The Evil Eye in Appalachia

As in most places of the world, the Mountaineer is weary of strangers passing through, especially those with blue eyes. A simple compliment on a child or home could result in death or misfortune just as much as an envious glare. It is also believed to affect food, animals, plants and coveted objects. Folks who carry the evil eye and give it to others were talked as having “the pewter eye” like Old Scratch himself. Likewise, someone who’s caught the eye from the former are described as “havin’ the pewter,” or the evil eye as well.

Since Appalachia received alot of immigration during the coal mining boom, the fires of this particular superstition were fanned. Most of those immigrants were Italian and Jewish, and their own lore added to the already present fear of the Eye. Traditions mixed and churned into what we have today: red strings tied to the bed posts or doorknobs, pink coral beads hung in the home, and “hairy bread.”

Some folks were believed to be immune or especially vulnerable to it based on when they were born: those born in January are said to be immune while those born in August or during the Dogs Days are vulnerable; and those born in October where said to be born WITH the pewter eye. While everyone can give the eye with a compliment or a look of envy, some where thought to be carriers of the pewter naturally.

Ways to guard against “the Pewter”

We Mountaineers are crafty and cunning at best, especially the old folk even though most couldn’t read nor write, and the following were used to prevent the misfortune brought by this power as well as to ward it off as well.

  • The Lord’s Prayer said daily.
  • Red string tied by the bed.
  • A bells hung on the door knob or in a tree outside.
  • Carrying a “deer-skinner” or fulgurite caused by lightning striking the soil and melting any silica.
  • A red beet root carried in the left shoe
  • Camphor water rubbed on the door frames of the home
  • Wool sheered from a sheep during the Dog days and kept in a sack in the kitchen.
  • Scatter salt granules on the front porch or in the driveway. This relates to the “Scatter tales” as I call them, where in-numerous grains compel evil spirits to count them until day light.
  • Garlands of garlic and green beans will keep the misfortune out of the home.
  • Kill the first snake you find in the spring and keep its head in a bag hidden in the home. I prefer copperheads or cottonmouths, but any serpent will suffice.
  • Carry a sliver of wood taken from the front right pew in a church and wrapped in red flannel. Front right if your facing out from the “altar.”
  • Wear the color red to keep it off and to also bring good luck. Red ribbons are popular in Appalachia for this and red crosses were embroidered into children’s underwear.
  • Wooden cross hung over the door or bed
  • Horseshoe wrapped in red flannel and hung upside down. They’re hung upside down to dispel all evil influences.
  • When someone gives a compliment and seems envious, or when you feel you’ve tempted the Eye by something said or done, make the sign of the fig with your dominant hand. This is done my making a fist with the thumb between the index and middle finger. Spitting over the left shoulder three times is also recommended.

Do you got the Pewter?

To see if you have the “Pewter Eye”, do the methods below. The best time to do these are when the sign is in the Throat (Taurus).

  • Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a glass of water and wait. Spit in the water beforehand. If the oil clots together with some spaces in it to make an eye, or if it clings to the rim, you’ve got the eye. If it remains scattered or somewhat separate, you’re fine.
  • Pluck two hairs from the back of the neck and two from the toes. Bind them with sewing twine and burn them. If they burn fine, you don’t have it. But if they “cackle and sit,” you have it.
  • Do an egg cleansing and read the egg. You can see how to do that in one of my first posts. Click here to read more.
  • Other signs that you have the Pewter Eye on you is terrible misfortune in every aspect of your life. No matter how much you try, you’re always taking one step forward and two steps back. The evil eye especially effects one’s financial and love life. To be sure that it’s the evil eye, I recommend you go see a Rootworker. I myself offer these readings as well as the curing of the eye.

Curing the Pewter

*the best time to cure the evil eye is when the sign is in the feet (Pisces).

  • One recipe I will share is to gather seven hairs from the top of the patient’s head and fold them over onto themselves to make a small lock. Hold the lock of hair over a cast iron pot filled with creek water. Pour oil over the lock of hair into the water while praying in the name of the Trinity for the ties and chains of the Devil’s Pewter to be broken. Do this three time in a row, with fresh water. Pour the previous far away from the home. The oil may clot the first couple of times, but when it’s scattered the ailment is cured.
  • Wear or carry a cloth whose fabric was spun on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Eve, etc. Lore says it’s protective qualities are better if it was spun by a seven year old girl or the seventh daughter.
  • Bake some bread on Easter or a Sunday with your hair baked into it. Pierce it with three nails while saying Psalms 23. Then take it out and feed it to the ducks and chickens. Better if they’re mallard or frisley.
  • Burn a bundle of 21 black chicken feathers on the front porch. Take up the ashes and carry them for nine days then toss them in the river, over your left shoulder. And don’t look back. Don’t you ever look back!
  • Wear your clothes inside out for nine days.
  • Place a bowl of warm salt water under the bed every night for nine nights to pull the Pewter out.
  • Crawl backwards under a white horse.
  • Wrap up mistletoe into a white handkerchief with nine needles. Boil this until the water turns color. Then simmer it for ten more minutes. Strain and add one cup of this to your bath water for nine days. It’s best down in the early morning before the sunrises and always wash downwards. Pat yourself dry afterwards, don’t rub.

Now don’t just assume you got the eye when you’ve had a bad day. It’s affects can take a while to show, usually a few months to a year or two. But when it hits, you’ll know it. There will be weeks of bad luck, one thing after another going to shit, and anything you try for will rot itself to failure. Best keep those garlands hung up!

<<picture found on Pinterest>>

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Butter in American Folk Magic

Now I keep my nose in my own business as all good folk should. But there’s recently been a “witch-war” on social media in regards to the use of butter in folk magic. It started with a post from Hoodoo Delish on using butter on a candle. Her practices are primarily in the Hoodoo of the Deep South so naturally POC practitioners were up in arms saying that “White people are doing whatever” in this work or just making stuff up.. Others said butter isn’t used at all, ever.

However, there were instances of it being used in Appalachia, not necessarily on candles every time, but it is used. Hell, I still use it. Many have said her post is stupid as butter is flammable. Not sure where y’all are getting your butter but I’ve never seen butter catch fire. I’ve even known some of my relatives to reach for a stick of butter during a power outage and use it as a candle if none were at hand!

One of my old neighbors, Patty, rest her soul, told my mama once about using butter in her husbands shoes. He had left her and she didn’t want him to go. He had left a pair of work boots at the house so she went out in the yard to a certain tree and broke off some of the bark. She didn’t specify which side. She said she brought it in, burned it to ash and then mixed it up with some soft butter into a paste. She rubbed this on the sole down in his boots and he came back the following day.

One of my grandfathers talked about it in regards to an old superstition that cats can conjure up a rainstorm when they wash their face. He said during droughts for his garden he’d smear a marble size clump on its face, to essentially get it to “conjure rain”. This must’ve been an occasional or even a rare occurrence as Appalachia didnt get many droughts back in the day.

It was also put on candles. Growing up, my mother did the same as her mother did when she rubbed a stick of butter over an off-white candle, roll it in a pinch of salt, said some prayers, and sat it in a candle holder to let it burn. I’d ask what she was doing, “we gotta pay rent, baby. Somehow.” Not sure what people had in mind with Hoodoo Delish’s post, but it was only a small layer of butter. Her’s was a variant in my eyes of what I knew. However, it has taken a backlash as has the glitter and the coconut cleansing ball she has taught about. I have my own opinions on those which I won’t share here.

The conjure of the Deep South is largely African derived and I see where it upset folks to see things being taught as conjure when they’re not. So I will leave that to them; this is simply on butter from my own tradition and what I’ve seen.

The above examples are the only USES of butter in American Folk Magic that I have found or ever heard of. In regards to the Deep South, I have looked hell, west and crooked for something but to no avail. However, I do speculate that some superstitions about butter and witches were soon learned by the African slaves who did the labor of churning the butter. If the butter spoiled or didn’t come, it was their asses getting the punishment so I assume they tried everything they could to make it work from old butter songs, horseshoe nails at the base of the churn, scalding a bit of the milk and more.

Superstitions and “tricks” were never kept solely in their own location. They shifted and changed as they went across the south and many variations of the same were born because of it. One example is in regards to curing bewitched cream and butter. If the butter wouldn’t come, the salt didn’t work, and the horseshoe nails around it had no effect then some of the same cream was poured from the churn into a pan on the stove and stabbed with a butchers knife, fork or butter knife. This is one variant that appears in different locations. Another was to scald the milk with a hot iron rod or a hot piece of silver was shot down into it, again different per location and community.

Another example of American Folk Magic blurring it’s own lines of tradition is the rabbits foot. Depending on location, the front right or hind left foot was specified to bring luck while in other parts of the south it protected from evil haints. Other times the rabbit had to be caught and killed in a graveyard at the full moon while other times the rabbits foot was taken and it was kept alive in a cage to foretell the luck for that day. If the rabbit was active, you were going to have good luck. If he wasn’t, none.

The purpose of this post was to show that American Folk Magic has no distinct lines separating traditions, only characteristics and methods that can identify their origins. So try your hand at the churn and candle, work the knife with the cream, and trust your own roots. Most importantly, do your research, come to a conclusion and go with that. There’s always going to be charlatans in every tradition who point out the worst in everyone else’s work, but can’t keep their own candles lit to save their life. What matters is that those traditions have authentic natives to represent that tradition and its practice. Which is what I am doing with my book on Appalachian Folk Magic.

Be safe and be kind, my friends, to the best of your ability anyway.

<<<<photo found on Pinterest, photographer unknown>>>>

Unspoken Law: Stealing, Cheating, and Lying

I’ve decided to keep the blog up. No one gets the best of me, no matter what their story. I learned along time ago not to trust too many folks and doing just that has had folks let me be. As many of you noticed the blog was down. I received a plethora of emails, letting me know tons of people were requesting access to the site. I saw them all as questionable. I saw their name again and shunned away, not trusting the possibility of it occurring again.

I won’t name names, but someone began reblogging all of my posts and even copy/pasted the first post here, word for word. But they changed the name of it so they had obviously read it. Their excuse when I confronted them with possible copyright infringement was it was somehow already in their clipboard so they pasted it to figure where it came from.

Only issue with that excuse was I never had “Source: littlechicagoconjure.weebly.com” at the end. Why would I put that in my own post? Also none of that content can be found on my website. I felt violated and used as my own writings, those I share freely with you all from my life and heart, of my own home and family had been misused.

Make no mistake, I was madder than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I wasn’t going to let that cloud my thinking nor guide my hands. “Anything done out of anger is the Devil dancing,” I was taught growing up. So I cooled off and pondered it for a couple days. I truly no longer wanted to write here. I still kind of don’t.

There are unspoken laws we follow in Appalachia and they are whipped into our ass with a switch at a young at. Stealing, lying, and cheating are unforgivable in our small culture and it’ll damage your character to us for life often time. We are easy to forgive, but we remember as much as the stones under our feet.

Sometimes, forgiveness comes after retribution. Mama always taught me “don’t start a fight, but always make sure you finish it.” These words have always branded my bones with iron and stilled my blood with mercury. I’m no push-over and I’ll be damned and dying if I let someone take what is rightfully mine.

Share these posts all you want on social media (reblogging for my site has now been disabled), but give credit where it’s due. To take something and say it is your own is a sign of your shitty character. Especially your writing if it is nothing but other people’s content. And then to lie to me about it all…

I will let it breath for now. But hear y’all well. Next time, I may just round-dance with the devil over your name. Mind you well.