Folk songs, tales and riddles are great sources for lore. This page will contain Ballads, folk songs, and links to these from the South and Scotland (the originals usually came from there) that relate to folklore topics and practices. The practices within the ballads, songs and tales are apparent, if one thinks on them, therefore, I do not provide an explanation.
"Lady Gay " is a version of "The Wife of Usher's Well" from the southern U.S. It is somewhat different from the British original, but still carries the same themes. It was and is sung in Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. The source of the lyrics: "American Folk Tales and songs" , compiled by Richard Chase.
There was a lady, a lady, gay
and three fine sons had she,
she sent them away to the "*Northern Country"
to gain some high degree.
They'd not been gone but a very short time,
about a year and a day,
when death, swift death, came a-hastening along
and swept her sons away.
If there is King in Heaven, she cried,
a King that will grant my boon,
he'll send to me my three young sons.
Oh I pray that he send them soon.
It was just about Old Christmas Time
when the nights were cold and clear,
she looked and she saw her three young sons
come walking home to her.
She spread a table with clean white cloth, she set out cake and wine.
Come eat, come drink, my three little sons,
come eat and drink of mine.
We cannot eat your cake nor bread,
we cannot drink your wine,
for yonder stands our saviour dear,
and to him we must resign.
She made them a bed in their own back room,
brought out her clean white sheets,
and covered them over with a cloth of gold
that they might soundly sleep.
Wake up, wake up! said the oldest one,
the birds are singing for day.
Our saviour dear is a-calling loud,
and away we must go- away!
Green grass, green grass grows over our heads,
cold clay lies on our feet,
and every tear you shed for us,
it wets our winding sheet.
*Read:Otherworld or Place of Spirits"
Riddles were often used by "mountain people" to educate and teach different methods of thinking. The answers to riddles were often more "bizarre" than the riddle and can only be explained as beliefs or as those who are haughty call them "superstitions"
"Six set, and the seventh sprung. From the dead the living come."
The Origin of Man
"Once upon a time they's a man layin' out, and he went to a cave. And he was layin' out in there and the Yeahoh come and throwed a deer in to him- something would come everyday and throw a deer into him, and leave out. One time that Yeahoh came and got down in there with him and not long after that she had a kid. Then one time he took a notion to leave her and he would go to leave and she wouldn't let him go. She'd make him come back. A-finally he got out and made her think she was going with him. And they went and he got on a ship going to cross the waters. And he got started and rode off and left her. And she stood there and hollered and screamed after him. And when she seen he'd got away from her and she couldn't go, why she tore the baby in two and throwed one half in after him."
The above story came from South from Hell-fer-Sartin, compiled by Leonard W. Roberts. The legend was told to him by Nancy Roberts, a local. Hell for Certain Creek is in the part of the Cumberland Plateau that is in Kentucky. Roberts believes that the above is fragmented and may be part of the tale "The Bear's Son". The story above though features a woman and the bear in the other tale is male, so this interpretation doesn't seem to fit and there is no anthropomorphic animals in the tale above. It is interesting to note that the Woman, could not leave the land, maybe she was a spirit or deity of the land? The baby was split in two, maybe to form the first male and female human? It also is interesting to note that this tale is not derived from Biblical sources. One has to wonder if this is an American Indian tale or a European import or an admixture of both.