WEATHER SIGNS

PEACOCK CRIES 

The Peacock makes a shrill cry when rain is near. The older people were especially adept in discerning this particular sound. A similar belief is recorded in Wales ( See Marie Treveleyan's Books).

*HALO AROUND THE MOON 

A hazy ring around the moon predicts rain. In the winter, snow is on the way if this ring appears.

*UPTURNED LEAVES

Leaves show their undersides when heavy rain is on the way. The leaves "silvery sides" are more apparent. 

*RAINCROW

The raincrow is the Tennessee name for the Dove. Many years ago children wouldn't have known much about what sort of animal a Dove was. They did know that when the Raincrow "cooed" rain would soon follow.

*CATERPILLARS

The appearance of the "fur" is telling. If the "fur" was black it predicted a severe winter. Light "fur" predicts a light winter. Striated "fur" predicts the winter according to the stripes. I.E. Black - Brown- Black= A severe beginning to the winter, lighter in mid winter, and then a heavy cold period or late spring.

*HORNET'S NEST

Hornets tend to build their papery nests lower to the ground if a severe winter is expected. People at one time used the "paper" to clean glass,oddly enough, it works well, though!
Folk Healing , Folk Magic, and Folk Witchcraft in Tennessee

*MOTHS, BUTTERFLIES, AND BEES

Bees and Butterflies are considered messengers of good fortune in Tennessee and if a butterfly lands on you this is considered that good luck or fortunate news will follow (also Lady Bugs or "Ladybird", as they are called in Britain and Australia). Similar beliefs are recorded in the British Isles. "It was once considered by some very lucky to find that a strange swarm of bees had arrived in the garden or tree." - Folklore of West and Mid-Wales, Jonathan Ceredig Davies. There is also a belief in Wales that a bee buzzing around a child's head is fortunate. Moths were once considered spirits of the departed or the spirits of "witches" in flight in Tennessee. Moths were also considered to be the departed in Wales. This once was a widely held belief throughout England and was found occasionally in the Ozarks in America. "If a white moth lingered about us, we thought it was the spirit of one of our deceased grandparents hovering over us." pg. 233 Ozark Magic and Folklore - Vance Randolph.

DIVINING or "WATER WITCHING"

*The older people used a forked "Y" shaped, somewhat pliable branch, to find water. My Grandfather was particularly adept at using the "water wtcher", sometimes to his own detriment- his hands were scratched from the bark. The end point twisting , sometimes violently downward in the palms caused the scratches. Similar rods are carried in Cornwall, called "Wisht" or Wish rods. In Wales the divining rod is cut from a special bush during a certain phase of the moon. In Britain they are also called Stangs or Distaffs, The larger ones are called "Hay Forks" in Tennessee, as well. Metal "L" shaped rods are also used in Tennessee. These can be made of coat hanger wire and take less skill to find underground water, although not as accurately. The wooden "water witcher" nods the number of feet down water is located.

*"FAITH HEALERS", "WART CHARMERS", AND "GRANNY WOMEN"

Faith healers that I'm describing are not traveling evangelists in tents. They are healers. Faith healers and Wart charmers are interchangeable terms in this region of the country. Wart charmers with much skill could touch a wart , mumble some words and make a wart disappear before the eyes or within a few days. They were sought out for their healing of other ailments, as well. They also never took money for their services, usually it was custom to give them food, although they did not ak for it. Doctors were a luxury up until the early 20th century, so they were a necessary part of the community. People in this area still are not too friendly to the M.D.. Granny Women knew about local herbs and were experienced mid-wives. The Appalachian Midwife, an excellent article on Granny Women here.

"TALKING OUT FIRE"

This was done with burns. Certain verses are said over burn to heal it. The verses are kept secret within families, as are the procedures which follow them. Often, they are mumbled or whispered so that the sufferer doesn't hear them. This secret was also part of the craft of the Faith Healer in Tennessee, as well a blood stopping.

*"FAMILY SECRETS"

Transfered differently from family to family. In this region there is a transmission from Grandmother to Grandson (Female to Male members of a family). Sometimes this will follow a pattern of Grandmother to Grandaughter. The family in between those generations are carriers. This pattern depends on region, type of information (Divining or "Water Witching" is taught male to male in our family) and family. Information given to those outside a family, usually lacks "essential elements", so to speak.

*COW HAIR ROPES

People in the area used to believe that "witches" milked ropes. The rope, made of a certain type of material, had be hung over a tree limb. Then it was milked like a cow.

SILVER

Silver is mentioned quite a lot in Tennessee folklore, both oral and written, being the metal of charms, probably because of its expensiveness and rarity to everyday people, in the early 20th and 19th centuries.

*Silver is used by our tradition when someone wishes to become part of it. Tin is also associated with charms in Tennessee and the South. 

*DUMB SUPPERS

A divination to see a marriage partner, sometimes used for other purposes. A whole meal is prepared on a certain day in a certain manner. A "Dumb Bed" is sometimes prepared, instead, so that a dream will come. Sometimes the crew of ladies (traditionally a marriage divination for women) are met by Black Dog, and not the marriage partner. This is an unfortunate sign to be met with. In conjunction with Dumb Suppers in this area, women used to take an article of clothing , usually a blouse and wash it in the "crick" and hang it to dry. The shade of their future partner came and turned or pull down the clothing. This has its parallels/ origins in the ritual of "Sark Sleeve" (Shirt Sleeve) from Scotland. "A further custom which was carried on outdoors was dipping the sark sleeve. A girl went to where a stream flowed south and dipped the sleeve of a shirt into the water. She took it home to dry and lay in bed watching it in the firelight. The wraith of her lover would appear to turn the sleeve." - Scottish Customs , Sheila Livingstone, 1996.

*"WOOD WITCH"

This term is mostly from Kentucky and North Tennessee. You will hear this term used more often than "trad" or "traditional", in this area. It is the closest to a name that local traditions have, meaning there really is no name for them, as in Britain it is called the "Nameless Art" or "That we cannot/should not name". Sometimes this term is used in place of "Granny Woman", due to their extensive herbal knowledge. A wood witch derives everything from the outdoors. None of that fobbery from the local shop. Inspiration comes solely from the wood, oral lore, and experience.

*BLACK DOG

An "apparition" of misfortune and harbinger of the dead. Associated in local folklore with Hallowe'en and divination, though not entirely. My Grandmother used to tell a tale about a large Black Dog that attacked a lady in the neighbhorhood, after the lady had performed a divination (A Dumb Supper). It would appear from her story, that Black Dog is a guardian keeping secret knowledge from the foolish or unprepared. This apparition appears in Kentucky folklore as well. There are numerous legends surrounding this "spirit", in Tennesseee. One describes how Black Dog came through a crack in the floor of a home, stood on its hind legs and shot at the residents with a silver pistol! This lore may be an import of British folklore as there are numerous accounts of it British lore. In Yorkshire, Barghest is the name of Black Dog. In Cornwall the "Wisht hound or Wish hound"prevails. In the English Mid-lands Wild Edric has a pack of black hounds. In Wales there are the Cwn Annwn (the otherworld hounds) and the Gwiligi (the dark dog). Sometimes referred to as a "Gog" in British lore. In Kentucky there is also a white ghost dog, which is smaller than Black Dog. Our local lore doesn't have a white ghost dog to my knowledge. The older people tended to believe in Black Dog more than people do today, as the lore is dying out, unfortunately. You may read more about Kentucky lore of Black Dog in Montell's Ghosts Along the Cumberland. Luckily someone else has written some of this lore down.

*LOCAL BELL WITCH FOLKLORE

Groups of people used to gather on Hallowe'en to summon Old Kate (The Bell Witch) into a mirror. This was usually done indoors to have access to the electric lights, obviously a new development. People believed light would send the apparition back into the mirror, if she came through it! This probably had something to do with some form of divination.

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