Protection Charms, Spells, Curses & more from the mountains of Appalachia
Appalachian magicks are definitely a flavor unto themselves. Some of the practices have their roots in various European traditions but have a bit of Native American lore thrown in as well. Follow the links below to discover the lore concerning each topic. The same links are offered to the left but their titles had to be abbreviated.
Be warned: The information provided is NOT meant to be practiced. Some of the spells and undoings involve killing animals. The information is presented for its historical value ONLY.
Death Omens and Their Undoing
(Warning: some of these methods include harming and killing animals. They are presented as historical information and not intended to be used.)
Mountain Folk (as well as the Irish) believe that a raven that nests on the roof is an omen that a death will occur within a fortnight. To undo this omen you must scare away the ravens before they leave of their own accord. This must be accomplished without the use of human gestures or voices. To do so means that the death will occur in half the original amount of time. Gunshots, rocks and or other animals have been traditionally used.
Black birds who come to rest on a windowsill is a bad omen. If it takes something and for caws while it is there the omen means a death in the family. There are two ways to undo the omens. If it only takes something, you must retrieve the stolen item. If it caws, you must kill the bird and then burn it in a cemetery. Please not that there is a difference between blackbirds and crows. Crows indicate a blight on your land or a famine.
Protection From The Dead and Prevention of Hauntings
Dried basil hung over the doorways, windows, & fireplaces will keep ghosts from entering.
Rue or Purslane planted near the house discourages ghostly visitors.
Wild horseradish or mustard placed under a pillow will prevent nightmares induced by ghosts.
Spinning clockwise 3 times before entering your dwelling reportedly confuses spirits so they cannot enter.
Rapping 3 times on your door post before entering deters ghosts.
Rapping 3 times on your bedpost also deters ghosts from inducing nightmares.
Bells, chimes, and door harps are ancient methods of deterring ghosts stemming from China and Scandinavia.
Serving a plate of potatoes to a ghost just after sundown is another ghost banishing method. When leaving the plate announce that it is for the spirit. Just before dawn, bury the potatoes and the spirit should go with them.If you know the identity of the spirit, and have access to their belongings there is a North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain potato banishing that might be useful.
Take an unwashed, unpeeled potato and cut it in half. Then hollow out a small section, leaving fairly thick walls. Place a small, non-valued item belonging to the deceased inside the hollow space. Then use two long nails or pins to reseal the potato. Take it to the cemetery where they are buried and leave it. The ghost should be bound to the cemetery until its ready to move on.
If you feel you are being followed by an evil spirit, cross over running water. It is said that spirits cannot cross over running water.
To turn away negative forces of human, spectral or animal nature, toss nine broom straws, one at a time, on a hearth fire at sunset.
Squeaky doors should be fixed because they are invitations to ghosts and troublesome spirits.
Windows can be protected with sprigs of fresh rosemary, basil, and woodruff.
Prevention of Curses and Undoing Curses
Prevent a curse, tie up a lock of your hair, a stick from your yard and a clipped nail with red string and carry it in your pocket. Curses cannot affect you as long as you carry the charm. If you lose it, however, it can be used against you by competent enemies.
The broken mirror curse (i.e. seven years bad luck) can be undone by taking the largest shard to the cemetery and touching it to the oldest headstone at midnight.
Placing a fern or ivy on the porch will protect against curses. If its eaten by an animal, then a curse is already in place. Planting dill with the fern protects it against animals.
Yarrow or Pixie Lichen Moss hung on a crib will drive away curses and negativity. This can also be achieved by driving a nail into the crib post.
Milk containing chamomile fed to a child each night was said to protect it from evil and preserve its life 'til dawn.
Appalachian Tree Lore
Oak logs burned in the hearth helps strengthen the home against natural disasters
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.
Love Charms and Spells
Collect a handful of violet buds, think thoughts of romance and then toss them in front of you. Look at the patterns they form on the ground. They should suggest a name or the initials of your future mate. If you get better results with white blossoms then your mate will always be faithful. If you get better results with purple blossoms your marriage will be passionate.
Tossing myrtle into a fire is said to cause the face of your future mate to appear.
A white dove flying over your house is an omen that there will be a marriage in your family within a year.
Odds and ends
To prevent a miscarriage, carry a piece of mottled jasper (also known as bloodstone) in your left pocket.
Blue glass (such as a bottle) in a window repels negativity.
Iron above the doors and fireplace repels unwanted faery folk.
A saucer placed above a door will turn away thieves.
Appalachians 'smudged' their homes with a 'purging incense:' a combination of dried valerian root, dried basil, and rue (not pleasant smelling). In some areas it is traditional to have the oldest member of the household carry the incense while the youngest carries a lit candle and walks behind them.
Horseshoes placed above doorways bring good luck and blessings (originally from Irish folklore).
Dried leather beans strung together and hung over the door brings good luck and protection.
Seeing a cardinal (or "red bird") means you will have unexpected visitors.
Dreams are usually interpreted by their contraries (e.g., dreams of death or a funeral indicates pregnancy of someone you know, and vice versa).
Placing a hat on a table results in unexpected guests, usually unpleasant ones.
If your right palm itches you are going to receive money.
If your left palm itches, you will have an unexpected bill or loss of money.
These were submitted via email to me from Scott who lives in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Submitted by Patty German who learned of these from her grandmother. http://www.whiterosesgarden.com/book_of_shadows/other_books/appalachian/appalach_contents_pgs/APP_INDEX_PG.htm
Appalachian Granny Magic Author
The Appalachian Granny
Magic Tradition of Witchcraft is one that is only recently being heard of. Though the tradition is a very old one, dating all the way back to the first settlers of the magical Appalachian Mountains who came over from Scotland and Ireland in the 1700's. They brought along their even older Irish and Scottish Magical Traditions with them. Those two 'old world' Traditions were then blended with a dash of the local tradition of the Tsalagi (Now, called the Cherokee Indians.) The recipe for the Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition was then complete, though this potion simmered on a low boil for many generations before anyone dubbed it with the name, 'Appalachian Granny Magic.' The Witches of the Appalachian Mountains called themselves 'Water Witches' and/or 'Witch Doctors' depending upon whether they were personally more gifted in healing, midwifery and such realms of magic, or if they were more in tune with dowsing for water, ley lines, energy vortexes and the making of charms and potions.
Often a Practitioner called themselves by both titles if they were so diverse in their Magical practices. The Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition, like many of the older ones, was passed on from parents to their children for many generations, and generally was not 'taught' outside of the individual family structures. Because of the rural and secluded nature of the Appalachian community, the old customs, wisdom, and practices were not as often lost, forgotten, or 'modernized' as the 'old world' traditions that came over to other, more urban areas of the 'new world.' Therefore, one will often find that ancient Irish or Scottish songs, rhymes, dances, recipes, crafts, and 'The Craft,' are more accurately preserved in Appalachia than even in Ireland or Scotland. Many of these old Scot/Irish traditions, as well as the Tsalagi traditions, both magical and mundane, were carried on in Appalachia until modern times. Some songs, spells, and such have been passed down for many years that way, though sadly, sometimes only by rote, with the original meanings beings lost in the shifting sands of time.
In the secluded mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, the Virginias and the Carolinas, this denomination of the ancient religion of Witchcraft continued right on through the decades of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and the early twentieth centuries; a time when Witchcraft elsewhere was being nearly forgotten and abandoned by the increasingly modern and monotheistic world. The people of the mountains still relied upon Mother Nature in a way, that 'city folk' did not anymore. The fertility of the crops, the livestock, and of the people themselves was as paramount to the Appalachians of 1900 as it was to the early American colonists in the 1600's. Therefore, fertility, and the worship of Mother Nature, Jack frost, Father Winter, Chloe, Spider Grandmother, Demeter, and such varied deities continued in the Appalachian region, staying a current part of the people's faith, rather than becoming a mythic memory as such 'nature worship' did elsewhere. In fact, we still see "Lady Plenty and Lady Liberty" Goddess of the harvest, with cornucopia in hand, and Goddess of freedom, on the official North Carolina State seal.
Amazingly, even the terms "Witch"", "Witchcraft", "spells", "charms" and such never became taboo in the modern Appalachian culture. Nearly every mountain top and 'holler' community had their local 'Witch' who was openly called such, as a title of honor, not as a insult or a charge of crime, as the term came to be used in other more urban American cultures of the seventeen, eighteen and nineteen hundreds. The "Witch Doctors" were still called upon to heal a sick child, or deliver a baby, or tend to the dying, as Witches had been so charged with doing in Europe during ancient times. Since often a mountain community had no medical doctor to call upon, the local Witches continued to work as the only healers, well up until the early twentieth century. The local 'Witch' was also called upon to dowse for water, ley lines, and energy vortexes when one was digging a well, planting a new garden, burying a loved one, or doing any other work with the Earth. Thereby, the term 'Water Witch' arose, though, it is misleading, as these Witches dowsed for more than just water, and one did not have to be a Witch to dowse, though most dowsers of that era and location were, indeed, Witches.
The fairy folk, leprechauns, and other 'wee people,' followed the Scots and Irishmen to Appalachia, it seems, as the Witches of this tradition continue to work closely with these beings. Of course, the Tsalagi people had their own such beings, here when the Scots and Irishmen arrived. The Tsalagi called their magical being neighbors; 'Yunwi Tsunsdi,' which translates to 'The Little People.' Offerings are still commonly given to the wee people daily in Appalachia. To this day, you will find a granny woman leaving a bowl of cream on her back door step, or throwing a bite of her cornbread cake out a window, before placing it upon her families' table. The spirits of the dead are often worked with as well, a lot of ancestral spirit guide workings are passed down through our Tradition, those practices trace back to not only Scotland and Ireland, but the Tsalagi Nation as well. 'Haints' are widely feared as 'angry' ancestral spirits, and many spells, charms, and rituals are practiced to keep these troublemakers at bay. One of the most interesting and common haint related spells requires that the doors of a home be painted 'haint blue.' Haint Blue is a bright baby blue with a periwinkle tinge, very close to but about one shade darker than the Carolina Tarheels' Blue color.
This color is believed to repel the spirits and keep them out of the home. Music is a large part of the Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition. Many of the oldest spells are sung and danced. Clogging, as Irish Step-dancing came to be called in Appalachia, as well as reels, gigs, lullabies, and chants sung in rounds are all very common magical ingredients in Appalachian spells. For example, a traditional Earth Blessing to be sung while planting and harvesting goes; (Broken into syllables for easier pronunciation of the ancient Tsalagi language, English translation follows) A da we hi a ne he ne ha Do hi u a iu ni O lo hi a li ga lu lo hi u nah ta Ga li e li ga O sa da du Wise Protectors, they are so giving Serenity, it resounds Mother Earth and Father Sky are so giving I am thankful, it is good Another example of the old world musical roots of Appalachian musical magic is the locally common use of the song 'Auld Lang Syne' for Samhain and Funerals, as well as the secular new year.
Divination is popular among Appalachian Granny Witches. Many read Tarot, and regular playing cards, tea leaves, and clouds. Scrying in bowls of water, dirt, or sand is also common. Spider webs are scrutinized for messages from the Cherokee Spider Grandmother Goddess, a Goddess of fate, magic, weaving, art and storytelling, who is said to weave magical messages into the webs of her creatures. (In Tsalagi, She was called; 'Kanene Ski Amai Yehi.') "The Weaver" Painting By Ginger Strivelli The tools of the Appalachian Granny Witch vary a bit from the modern 'Wiccan' tools we all are so familiar with. The Wand, often instead called the 'rod', as it is in fact a dowsing rod, is the most important tool. This is usually a long straight rod, rather than the 'forked stick' type dowsing rod used by mundane dowsers. It is generally made of wood from a flowering tree such as dogwood, apple or peach, (For Water dowsing) or made from a metal, (For ley line or energy dowsing) copper conducts energy best, I personally feel.
A ritual blade, such as a Athame, is only occasionally used and more often a agricultural blade like a thresher, ax or such will be used in its stead. Cauldrons are used more widely than chalices, in fact, a cauldron placed in ones front yard was a 'open-for-business' type Witches' sign in times gone by, much like a barber's pole is used today. However, that practice has become a popular decoration in the South in recent decades, and one is likely to find a person has a cauldron decorating their front yard, because they saw it in 'Southern Homes Magazine' and thought it was quaintly attractive, rather than it being used to advertise that the 'Witch is in,' so to speak. Mirrors, candles, brooms, pottery, and baskets are other common tools of the Tradition, and all of those items are still commonly made at home, by hand in the mountains of Appalachia. As most of the Magic of the Tradition is of a healing, practical or sympathetic nature rather than "High" or Ritualistic in form, and there are some differences related to that.
Ritual clothing is generally not used, and circles are not cast for every spell, only the more formal rites. An Appalachian Witch, like myself, might do a dozen or more spells in any given day, often with two or three generations of practitioners taking part, so running in to change clothes, or stopping to cast a full circle in the 'strict' form would be rather impractical, and in fact, neither was commonly done in the past, in our Tradition. Although some modern Appalachian Witches, being eclectic already with our Scottish, Irish, and Tsalagi roots, have started to use some other Traditions' practices (such as wearing ritual clothing, casting a formal circle, etc.) at times, as well. We, as a Magical Tradition, are very practical, and 'down-to-earth.' We are very eclectic, and informal in our approach to Witchcraft. It is our way of life, as well as our religion. And we are working to preserve both, for the future generations of Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition Witches.
Mountain Magick by Edain McCoy
Voices of Our Ancestors by Dhyani Ywahoo
Scottish Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland
Celtic Myth and Magic by Edain McCoy
Myths of the Cherokee James Mooney
Appalachian Granny Magic
Contributed by: firewytch
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 or driving a nail into the crib post will drive away curses.
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.