Blog Post 37 – Some Weekend Reading

Howdy everyone!

I thought that I’d finish up this week with another essay, this time one that I won’t actually be posting on the New World Witchery site.  Instead, I’m going to provide a link to an excellent essay I found on Pow-wow magic, and then some notes I made while reading it.

The essay itself is written by David W. Kriebel, Ph.D.  and has a distinctly academic tone.  It focuses on the history and practice of braucherei in the Pennsylvania area, as well as examining some modern practitioners (most notably Don Yoder and Silver Ravenwolf (aka Jenine Trayer).  It’s an interesting read, I think, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Here’s the essay:  http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIV/Powwow.htm

Some of the thoughts I had while reading this were:

  • Why is Pow-wow fading from the magical stage so steadily?  Many spiritual and magical traditions have received increased attention in the past 30-40 years as the shiny patina of atomic-age wonder has begun to fade, yet Pow-wow still seems to be on the decline.
  • Is Pow-wow evolving into something else altogether?  Kriebel mentions Ravenwolf’s book, which has had a mixed reception at best in the magical community.  But her version of Pow-wow may just be where the practice is headed.  Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, period?
  • The old books of Pow-wow, such as The Long Lost Friend and the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, get a good bit of attention in this essay.  How relevant are they to the current practice of this magical system?
  • I love the story about Mountain Mary.  It makes me wonder just how many of my local folk heroes might have been magically inclined.
  • The three levels of magical ritual (I, II, and III) which Kriebel mentions correspond well to various practices I’ve seen elsewhere (a simple charm from Hohman might be a I or a II, while Chris Bilardi’s complete brauche circuit in The Red Church is more of a III, I think).  I wonder if the idea presented here about Pow-wow would hold true for other magical systems, like hoodoo.
  • One of the best things I come away with from this essay is in his conclusion, where he notes a 90% effectiveness rating for Pow-wow curing, which is remarkably good for any healing practice.  In the end, I think that kind of a result defies any attempts to explain magic as pure superstition, but I may be wrong.  What do you think?

That’s it for this week!  Have a great weekend, and as always, thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 36 – Questions to a Braucher, Part II


Hello again!

Today we’ve got Part II of the question-and-answer article by Chris Bilardi. I won’t spend a lot of time introducing it, as I think Chris does a marvelous job of presenting his information without all of my gum-flapping beforehand 🙂 Onto the article!

How important is God in braucherei healing?

God is of paramount importance in braucherei. There is no real healing outside of God. Those two statements, I know, sound horribly pious. But, I cannot change the fact of who the real Source of this work is. Before a powwow session the braucher will ask every new ‘patient’ if they belief in God. If the response is ‘no’ the appointment ends right there. There has been some disagreement if one needs to be specifically Christian in order to be treated, or if one only needs to accept the God of the Bible. It is difficult for some to grasp the importance of this. Today we live in a very secularized, humanistic culture. Man has become the measure of all things in an imperfect existentialist universe of largely impersonal forces. Even “spiritual” power, when acknowledged, is made palatable by putting ‘it’ on the same level as electricity, for example. The healing power is “orgone”, “vril”, “animal magnetism”, “chi” – it is anything but God Almighty. But, that is not the world of a traditional braucher. This is not to say that there are no such energies, but in the view of traditional powwowers, it is the Holy Ghost that directs all power. In the Christian belief, the Holy Ghost is not a “what” but a “Who” — the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Pennsylvania Germans have traditionally been mainly of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions (although there are many other denominations as well), and it is within that ‘universe’ that old time practitioners had (and have) their foundation and points of reference. Therefore, it is important to note that braucherei is not a religion, but simply a multi-rooted, varied set of folk practices that have grown out of medieval Central European Christian culture. The roots of braucherei practice are many, indeed, and do have some pre-Christian antecedents. But, these pre-Christian bits and pieces are all operative, or practical. All pieces are subsumed in Christ.

Can you give the history of braucherei in a specific location?

Yes, Williams Township, Pennsylvania, specifically around the area of Easton and Raubsville.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, braucherei in this area was dominated by two families of powwowers: the Wilhelms and the Seilers (Saylors).  The patriarch of the Seilers was Johann Peter Seiler (1721 b. – 1803 d.). He and his wife Margaret (nee Maurer) were the parents of Johannes, Daniel, Frederick and Peter. Johann Seiler was a braucher and passed the practice to his youngest son Dr. Peter Saylor (1809 b. – 1868 d.). Dr. Saylor and his father, in turn taught powwowing and general medicine to John Henry Wilhelm (1816 b. – 1886 d.), who was much loved in his community and sorely missed when he passed away. At one point in his career as a braucher, a disgruntled local had Dr. Wilhelm arrested for practicing medicine without a diploma. Around this time Jacob Saylor (1793 b. – 1865 d.), grandson of Johann Peter Seiler, was practicing powwow as well. Prior to John Henry, his grandfather, Jacob Wilhelm (1744 b. – 1821 d.) was a braucher from Germany who passed along his book of charms, which remains to this day with his descendents.  John Henry’s son Eugene Wilhelm was equally loved by his community and practiced until his death in 1905. The interesting thing to note about Dr. Eugene’s practice is that he incorporated magnetic treatments into his powwowing. It was not unusual for powwow doctors to add new fads, trends, or advances in “alternative medicine” to their powwowing. When Mesmerism was the rage, many powwowers would borrow from the Mesmerists.  Dr. Arthur Wilhelm (1879 b. – 1950 d.), Dr. Eugene’s son, incorporated orthodox, allopathic medicine with homeopathy, powwow, and other “alternative” methods in his practice. One of the many things that is interesting about these two families is that the practice of braucherei has had same-gender transmission – not only among blood family members, but between families. Of course, the Saylors and the Wilhelms are related by marriage, which may have accounted for this. This method of teaching powwow differs from most noted traditions that insist on cross-gender transmission: that is, male to female; female to male.  Another interesting note is that Dr. Peter Saylor began the tradition of transferring illness, curses, and evil entities to a local peak called “The Hexenkopf” (which means “the witch’s head”) where it was believe that demons dwelled and evil witches held their Sabbaths. Usually powwow doctors will transfer illness, and other maladies, to smaller objects such as trees, rocks, pieces of metal, etc., making Dr. Henry’s receptor unique. All of the above information regarding these families can be found in Ned Heindel’s excellent book Hexenkopf: History, Healing & Hexerei. I have chosen to highlight this particular area and set of families to illustrate the consistency and persistence of powwow’s transmission as whole lineages.

Is there any difference in the healing of animals vs. the healing of humans?

There is really no differences beyond the types of illnesses – for example, humans don’t get “windgalls” – cysts in horse legs. However, many of the same charms used on humans are used on animals. There are general forms of powwow practice that can cover any illness for man or beast, such as was taught to me that I call “The General Brauche Circuit” in my book.  A notable difference in powwowing animals is that they can be nervous and wiggly and not stay still for longer sessions of powwow work – the same as human children. However, many brauchers have a knack at calming down nervous animals, so there are often no issues to be had.

How can a person get started learning braucherei?
Reading and researching is the first way to begin, unless one knows of someone who powwows and is willing to teach. By researching and keeping an ear to the ground, one will create a network that will make finding an established practitioner easier. However, once a braucher is found there is no guarantee that she or he will take on apprentices or students. Get the old powwow manuals: The Long Lost Friend, Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, Secrets of Sympathy, just to name three. Also, find books, magazines, and articles on Pennsylvania German (Dutch) folklore, such as issues of “The Pennsylvania Dutchman” (long out of print). My own book, The Red Church, contains much information and a large bibliography for those who want to go farther and do their own research. Despite all of these written sources, nothing can ever take the place of having the tradition passed on by a live human being. That last comment reminds me that spirits can, and do, teach people much when they begin this work. Sometimes this sort of teaching is not always obvious. In other cases it can be more dramatic where a braucher can have ‘visions’ or dreams where they obtain spirit guides, ‘Indian’ guides, and such. I, myself, have received some teaching at this level in the form of highly lucid dreams. Last, but certainly not the least, the Holy Bible is of paramount importance in braucherei practice. Many powwowers will not use any charms other than lines taken directly from Scripture. I highly suggest that a person who wants to be a braucher get acquainted with that book. If one does begin to practice, what s/he will notice in time is that one has a knack for certain types of healing or activity over all others.  Really read up on Pennsylvania German culture and try to immerse oneself in it as much as possible. For those who are outside of the cultural areas, which are mainly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and certain parts of Carolinas, West Virginia, and Canada, it will be more difficult to do this. For those who live in or near North Dakota, there are the so-called “Volga Germans” or Germans from Russia (who are not Pennsylvania Germans), and have braucherei in their culture which is virtually indistinguishable from the PA German variety. Take the time to get some familiarity with the German language, both the standard usage, and the Deitsch dialect; this will make it easier to understand the things found during research work. One last suggestion: pray for guidance, this is probably the most important of all.

I hope y’all enjoyed that! I know I did. Many thanks to Chris for contributing to us here at New World Witchery. He’s a real friend to us here, and we’re immensely grateful that he took time out of his life to put together this phenomenal essay. If you liked what you read here, please head over to Amazon (or to your book dealer of choice) and pick up a copy of his master-work on braucherei, The Red Church.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 29 – An Introduction to Hoodoo, Part I

This week I’ll be focusing on something that seems to generate a lot of interest:  hoodoo.  This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to magical systems, because it is incredibly practical and anyone can do it.  Plus, it doesn’t shy away from the less savory side of magic, but fully acknowledges that curses exist and must be dealt with (and sometimes dealt out when other attempts at justice have failed).

A (VERY Brief) History
Let’s start by getting the confusing terminology out of the way.  Often, the terms “hoodoo,” “conjure,” and “root work” or “rootwork” will appear as synonyms.  Adding to the confusion, most people also mix “voodoo” into this lexical stewpot.  Hoodoo, however, is NOT Voodoo/Vodoun—the former is a magical system not particularly affiliated with any specific religion, and the latter is a very distinct religion.  The confusion between the two stems from the fact that both are outgrowths of something called African Traditional Religion (or ATR for short).  There are other ATR’s which exist, primarily in South America and the Caribbean, but I’ll leave a discussion of those to someone more knowledgeable than myself.  When African slaves were brought to the West Indies, their native religion mixed with the folk practices of the indigenous tribes on the islands and the Christianity of their European captors.  Vodoun evolved over time, primarily in places like Haiti, as well as coming onto American soil through places like New Orleans.

Many modern Vodoun practitioners are very committed to the ATR religious powers, such as Legba, Oshun, and Yemaya (variants on spelling and pronunciation occur depending on where you are and to whom you’re speaking).  The Voodoo which grew up in New Orleans is quite different from the Vodoun in Haiti, though they do share many common elements.  Zora Neale Hurston’s excellent book Mules and Men details much of this overlap (though I advise readers to take this book with a grain of salt, as some of her folklore is a bit embellished and may not present an accurate picture of her subjects).

A big part of Voodoo, though, was a belief in magic and animism.  While Catholicism (dominant in the islands and French-and-Spanish-influenced Southern coastal regions) was fairly adoptive of these ideas so long as they were couched in terminology like “miracles” and “Saints,” slaves transplanted to Protestant-dominated areas found the religious side of Voodoo quashed.  The numerous spirits and beings found in Voodoo’s pantheon were stripped away, and what was left was a magical system detached from its religious side.  Other ATR’s also met the same fate as they moved into the white, Protestant-dominated sections of the United States.  Beliefs in “witchcrafting” and other magical practices go back to at least the beginning of the 19th century among African-American populations, completely removed from any ATR associations, or any deeply religious connection at all.  Only the practical side of the work was still available to the slaves brutally oppressed in Colonial America, as it was often their only real recourse to justice in any way.

Once this practical magic started working its mojo, so to speak, it began to grow in new ways.  It encountered new herbs via contact with another overrun people, the Native Americans.  European folklore, especially German and Anglo-Irish tales, provided new fodder for the developing system.  And the availability of particular regional curios and ingredients shaped the evolving practice.

So is it Hoodoo, Conjure, or Root Work?
In general, the terms “hoodoo,” “conjure,” and “root  work” still get used interchangeably.  “Hoodoo” is common in the gulf coastal regions, “conjure” in places like Memphis and the mid-South, and “root work” in the Atlantic coastal regions.  All terms, however, can be generally found in all places, so don’t be surprised at the overlap.  Additionally, spelling may vary (I’ve seen at least one WPA folklore collection from Tennessee showing this practice called “cunjur” instead of “conjure”).

In my own mind, I do see a slight difference in the three terms:

  • Hoodoo is the general name for the system of African-American and Southern magic using herbs, roots, and everyday objects to influence people and events in one’s life.
  • Conjure is more specifically related to working with spirits, but also uses much of the same magic hoodoo does.  It also relates to faith-healing (to me, anyway).
  • Root work has to do with the crafting of herbal and curio-filled spell objects, or with the use of such things to heal or harm a target.

There’s not a single consensus on where the actual term “hoodoo” comes from.  Some think it is a corruption of “Voodoo,” but this is not a majority opinion.  Catherine Yronwode has a great discussion of this topic on her website, outlining much of this history in more detail.

Hoodoo Now
During the early-to-mid twentieth century, hoodoo underwent another evolution.  It moved, along with Southern blacks, into cities and became urbanized.  Many merchants began to supply hoodoo practitioners with the oils, herbs, candles and other items they needed to do their work.  A number of these suppliers were Jewish, and a strong Jewish presence can still be seen in hoodoo, mostly in the use of talismans and charms imported from European grimoires like The Black Pullet.  Some, such as scholar Eoghan Ballard, have even made convincing arguments that the word “hoodoo” comes from a particular pronunciation of the word “Jewish.”

The terms Voodoo and hoodoo are still confused, even by those who are in the know.  The very reputable and knowledgeable author Jim Haskins even titled his book about hoodoo Voodoo and Hoodoo.

Modern hoodoo is still growing and changing.  Some of the major centers of hoodoo are Forestville, CA (where Cat Yronwode runs her Lucky Mojo Curio Co.), the Gullah region of South Carolina (discussed in Jack Montgomery’s American Shamans in the section on Sheriff McTeer), cities like Memphis and Savannah, and of course New Orleans.  It is also present in rural areas, like the swamps of Mississippi.  And the general practice of root work seems to have spread to other countries as well, as Sarah from the Forest Grove Botanica in Canada uses many root working techniques in her magic.

As this week goes on, we’ll get into more on those techniques, as well as the specific herbs, roots, and curios found in hoodoo.  For now, though, I think I’ll stop before I write a whole book here.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 28 – Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…

Do I date myself by referencing that song in the title of this blog post?  Oh well…
I thought I’d wrap up the week with a few more examples of signs, tokens, and omens from American folklore.  We’ll be up in the mountains today, both the Appalachians and the Ozarks.
From the Appalachian History blog:

News Bees

“In both Appalachian and Ozarks folklore, news bees appear as omens to those wise enough to read them.”

News bees are not actually bees, but flower flies from the Syrphidae family.  They are marked with bands of black and yellow, much like bees, but are harmless.  They do look an awful lot like sweat bees, however, which can sting a person (though not as severely as other bees or wasps).

News bees, which also go by names like “sand hornets,” “sweat flies,” or “Russian hornets” derive their folk name from the belief that these hovering insects watch the events of humanity unfold, then fly off to deliver their news to others.  According to the folklore, “There are yellow news bees, which mean that good things are in the offing– it’s good luck if you can get one to perch on your finger–and black news bees, which warn of imminent death. The black news bees fly in the windows and out again, and fly straight for the nearest cemetery; they hover making a sound like a human being talking.” (Tabler, par.2)

From Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore:

Some Animal Lore

“It is very generally believed that the appearance of an albino deer is a bad sign ; some hillfolk think it has something to do with witches’ work, others that it is an indication of disease among the deer, and that venison will be unwholesome for seven years” (p. 241)

“Groundhogs are hunted by boys with dogs, and young groundhogs are very good eating. But some of the old-timers frown on the modern practice of shooting groundhogs. They don’t mind if city sportsmen do it but often forbid their own children to shoot groundhogs, because it is supposed to bring bad luck” (p. 243)

Household Signs & Omens

“The Ozark housewife seldom begins to make a garment on Friday never unless she is sure that she can finish it the same day. Many a mountain man is reluctant to start any sort of job on Saturday, in the belief that he will ‘piddle around’ for six additional Saturdays before he gets it done” (p. 69)

“It is bad luck to burn floor sweepings or shavings that have been produced inside the house. An old-time Ozark housewife seldom sweeps her cabin after dark, and she never sweeps anything out at the front door” (p. 70)

The fantastic Appalachian blog Blind Pig and the Acorn has a fascinating entry on a death omen called a “belled buzzard.”

Belled Buzzards

According to the site, which cites a newspaper story about this phenomenon, in King George County, VA, a buzzard was observed flying low by houses with a bell around its neck and streamers tied to its body.  Similarly adorned birds figure in tales from the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas.  According to the blog’s author:

“Most of the sightings or ‘hearings’ caused folks to believe the belled buzzards foretold death. One legend even tells the story of a belled buzzard harassing a man after he killed his wife-to the point of the man turning himself in for her murder” (Tipper par.2).

So if you happen to see any big birds around your neighborhood with bells, chimes, or any musical instrument on their person, take heed!

Personal Lore

Finally, today, I thought I’d share a few of the things I was brought up believing.  Most of this information is from my mother.

  • When cooking soups, stews, and sauces, she’d often include a bay leaf in the pot.  Whoever found the bay leaf was thought to be in for some good luck.
  • If rain broke out of a clear sky, my mother always said that “the Devil is beating his wife.”
  • She taught me that if your ears burn, someone’s talking about you.  If your nose itches, someone wants to kiss you.  And if your hands itch, money’s coming your way soon.
  • You should never kill a spider or a frog indoors, as it will bring bad luck, she always said.  Unless the spider was a black widow or brown recluse.  Then it seemed to be okay.
  • She always kept an aloe plant in her kitchen window, both for an easy source of bug-bite and sunburn treatment and to bless the house in general with good fortune.

Okay, that will do it for today, I think.  Please feel free to share your own lore.  I’m always eager to hear it!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 27 – More Signs & Omens

Hi everyone.  I received a fantastic email From Sarah R. about a number of traditions she remembered from a book called The Fortune Telling Book, by Gillian Kemp.  I thought I’d share a few of the wonderful tidbits she sent me, along with some other signs and omens we didn’t get to in the podcast.

Marriage Omens (from Sarah R.)
1. It is considered unlucky to be married in a church where there is an open grave.
2. A solitaire cut engagement ring indicates a solitary existence.
3. If three women sitting together at a dinner table possess the same initial to their Christian name, one of the three women will soon marry.
4. It is considered lucky to have an even number of guests at the wedding and unlucky to have an odd number.
5. Wedding Dress Omen:

Married in white you will have chosen alright,
Married in green ashamed to be seen,
Married in grey you will go far away,
Married in blue you will always be true,
Married in yellow you’re ashamed of your fellow,
Married in black you will wish yourself back,
Married in pink of you he will think.

6. To see a flock of birds in flight on your wedding day is a sign of fidelity and a long and happy marriage blessed by heaven.

Here are some signs from Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind, from the “Illinois Egyptians” section.  The “Egyptians” he refers to occupy the southern “triangle” of Illinois, beginning “when the flat prairie lands of grain-rich central Illinois turn to foothills” (p.289).  The culture here is influenced by several ethnic groups, including the Irish, the French, and African-Americans.

A Death Omen
The McConall Banshee
Before anyone of the McConnal family died, a banshee [sic] would scream, and it would take the route that the family would go to the cemetery.  The neighbors along the route would hear it.

When old lady Brown died—she was a McConnall—the banshee came into the house and got in bed.  It looked like a little old woman about a foot high, with a rag tied around its head.  John Gentry was going to kill it, but Mrs. Brown said, ‘Don’t bother that.  That’s my baby.’

Some folks said that the banshee was a curse sent by the church, for the McConnalls had once burned a church.

When Walter Fraley’s baby died, the banshee cried all over the place, but no one could see it” (p.313)

Birth and Infancy Signs
“A baby speaks with angels when it smiles”
“An ugly baby makes a pretty adult.”
“It is bad luck to name a first child after its parents.”
“You should not cut a baby’s hair before it is a year old.”
“A baby will be a prophet if it is born with a veil over its face.”*
*This veil is known as a caul, and is somewhat common in births.  I’ve got more about it in Blog Post 8 – Seaside Sorcery

Dream Signs and Omens
“Dream of a funeral and attend a wedding.”
“It is bad luck to tell a dream before breakfast.”
“It is bad luck to dream of muddy water.”
“It is good luck to dream of clear water.”
“You will have enemies if you dream of snakes.”
“Count seven stars for seven nights, and you will dream of the man you will marry”
“You will be successful if you dream of being dead.”
“Marry soon if you dream of a corpse.”
“You will make true friends if you dream of ivy.”
“Dream of letters and receive good news.”
(all preceding quotations from Dorson, pp. 338-340)

That’s plenty of prophetic phraseology for today, so I’ll wrap it up.  But I still have many more tokens to tell of, so I’ll likely do another post on them later this week.  If you have any folklore regarding forecasting future events (or even current or past ones) via dreams, signs, etc., we’d love to hear them!  Feel free to add them as a comment to this post, or send us an email.
Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Podcast 5 – Signs and Omens

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 5-

Summary
Today we have some listener feedback, as well as some exciting news.  Then, we discuss signs and omens.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 05

-Sources-

Books
Some of the books referenced in today’s show:
Buying the Windby Richard M. Dorson
Signs, Cures, and Witchery – by Gerald C. Milnes
Ozark Magic and Folklore – by Vance Randolph

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1-The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra
Promo 3- A Pagan in the Threshold
Promo 4 – Inciting a Riot Podcast

P.S.  This is just a quick apology for the lateness of this episode, as well as occasional shifts in sound quality.  We have been having trouble with our podcast recording software, and had to re-record parts of our show via Skype.  We should have this issue resolved by our next episode, so thanks for bearing with us.

Blog Post 26 – Gravel Root/Joe Pye Weed

Today I’d like to discuss an ingredient found in both Native American medicinal practices and Southern conjure and root work.  The flowering herb known as both Gravel Root and Joe Pye Weed can be found throughout most of the eastern half of North America, including portions of Canada, Texas, and Florida.  Its botanical name is Eupatorium purpureum, and it is also sometimes known as Purple Boneset or Queen of the Meadow.

The story behind Joe Pye Weed stems back to a Native American named, aptly enough, Joe Pye, who used the root to heal typhus.  It’s been used in tisane form—both root and flower—to help with kidney problems (though I will recommend here that if you are considering drinking ANY tea made from an herb to consult with a health professional and be SURE you know what you’re drinking).  Foxfire 11 gives some good information on the traditional medicinal use of this wild herb.

The plant itself is often found as a wildflower in fields and “waste” spaces like construction zones (though it doesn’t last as long here).  It’s a perennial so if you cultivate it instead of wildcrafting you should see it coming back regularly.  Joe Pye can reach heights around four feet, so take that into account when planting it.  It can also reseed, so you might want to thin them occasionally.  It has flowers which range from white to pinkish to lavender and purple, and butterflies love it.

Its magical uses tend to be split depending on what part of the plant you’re using.  The leaves and flowers are considered “Queen of the Meadow,” and are not particularly used in traditional hoodoo, though I’ve seen it show up in a spell for success.  Catherine Yronwode mentions putting the flowers in a glass of water next to a burning candle to attract spirits and visions.  The root, which is often the most sought-after part of the plant, is a fantastic help in job-search, success, and luck magic.  I recently used a bit of Gravel Root in a mojo hand along with High John and a copy of Psalm 65 in order to help procure some magical aid with an academic pursuit, which turned out very well.

Joe Pye Root

You can find more on this herb/root in Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, as well as the websites listed below.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

More information:

Medicinal and identification information – http://www.altnature.com/gallery/joe_pye_weed.htm

Cultivation and propagation information – http://oldfashionedliving.com/joe-pye-weed.html

Folklore and Appalachian history – http://appalachianhistory.blogspot.com/2007/08/queen-of-meadow-cures-all.html

Blog Post 24 – Book Review

Hello everyone,

So today I’d like to offer a review of a book I’ve cited several times on the blog already, Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind.  It’s a book of folklore divided by region and focusing on the different stories, beliefs, and practices of those who inhabit those regions.  The regions he covers are broken down as follows:

  • Maine Down-Easters
  • Pennsylvania Dutchmen
  • Southern Mountaineers
  • Louisiana Cajuns
  • Illinois Egyptians
  • Southwest Mexicans
  • Utah Mormons

Each section then goes into further detail regarding the specific folklore of the regional group examined.  For example, under Southwest Mexicans, there is a section called “Proverbios” which contains the bits of folk wisdom like:

Dar atole con el dedo.

“To give gruel with the finger.”  (To deceive with words or acts, especially to deceive one’s husband).

Entre menos burros, mas olotes.

“The fewer donkeys, the more cobs.”  (The fewer, the better…corncobs, dried as well as green, are given burros to eat).

And under Louisiana Cajuns, in the section “Riddles,” we find:

What has a tongue and does not speak?  A shoe

What has teeth but does not bite?  A comb

If a man can lift two hundred and fifty barrels of rice when it is not raining, what can he lift during a rain?  An umbrella

Each section has its own unique attributes.  Some have the songs and proverbs of their region, some have stories and even some loose versions of “spells.”  I say loose because they aren’t exactly how-to’s on spellcraft, but provide some information that could be turned into a how-to pretty easily.  For example, the Louisiana Cajuns section has information on Hoodoo, including a tale from one informant who described a luck mojo bag that “was a little bag of linen and it had like nerves and then bones.”  The nerves are from a vulture, and the bones from a snake, which both could be used in a lucky mojo hand (though I’ve never heard of nerves being used, per se, but that’s what makes these accounts so interesting—their variety).

The entire book is loaded with bits of magic like this, as well as stories of witchcraft and magic which, while more fanciful, give insight into what the occult practices of those areas might be.  In the Southern Mountaineers section, for instance, there’s an interesting account of a “witch-ball,” which is a bit of hair, wax, and other substances rolled into a ball and “shot” at a victim to curse them.  I’ve seen similar stories in other books of American folklore, especially based in the Appalachian areas, so it’s interesting to me to see how prominent such a magical tool seems to be in that area, though it is largely forgotten elsewhere.

I learned a great deal from this book—the entire section on Illinois Egyptians, for example, was a revelation to me, and has opened up a whole new area of interest for me regarding New World Witchery.  And the stories, songs, and proverbs are fantastic!  I can’t get enough of the Southern “Jack” tales!

I should point out that Dorson uses the Aarne-Thompson system of folklore classification, which divides tales into various types for ease of cross-referencing.  It is definitely a book aimed at folklorists and not particularly at a wide audience, but I think anyone can get a great deal from reading it.  And it may open up a whole new love of folklore as a field of study for some folks.

I’ve been reading a borrowed copy from my public library, and it’s just about due to go back there, which was going to be a sad loss, as I still find myself referencing Buying the Wind frequently.  But thanks to a generous donation from reader/listener Amber (many, many thanks to her!), we’ll be able to procure a copy for future reference now.  So hooray for Amber!

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 22 – Thank You to All Contest Entrants!

This is just a quick thank you to everyone who participated in our Weather Lore giveaway! We got some wonderful bits of lore we’ll be bringing you in the near future. The contest is closed now, and we should have a winner to announce this week (depending on when Laine and I can get together to do the hat-drawing ceremony). Again, many thanks to our readers and listeners!

All the best, and be well!

-Cory

Blog Post 21– Final Call for Contest Entries!

Hi everyone!

Only a little less than three days left in our first-ever contest!  We’re giving a copy of Cat Yronwode’s Hoodoo Root & Herb Magic to one randomly chosen reader/listener who provides us with a little bit of weather folk lore from his or her family or region.  All you have to do is email us or leave a comment on Blog Post 10 – Weather Work with your general area (you can say “South” or “East Coast” if you like) and a tidbit about what folks say about the weather in your neck of the woods.  The deadline is February 28th at midnight, Central Time, so please get your submissions in before then.  We’ll be using these entries for a podcast on weather magic and folklore, so please write in!

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

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