or modernized. Because of this many of the ancient Irish or Scottish songs, rhymes, dances, spells, rituals and 'The Craft,' were more accurately preserved in Appalachia than in most other places in the world. Many of the Scot/Irish traditions, as well as the Cherokee traditions, have been carried on in Appalachia up to this day.

In the secluded mountains of the South Eastern United States, this form of Witchcraft continued right on through the decades of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and the twentieth centuries; a time when Witchcraft was being forgotten and abandoned by the world. The people of the mountains still relied upon Mother Nature. The fertility of the crops, the livestock, and of the people themselves was as important to the Appalachians of the 1900’s as it was to the immigrants in the 1600's. Mother Nature, Jack Frost, Father Winter and other deities continued in the Appalachian region, as a part of the people's beliefs.

Most Appalachian Witches believe that all people have a spirit; that all things of the earth have a spirit. They believe that spirits are a part of nature but not a part of the energy of god; they do not believe in many gods and goddesses as separate entities, they believe in one universal GOD. Appalachian Witches observe the sabbats, solstices and equinoxes, but do not relate them to mythology; it is the seasonal changes that they recognize.

The terms ‘Witch,’ Witchcraft’, ‘spells’ and ‘charms’ never became taboo in Appalachia; nearly every mountain top and holler had their 'Witch'; although practitioners usually called themselves cunning or wise women. Local folk went to the wise ones for prophecy, and protection, for delivering babies, healing with herbs, and other remedies and cures; providing abortions, love potions, and poisons; divination and casting of curses and blessings, or care for the dying. Often a mountain community had no doctor to call, the Witches were the only healers available to them,well into the twentieth century. (The local 'Witch' was also called upon to dowse for water.)

Fairy and leprechaun lore was brought by the Scots and Irish to Appalachia and the Witches continued to believe in them. The Cherokee people had their own magical beings when the Scots and Irish arrived. Offerings are still given to little people in Appalachia; it is as simple as leaving a bowl of milk on the door step or throwing a piece of cornbread out a window for them.

Working with spirits of the dead and ancestral spirit guide workings were also passed down, these practices trace back to Scotland, Ireland and the Cherokee Nation. Spirits were shown respect; believed to be those who passed before… ancestors, family; but not all spirits are believed to be helpful, some can be troublesome. 'Haints' are feared spirits; spells, charms, and rituals are practiced to keep them away. One of the most common ‘haint’ related spells requires that the porch ceiling of a home be painted ‘haint’ blue. This is believed to keep the ‘haints’ out of the home.

Divination is popular in Appalachia. Many of the Witches read Tarot, and regular playing cards, tea leaves, coffee grounds, spider webs and clouds. Scrying in water, dirt, or sand is common.

The Appalachian Witch tools are different from 'Wiccan' tools. The Wand, is called the 'rod', it is the dowsing rod and for some Witches the most important tool. It is usually a long straight rod, made of wood from a flowering tree such as dogwood, apple or peach for Water dowsing. A ritual blade is not used; a kitchen knife or an ax will be used instead. Cauldrons are used for many purposes. A cauldron placed in the front yard was an 'open-for-business’ Witches’ sign in times gone by. Mirrors, candles, brooms, pottery, and baskets are other common tools and some of those items are still made at home, by hand in the mountains of Appalachia. Many times the only tools used are the mind and willpower of the Witch.

Appalachian magic was a solitary practice. It required little preparation and no expensive tools or specialized knowledge. It was very practical and down-to-earth; eclectic and informal in its approach, rather than ‘High’ or ‘Ritualistic’ in nature. It was primarily concerned with omens, curses, cures, and protection. Ritual clothing was generally not used, and circles were not cast. All nature was believed to be sacred, so a “sacred” place did not have to be created; Appalachian witches believe magic need not be ritualistic to be effective because Magic is essentially prayer. SOME modern Appalachian Witches, being eclectic already with Scottish, Irish, and Cherokee roots, have started to use some other traditions practices such as wearing ritual clothing and casting a circle.

Many of the old spells and remedies are still used in Appalachia today. In fact a few years ago my father had shingles, a relative in the coal mining mountains of Kentucky told him the best treatment was to rub the area with the blood of a black chicken. (He didn’t try it.)

I have spent my life in the mountains of Appalachia. My grandfather was an Irish immigrant, who married a Cherokee woman. I was born in a coal mine camp in eastern Kentucky, delivered by the local witch. I have painted the porch ‘haint’ blue for my mother-in-law and watched a witch dowse for water after wells went dry. I have experienced Granny magic first hand all my life, even though it was never called that. It was just a part of daily life. This is about the Appalachian Granny magic I know. I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

Here is a sample of spells, remedies and beliefs of the people in the Appalachian Mountains. I have included things I have heard and seen. Some work and some don't.

If you dream of a birth, there will be a death and vice versa.
If your ears are burning, someone is talking about you.
When a certain area of your body itches, it foretells of things to come:
left eye = you will be made happy
right eye = you will be made angry
palm in general = you will receive money
back of hand in general = you will give away money
fingers in general = you will receive money only to spend it quickly
right palm = you will shake hands with a stranger
left palm = you will touch money
souls of feet = you will walk on strange grounds

A horseshoe aimed upward, nailed to a barn or house, will protect from evil and bad luck.
A raven that nests on the roof is an omen that a death will occur. To undo this omen you must scare away the ravens before they leave on their own.
Black birds that come to rest on a windowsill are a bad omen. If it caws while it is there the omen means a death.
If a bird flies into the house it is bad luck. Finding a dead bird is also considered a bad omen.
Dried basil hung over the doorways, windows, fireplaces will keep ‘haints’ from entering.
Garlic placed under a pillow or knocking 3 times on the bed post will prevent nightmares caused by spirits.
Knocking 3 times beside your door before entering deters ‘haints’.
Bells and chimes are methods of keeping ‘haints’ away. (windchimes)
If you feel you are being followed by a ‘haint’, cross over running water. “Haints’ cannot cross over running water.
To turn away negative forces from humans or animals toss nine broom straws, one at a time, on a fire at sunset.
Squeaky doors are invitations to ‘haints’.
Windows can be protected from ‘haints’ with sprigs of fresh rosemary and basil.
Placing a fern or ivy on the porch will protect against curses. If it’s eaten by an animal, then a curse is already in place.
Yarrow or Lichen Moss hung on a crib will drive away curses or drive a nail into the crib post.
Carrying a piece from a tree that has been struck by lightening will protect the carrier.
Acorns thrown on the roof before it rains will prevent hail damage.
Oak logs burned in the hearth will protect the home.
Pine and Cedar logs burned in the hearth brings prosperity
Birch logs burned in the hearth brings happiness
Elm protects against curses and evil.
Basil and Rosemary tossed into a fire protects and brings happiness.
A white dove flying over your house is an omen that there will be a marriage, some believe it is generally a good omen.
To rid your self of a wart, cut a potato in half and rub on the wart.
To make your hair grow you should place clippings under the down spout of your home.
To cure a child of asthma, have the child cut a mark on a tree as high up as can be reached. When the child is taller than the mark on the tree the asthma will be gone.
If someone plants a cedar he will die when it grows large enough to shade his coffin.