Appalachian Folk Magic – Protection from Ghosts & Ghouls

Protection from Ghosts and Ghouls in Appalachian Folk Magic

For the Appalachian folk magic practitioner, the otherworld is all around us. We exist in a world inhabited by little people, ghosts, spirits, demons, and angels. Yet, most people are taught to deny the existence of the otherworld and its entities from the time we are small children. Following in the footsteps of their Celtic ancestors, Appalachian folk magic practitioners regard natural openings or doorways as sacred places — the portals between worlds. Caves, lakes, stones with naturally occurring holes (holey or hag stones), graveyards, and mountain tops are all believed to be places where one can glimpse into the spiritual world. Since the spirituality of the Appalachian folk magic practitioner is so far interwoven with nature it would be incorrect to think of this spirituality as an organized system of mystical beliefs or practices. It is looking at nature differently, appreciating all that God created – both the everyday and the mysterious.

Protection Against Ghosts and Ghouls in Appalachian Folk MagicThe otherworld is populated with various kinds of entities that are seldom regarded as spiritual beings. They are more often thought of as creatures or animals. The Appalachian folk magic practitioner regards these entities as being less evolved than the human race, but none-the-less deserving of respect. This can be seen in how Appalachian folk magic practitioners relate to their animal familiars — even if the familiar was once a person who was somehow transformed into an animal through magical means. The otherworld also contains good and bad faeries (a form of little people), elves, dwarves, trolls, giants, witches (good or evil), angels or fairies masquerading as people, ghosts (usually deceased family members) that will sometimes linger near their graves, and ancestral spirits who may dwell in an old home place or other location where they once lived. These entities can interfere with individuals, groups of people, or even whole communities. Appalachian folk magic practitioners work to protect themselves, their family members, neighbors (or community), livestock (and crops) from the harmful influences of these otherworld entities by employing various types of charms and spells.

One example is a spell intended to prevent a witch from bewitching a child. It is called “binding” in the vernacular of local tradition:

A Witch’s Binding Spell

Take nine stalks of red thread that has been braided together and tie nine knots in it while saying: “As I knot this string so I knot you three times three. I bewitch you witch and none can do so more.” Place the knotted string in a tree for nine days or until it rots away completely.

These folk magic herbal charms often employ natural objects such as roots, herbs, stones, bottles, animal skulls etc., to provide physical evidence of their magical power. Another example can be in this charm for protection against witches (who are thought to be human-like creatures that possess the power to assume animal forms at will):

An Appalachian Charm Against Witches

At midnight on a Saturday take seven hairs from the mane of a black cat and tie them together with threeProtection Against Ghosts and Ghouls in Appalachian Folk Magic knots, saying “As this hair is knotted so I knot you. As this knot is tied so I bind you.” The remainder of the hairs are carried in one’s pocket or purse where they are believed to protect against witches coming near the person who carries them.

These hill-folk practitioners also use various colored candles strategically placed around their homes for protection against evil entities that may try to enter through doorways or windows. If there is a window above a doorway in which a person has been sleeping, a green candle should be lit on the other side of the window to protect him or her from harm caused by ghosts and ghouls who may want to enter through that doorway. Another method is to place a black candle within a circle of salt to keep evil entities away from its position for as long as it burns.

To Calm a Fussy Baby

To quiet a crying baby one would hold a lit candle over a vessel containing water while concentrating on what was wanted (such as peace and tranquility) while dripping the melting wax into the water. The vessel is usually kept near where the baby sleeps; other times it might be placed under its crib or chair.

Appalachian practitioners worked to protect themselves, their family members, neighbors (or community), livestock (and crops) from the harmful influences of these otherworld entities by employing various types of charms and spells, almost always from materials found right there in the hills.

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If you want to learn more about Appalachia, take a look at the The Official Magazine of Appalachian State University

Winter Weather Predictions In The South – Appalachian Folklore

Folklore on How to predict a hard winter in the South

There is much Appalachian and Southern folklore around ways to look to nature to determine how hard the winter will be. Among these observations, the monarch butterfly holds a special place in Southern folklore.

When nature puts on its fall finery and when we see monarch butterflies fluttering about amongCardinal Birds in a Winter scene summer flowers, we may very well feel that the worst of winter is yet to come. Yet no matter how hard winter may be or how long it may last in our area, one day in early spring we’ll surely notice several signs: beechnuts are abundant for wildlife; storms seem milder than usual; insects are active throughout the day. We know then that the worst has passed and that at least this year’s cycle of seasons will soon draw to a close.

Some of them include:

– the number of fogs in August. For every fog we have in August, that will be a day of snow.

– Wooly worms which range from an amber color to variegated to black, an amber band around the center means a mild winter and a solid black one predicts a hard winter. Historically, this has been found to be about 80% accurate.

– If squirrels are very active gathering up nuts like chestnuts and walnuts quickly, it is a sign of a longer winter

– If the locally grown onions and corn have thicker skins and husks than normal, the more layers you’ll need to put on this coming winter.

– “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”

– Frequent Halos or Rings Around the Sun or Moon Forecasts Numerous Snowfalls

-The thickness of the husk on chestnuts, which will appear thicker when a tough winter is coming. This works to an extent, but usually only one year in four or five has a really hard winter.

-In autumn, harvest grapes from vines that have been undisturbed for several years and count the number of rotations the sun makes around the patch of earth where they grow. If you get more than 255 rotations before a killing frost, you can expect a very cold winter. As it turns out, if you get fewer than 90 rotations–the weather should be milder still.

-If oak leaves are red in September, there will be a hard winter. But if oak leaves are green in September, the winter will be mild and gentle.

-An increase in the number of wasps and hornets in September indicates a harsh winter to come.

-The amount of sun or cloudiness on Halloween determines what the weather will be like for the rest of the winter. If it’s sunny, there will be no more snow; if cloudy, expect an average winter; if it rains on Halloween, there will be a lot of snow over the next several months.

-If animals tend to get frisky before a hard winter, don’t put your stockings up yet! A “jumping” mouse is a sure sign that you’ll have a tough ride ahead. Pig mating season is another good predictor: it starts earlier and is more frequent and intense when the weather is going to be cold.

– How many nuts or acorns a squirrel stores away in his den indicates how tough it will be the coming winter. If he has prepared for a goodly deep snow, we can prepare accordingly; if there seems to be little preparation, we can expect only the average type of winter.

– If oak leaves curl up and fall early in September, then harsh weather will come before Halloween.

– The intensity of spiderwebs spun late in the year indicates how bad the following winter will be: spiders tend to weave thinner webs when they’re expecting foul weather ahead than when they expect warmer times to follow.

– Look closely tree bark for signs of buckling and twisting by the bark of White birch, Sweet gum, and Tulip poplar; this is a sure sign that severe cold is coming.

– If the forest floor has plants blooming in September, it’s an early warning signal of a hard winter ahead. Mushrooms like morels grow only after there’s been a good soaking of rain during low temperatures; this weather pattern often coincides with harsh winters.

– A change in the color and quality of grasses and weeds signals whether or not the following winter will be mild: tough stuff indicates bitter cold to come, while tender shoots indicate an early springtime.

These were some of the most common signs that foreshadow winter that we Southerners look for. Remember, these are not foolproof indicators and they don’t always work as predicted.

Find some more folkloric signs about winter from the Farmer’s Almanac here, and don’t forget to find some more Southern folklore here, or prep for winter with some of your favorite aromaG’s candles and teas.

But with all this information at your fingertips, what would you do to prepare for winter? Do you have any other traditions or superstitions about the winter season?