Posted tagged ‘richard dorson’

Blog Post 119 – A Little Love Magic

February 10, 2011

I’m sure with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I won’t be the only one to cover today’s topic:  love magic.  Yes, I know that Valentine’s is a commercial holiday designed to sell greeting cards (or something like that), but this seems as good a time as any to introduce some of the folklore and magic surrounding that strange, powerful feeling of love which seems to rule over so much of our human existence.  We’ll also look a little at lust, though I’ll likely save a detailed discussion for a sex magic post of some kind.

I should also say that this little article only scratches the surface of the overall material on this enormous branch of magical practice.  Love spells seem to be some of the most commonly sought and most often used enchantments in the world, so any blog post on them will necessarily be rather skint on details.  Also, this particular article is a sort-of companion to our upcoming podcast episode, which will be on this topic as well.  In the episode, we’ll discuss things like the ethics of love spells, so I only really want to touch on the lore and some of the basic spell ideas here.  Of course, if you want to leave comments or send emails regarding questions of ethics, I fully support that!

So what is love magic?  Most people would probably understand a spell cast by a young man on his high school crush to make her go out with him as a type of love spell, but what about a spell cast by a wife on an errant husband to make him stay a little closer to home?  Is a spell to spice up things in the bedroom a love spell, or just a lust spell, or maybe a little of each?  As I pored over the research, I found that there are several distinct categories for love magic:

1)      General-purpose love spells, such as wearing rose quartz, hanging a “loving bell,” spells to help a girl find a beau/husband soon, etc.

2)      Love divinations, like dream interpretations, carrying a four-leaf clover in the bible, catching a bouquet at a wedding, etc.

3)      Lust magic & aphrodisiacs, like the famous Love potion #9, dried turkey bones, powdered bird tongues, vanilla, etc.

4)      Person-specific love spells, which make one particular person fall in love with another, using things like hatbands/socks, mirrors, a particularly ghoulish dead-man’s mojo, etc.

5)      Magic for staying together, common in hoodoo, such as tying a man’s nature, writing bloody initials for reconciliation, menstrual blood in food, etc.

6)      Splitting up work, designed to break a couple apart using things like the black cat/dog hair spell, Hurston’s nine needles spell, etc.

Taking these various categories—which are just my understanding of the material, by the way, and should not be taken as gospel—let’s look at some of the individual spells, beliefs, signs, and ceremonies associated with each one.

A word of warning before we begin: I DO NOT ADVOCATE THE USE OF ANY OF THESE SPELLS. I’m presenting them as matters of folkloric record only.  Many of these techniques and/or formulas can be unsanitary or downright dangerous, so please keep that in mind as you read.

General-Purpose Love Spells

This category is fairly well addressed in modern neo-Pagan magical texts, so I won’t get much into it here.  I recall learning early on from Scott Cunningham’s Earth Power and other books like it that rose quartz could be worn to draw love to you, or just inspire loving feelings in you.  Oraia from Media Astra ac Terra covers the metaphysical properties of rose quartz very well in Episode 20 of that show, so if you want more info, I’d suggest listening to her examination of it.

Cunningham’s book also contains a spell for a “Loving Bell” which involves hanging a small bell somewhere the West Wind can touch it, reciting a little chant, and waiting for the bell to “whisper” your desire for love onto the wind, calling a lover to you (p.46).

Another basic spell from Draja Mickaharic’s A Century of Spells calls for burning a candle anointed with a mixture of basil and almond oil to draw love into one’s life.

As far as North American folklore goes, general-purpose love spells are actually a bit rare.  They most often tend to be focused on getting a spouse or preventing spinsterhood (forgive the sexist language there, but these do seem to be customs targeted at women).  For instance, in Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore he mentiones that Ozark girls will pin pieces of a wasp’s nest inside their clothing to draw courtship from men.  Randolph also mentions a peculiar love charm that he encountered in the mountains and which reputedly brought love into a young girl’s life:

“Many mountain damsels carry love charms consisting of some pinkish, soaplike material, the composition of which I have been unable to discover; the thing is usually enclosed in a carved peach stone or cherry pit and worn on a string round the neck, or attached to an elastic garter. I recall a girl near Lanagan, Missouri, who wore a peach stone love-charm on one garter and a rabbit’s foot fastened to the other.” (p. 166)

It’s not unreasonable to think that the “pinkish, soaplike material” may well be a piece of rose quartz.  Or, it may be something else entirely.  Patrick W. Gainer records the oft-repeated superstion that if someone sweeps under or on top of a girl’s feet, she will never marry, so girls were very careful not to let that happen.  Taking the last bite of any food at the table meant that a girl should kiss the cook or else end up an old maid, too.  Gainer also says that a girl who hold’s a bride’s dress on her lap within ten minutes will marry within a year and that if a girl lends her garter to a bride on her wedding day, she can expect to marry soon, too.

Love Divination

There are so many wide-ranging methods of determining a future lover’s identity that it would likely give me carpal tunnel and send my readers into a glazed-eye coma trying to list them all.  Divining one’s future love life is probably the most common form of divination, and can be found everywhere from the playground to the wedding chapel to the funeral home.  Most folks know about catching bouquets and garters at a wedding to indicate who the next to be married will be.  Some of the more unusual methods of determining one’s romantic future are:

  • Dream of a funeral and attend a wedding
  • Count seven stars for seven nights, and you will dream of the man you will marry.
  • To dream of the man you will marry, take a thumbful of salt the night before Easter
  • Marry soon if you dream of a corpse
  • If two forks are at a place-setting on the table, the one who sits there will be married.
  • Put three holly leaves under your pillow at night and name each leaf.  The one that is turned over in the morning will be the name of your husband.
  • Put a four-leaf clover in the Bible.  The man you meet while you are carrying it will be your husband.
  • On the first day of May before sunrise, if you see a snail within a shell, your future husband will have a house.  If the snail is outside the shell, he will have none.  Sprinkle meal in front of the snail and it will form the initial of the man you are to marry.
  • Walk around a wheat field on the first day of May and you will meet your mate.
  • The white spots on your nails tell how many lovers you will have.
  • On the first day of May, look into a well and you will see the face of your future husband.

There are lots of other methods for determining a future spouse, of course, such as peeling an apple in one long strip and tossing it over your shoulder to determine the initial of one’s eventual husband or wife.  Several Halloween traditions also focus on love divination, such as throwing nuts into the fire to see if they pop or fizzle, thus reflecting the strength of the love between those who threw.  Really, we could be here all day with these, so let’s just say a little reading will reveal a plethora of divinatory options to the curious witch.

Lust & Aphrodisiacs

This is another broad and often-discussed topic, and one which folks can get into heated debates about very easily.  For instance, many people contend that certain foods—chocolate, oysters, strawberries, etc.—act as aphrodisiacs and cite medical reports to back up their claims.  Others cite counter-claims which demonstrate that any aphrodisiac effect from food is purely psychosomatic /placebo effect.  Love potions are incredibly popular, so much so that there’s an enduring pop song by the Searchers entitled “Love Potion No. 9,” which later inspired a popular film of the same name (featuring the lovely Sandra Bullock).  I’m not going to get into the ingredients for that potion here, but if you’re interested in it, the upcoming Spelled Out segment on the podcast will look at one recipe for this famous draught.
In American folklore, many ingredients can be brewed into love potions and used to drive a partner wild.  Randolph records that yarrow is used in love potions given to men, as are dodder/love vine/angel’s hair, lady’s slipper, and mistletoe.  Boys make a love potion from a wild gander’s foot, powdered and put into a girl’s coffee.  The use of bird ingredients in such potions is rampant, inlcluding the use of powdered turtle-dove tongue, chicken hearts, and rooster blood for various love and beauty blends.   Girls in the Ozarks would keep dried turkey bones in their rooms in order to seduce their beaus when the time was right, too.

Randolph also mentions that a woman can surruptetiously touch a man’s back to inspire feelings of lust in him.  Zora Neale Hurston says in her essay “Hoodoo in America” that a potent aphrodisiac charm from Jamaica includes mixing angle worm dust with High John chips and wearing this as a mojo around the waist.  Oils and powders such as “Come to Me Boy/Girl” and “Chuparosa” are also used to intoxicate a lover’s senses and make him/her crazy with lust and love.  There’s also a hoodoo formula called the “Hot Mama Douche” which is juniper berries steeped in vinegar and which is designed to bring a woman all the sex she can stand. Vanilla, dabbed behind the ears, is also reputed to drive men wild.

Person-specific Love Spells

These are the controversial, yet oft-sought after, spells which one person uses on another to command love.  There are a lot of ethical questions involved in these enchantments, and I won’t get into my perspective on them here (though I do talk a bit about it on the show).  As the folklore goes, there are a lot of ways to make someone yours through magic.  Most of them involve putting a little bit of yourself—such as urine, blood, or sweat—into them, often via food.  Wearing the other person’s clothing, especially intimate clothing that has had contact with their skin or which has encircled some part of their body (like a ring, hatband, glove, sock, etc.) will also allow you to command their love.  Some examples:

  • If a girl steals a man’s hatband and wears it as a garter, it will make him fall in love with her (Randolph, OM&F)
  • Socks and hatbands can be used to rule unruly men (Hurston, Mules & Men).
  • Turning down a man’s hatband and pinning two needles in it in a cross-wise fashion makes him love you (Haskins, Voodoo & Hoodoo)

Other spells to gain the love of a person include tying poppets/dolls together, knotting used clothes from each person together, or burying personal items from that person on your property.  In this latter vein, Zora Neale Hurston records an interesting spell using the person’s image captured in a mirror:

“To bind a lover to a place: a) This is for a girl: Let him look into a mirror but don’t you look into it. Take it home. Smash it and bury it under the front steps and wet the spot with water. He cannot leave the place. b) This is for a boy: Take three locks of her hair, throw one over your head, put one in your bosom, and one in the back of your watch. Then do the same thing with a mirror that the girl does and she is tied. You can’t undo this.” (from “Hoodoo in America”)

Similarly, getting a potential lover to walk over or under a charm specifically planted to catch his/her love can be very effective.  Hurston’s Mules & Men contains the following spell:

Use nine lumps each of starch, sugar, & steel dust wet with Jockey Club perfume and put into nine mojo bags tied with red ribbon.  Put these all around his home (or yours), especially at entrances and under rugs, and he will be unable to resist you.

As I mentioned before, the best ways to gain control of a lover tends to be to make him or her ingest something that has a bit of one’s own bodily fluid.  Randolph mentions the use of menstrual blood in drink (though I usually find that more connected to the next section, “Magic for Staying Together”), as well as using whiskey in which fingernail trimmings have been soaked.  In Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro, Newbell Niles Puckett records a love charm which uses bathwater to similar effect: “a great love charm is made of the water in which the lover has washed, and this, mingled with the drink of the loved one, is held to soften the hardest heart.”

Magic for Staying Together

When a relationship hits a rough patch, people often do all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally do.  While some spells in this category are designed to bolster the already strong bonds between two happily enamored people, more often than not these spells are done out of desperation.  A wife wants to keep her philandering husband at home and away from other women.  A man wants to bring back a lover who has left him.  These aren’t particularly happy spells, but they do make up a good bit of the overall love spell genre, so here are a few of the more common or more interesting ones.

One spell I found repeatedly, and one which I mentioned in the previous section, was the use of menstrual blood in food.  It appeared in the folklore from multiple cultures and always with the same basic idea: a little of a woman’s menses in a man’s food or drink will make him absolutely hers and keep him from ever straying.  Urine occasionally pops up in this method, too, though it is far less common.

Other methods involve attaching something to a man’s clothes to mark him as one’s own.  In Hurston’s “Hoodoo in America” she notes in Section 9 that there is a such a ritual for regaining and binding the affection of an errant man. It is given in the “dialogue with Marie Laveau” style which is also in the N.D.P. Bivens text Black & White Magic of Marie Laveau. It involves using Van Van and Gilead buds placed in the man’s clothes or fashioned into a talisman for him to wear. A picture of Mary is then prayed over, and the man is supposed to stray no more.

Randolph’s Ozark informants revealed a number of methods for keeping or returning a straying lover, including:

  • A girl can write her initials and her sweetheart’s using the blood from the third finger of her left hand in order to reconcile with him after a fight.
  • Salting a fire brings an absent lover home, as does leaving one’s shoes in a “T” formation by the hearth.
  • A girl can clean her fingernails on Saturday, say a “mysterious old sayin’” and make a man visit her on Sunday. Mountain boys even say ‘my gal fixed her nails yesterday’ to indicate they must go courting.

Of course, sometimes it’s not enough to make someone stay a little closer to home.  One hoodoo method for controlling an errant man is to measure his penis with a piece of string (often red) while he is asleep, wet it with his semen, then tie nine knots in it.  This method takes away his “nature” and keeps him from being able to perform with anyone but the woman who has the string.  In some cases, this means that the man is unable to perform entirely unless the woman unknots the string first, which I imagine puts a damper on spontenaity in the bedroom.  However, as the proverb goes, desperate times call for desperate measures (pun very much intended).

Splitting Up

This is an area I’ve got no experience with myself, and one which I shy away from in general.  As such, my research here is a bit thinner than in other categories of love magic, but I do have one or two examples to provide.

Hurston provides a method for making couples fight like cats and dogs using the hair from—you guessed it—cats and dogs:

“To Make a Fuss and Fight. Take a small bit of the hair of a black cat and of a black dog and mix same with nine grains of red pepper seed and names of persons you wish to make fuss or fall out with each other. The names are written nine times crossed. Place this under their house, gallery or bury same at their gate. The articles can be sewed into a bag, and, if possible, place in the pillow or mattress.” (“Hoodoo in America”)

Hurston also mentions a spell using nine broken needles to break up a couple in her book, Mules & Men.

There are a number of products available for break-up work, including figural candles of a man and woman which are burned so that they separate over time.  The Lucky Mojo company sells many of these items, and also has a page outlining other breakup spells, such as feeding two halves of an egg to a black dog and a black cat, or writing a person’s name on the back of a river turtle to send him/her away from a relationship.

Whew! Love is a pretty big topic, and I’ve only given you a few examples here.  There are so many other love spells and magical techniques for gaining love, keeping love, or ending love that trying to list them all would be ridiculous.  I hope, though, that if you’re curious you’ll continue to look into this sort of magic, and let us know what you find.  If you have spells you’ve used in this vein of magic, I’d love to know those, too!  And we’ll have a podcast up soon on this topic, as well, so be listening for that.  Until next time..

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

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Podcast 13 – Lucky 13

August 13, 2010

-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 13-

Summary
On this, our Lucky 13th episode, released on Friday the 13th, we’re looking at luck charms and where they come from.  We’ve also got a money bowl spell in WitchCraft, and Van Van oil in Spelled Out.

Play:

Download:  New World Witchery – Episode 13

-Sources-
We reference lots of sources, including:
-Cat Yronwode’s Lucky W Amulet Archive
-The Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris
-Harry M. Hyatt’s Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork
-The article “Charles Chestnutt & the Doctrine of Conjuration”) by Bettye Jo Crissler Carr
-Judika Illes’s book Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells
Ozark Magic & Folklore by Vance Randolph
-The Chan Chu money frog of Chinese lore
-Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind

Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1- Witchery of One
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra
Promo 3- Borealis Meditation
Promo 4 – Iron Powaqa

Blog Post 55 – Games

April 29, 2010

May Day is just around the corner, and since I’ve been talking about songs and riddles this week, I thought it might be fun to talk a little about games.  Sport and fun may not seem like a particularly witchcraft-tinged topic, but au contraire! I say.  There are lots of magical subtexts to games, from the sacrificial-animal nature of a colorful piñata to the gambling mojo or lucky rabbit’s foot stuffed in a card-player’s pocket.

Getting Lucky
Winning games by magic is a primary focus of many types of hoodoo workings.  Some of the various techniques for improving one’s luck include:

  • The creation of gambling mojo hands, often “fed” with a woman’s urine (because of her connection to Lady Luck)
  • The appropriately named “Lucky Hand” root, which resembles a human hand and which is reputed to bring good luck to one in games of chance
  • A buckeye with a hole bored in it, filled with liquid mercury (quicksilver), and sealed with wax was considered incredibly lucky.  WARNING:  Don’t do this.  Mercury is VERY dangerous and VERY poisonous, even in tiny amounts.  Modern root workers often use sliver Mercury-head dimes instead.
  • The popular alligator-foot or rabbit-foot keychains found in roadside stops throughout the country are considered potent gambling charms.
  • One of my favorites is the “coon dong” charm, which is a raccoon penis bone wrapped in a currency note (the higher the better, of course) to ensure continued luck.

Of course, there are lots of other hoodoo charms related to luck and good fortune.  Simply carrying a High John root in your pocket is a good way to ensure luck at all you do, including games.  Another big game-related piece of hoodoo magic comes in the form of “dream books,” which purport to help the dreamer turn symbols and images from the night’s slumber into winning lottery numbers.  Catherine Yronwode has an excellent page on this topic, so I’ll just suggest you visit her site for more on those.

Magical Games
There are many games that have interesting magical undertones (or overtones…maybe highlights or roots?).  I thought it might be fun to include a few games that you could include in your own May Day celebrations today.  I’m skipping out on the traditional Maypole as that is well documented in many places.  I hope you enjoy them!

From Central Illinois (in Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind, paraphrased)

LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN

Two players are named “Takers,” and each chooses an object or idea that represents him/her (such as one player being “bees” and the other “flowers,” or one the “sun” and the other “the moon.”  The Takers do not tell the other players which Taker is which object however.  The other players form a circle, and the Takers join hands, one outside the circle and one inside.  They raise their arms, and the circle begins to turn as everyone sings:

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down;
London Bridge is falling down, and caught my true love in it.

The Takers can drop their arms at any point during the singing, and the circle stops.   Whoever the Takers have “trapped” must choose one of the objects and whisper it to the Takers.  The Taker whose object is named grabs the trapped player and moves them behind him/her, and then the Takers raise their joined hands again.  The singing and circling continues in this way until all the players have been caught and moved behind their chosen Taker.

The Takers keep their hands joined and each player wraps his/her hands around the player before them, forming two human chains linked by the Takers.  The game ends with a tug-of-war between the two sides.

This game could be a wonderful way to have some fun while enacting a sort of ritualized drama, such as the struggle between light and dark.  It is best with a large group of people of course, and the “prize” for winning could have to do with the losing side serving the winning side at a feast, or something to that effect.  Or winning could just be its own very fun reward.

From Appalachia (in Foxfire 6)

DEVIL IN THE PROMISED LAND

“We played a game called ‘The Devil in the Promised Land.’  A big branch went down through our pasture.  Some places it was wide and some places were narrow enough to jump across pretty good.  There’d be about eight or ten of us on one side.  We’d put one on the other side and he was the devil.  Now we had to cross the branch and go around him and jump the branch back.  Now if he caught us before we made the run around him, we had to go on to the devil’s side” (p. 282)

I love this one, and you could definitely play it without having a huge tree or creek (I’m not 100% sure what that informant meant by “branch”).  Just making a big circle with rope or setting boundaries for the “Devil’s land” with stones would be pretty easy.  You could also think of this as “a witch and her spirits,” with the Witch being the primary tagger, and her Spirits being the players she catches, who help her catch other players (I would say they can’t “tag” a player, but might help to corral the other players towards the Witch…but that’s just my take on it).

From the Southwest and Mexico

THE PINATA

The piñata has an interesting history dating back to at least Mayan times, and possibly even back to China.  There’s an excellent short history of the game here, including many traditional rhymes and songs associated with the game, such as:

“Dale, dale, dale, no perdas el tino,
porque si lo perdes, pierdes el camino.
Esta piñata es de muchas mañas, sólo contiene naranjas y cañas.”

Hit, hit, hit.
Don’t lose your aim,
Because if you lose, you lose the road.
This piñata is much manna, only contains oranges and sugar cane.”

Making paper mache representations of animals, spirits, demons, gods, stars, or almost anything magical would add to the occult significance of a game like this.  After the candy’s been collected, some of it could be turned into an offering as well, if that’s part of your tradition.  The bright colors of most piñatas make them perfect for May Day gatherings, in my opinion.

There are lots of other games you could play as well, like Nature Bingo or Horseshoes, that would fit a spring or summer gathering.  This post is already plenty long, though, so I’m going to end it here.  Feel free to share your own witchy games, if you have them!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 53 – Riddle Me This

April 27, 2010

Which is the Maid without a Tress?
Which is the Tower without a Crest?
Which is the Water without any Sand?
And which is the King without any Land?
Where is no Dust in all the Road?
Where is no Leaf in all the Wood?
Which is the Fire that never Burnt?
And which is the Sword without any Point?

-Riddles from Dawn Jackson’s (sadly defunct) Hedgewytchery site (a version still exists at Archive.org, however)

I love riddles.  I’ve always enjoyed letting them roll around in my brain until I can figure them out.  I’m that way with many brain-teasers, but there’s something very special about riddles, I think.  As a witch, I value riddling because riddles have had a place in mystical practice for a long time now (just think about Oedipus facing off with the Sphinx’s riddle).   I think they have the potential to help move one into an altered state of consciousness, and to force the brain to stop thinking in a simply linear, rational fashion.  The mindset which comes after a little riddling is an ideal one for magic, because connections that aren’t immediately obvious suddenly become apparent.  Or such is my opinion on the subject.

Today I’m going to look at a few riddles from American folklore (though some of them may be older in origin).  I’ll post a response in the comments section with the answers in case you don’t want to see those right away.  I’ll also try to point out anything that might have magical significance as I go along.  Without further ado, the riddles (from Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind):

From the South:

The ole man shook it an’ shook it;
The ole woman pulled up her dress an’ took it.
(The solution to this one is simple, but I like the sexual connotations to the riddle itself.)

About six inches long, an’ a mighty pretty size;
Not a lady in the country but what will take it between her thighs.
(Again with the sexual innuendo…apparently we Southerners are a dirty-minded lot.  The solution to this one, though, is interesting because of the idea of “riding” to the witches’ Sabbat—in may folkloric versions, there is a sexual side to this riding).

From the Pennsylvania Dutch:

What goes and goes,
And yet stands and stands?
(Solve this one and you’ve got an interesting way to look at one version of a witch’s magical circle).

What poor fellow passes up and down the steps on his head?
(No witchy significance I can see; I just like this one)

What has its heart in its whole body?
(The answer to this one is worth remembering, for naturally-inclined folk)

What resembles half a chicken?
(A simple answer, but exactly the kind of riddling answer that I like, because it is both slightly funny and a little weird—it does a nice job of making the brain shut out its over-analytical side, for me at least)

From the Louisiana Cajuns:

If a man can lift two hundred and fifty barrels of rice when it is not raining, what can he lift during the rain?
(Again, this one isn’t really magical, but helps to get that child-like mindset which can be very useful in witchcraft)

What goes to the bayou laughing and returns crying?
(This one has more to do with sound than anything else, and getting the guesser to use his or her imagination a little)

What was it that was given to you that belongs to you only but that your friends use more than you?
(This one has particular significance for a witch, I think—if you think of “friends” in this context as covenmates, gods, spirits, etc., it makes sense, at least to me)

So what about you all out there?  Do you have any favorite riddles?  Do you ever use riddles as a way to get yourself into a magical mindset?  I’d love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Blog Post 27 – More Signs & Omens

March 10, 2010

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

March 9, 2010

-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 24 – Book Review

March 3, 2010

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


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