From the Pulpit to the Kitchen: Folk Magic in Appalachia

Come and sit a spell. Let’s reminisce over the old days on the porch with mamaw talking about the highest mountain in the Carolinas and that one grandfather who stayed the night with the witchy woman down in the holler. Don’t forget about those days in the garden, surrounded by lettuce and sunflowers, as the bottle trees shake in the mountain breeze and the willow by the pond whispers a tune to the cattails.

Most importantly let’s remember the spirit of those mother-mountains, where people use to wave as they drove by and if ever you was out of something, someone down the mountain would kindly help provide or help you make do.

Remember those honeysuckle bushes? And those apple trees? Oh those fresh red apples. Good for a lot more than apple butter, ya know. Mamaw knew.

All of this applied to daily life for my great grandmothers and grandfathers whose home in the mountains was like honey dew at the Throne. Like Christ in Paradise. Peaceful and filled with praise. But it was also like chains at the Devil’s feet, rampant with poverty and bad health. Still is. May always be.

More importantly, you best remember those pearls of wisdom nana so kindly threw at you, mostly when you least wanted to hear them. Those ol’ wives tales telling you you’s gonna marry a drunk or come on hard times cause you did something. I often ponder on it being the wives who told them stories; threads of the storytelling past leading back to the Cherokee camps and those cliffs off the Old World where mother’s churned and baked and birthed.

“Never throw money away, it’s bad luck.”

“Sweep under their feet, they’ll never marry; on they feet, they’ll go to jail.”

“If ‘dem leaves show they back, storms a comin.”

“A watched pot will never boil and a watched stove will make the bread fall.”

“Rappings on the kill kitchen table when no one’s there tells Death is coming.”

“A rocking chairs a moving and ain’t nobody in it, death and troubles on the way and they’re coming in a minute.”

“Don’t clip a baby’s nails before they’re a year old or they’ll become a thief. Bite them off instead.”

“Never let an expectant mother see a corpse, or the baby will be pale and deformed.”

“New salt in the shoes will make you slicker than glass, doing right in everything.”

“Piss in ‘is cup and he’ll be head over heels for ya.”

“Money by the door, ya never be broke.”

“Whistling indoors invites the devil in.”

So listen close to the Spirit and let’s remember those poor-magic days up on the mountain and down by the creek.

Mamaw’s apron and Papaw’s hat hold secrets and rhymes and prophecy. That is, if you have the soul for it.

So sit back, get you some sweet tea and let’s ramble about the Mysteries and Mayhem of these smokey hills.

Visit my website for readings and rootwork services at

©2017 Jake Richards. Do not copy or use any article without the written permission of the author. Sharing the link is welcome.

Author: Jake Richards

Jake (Dr. Buck) follows family practice as a Yarb Doctor and Conjure man in the Appalachian Folk Magic tradition. He follows the legacy of his mother (a seventh daughter), that left behind by his grandfather, a baptist preacher who was a blood stopper, wort doctor, and thrush doctor; his grandmother, who was a knowledgeable melungeon woman in these works before Alzheimer’s set in; his great, great grandfather, also Melungeon, who witched for water in Washington County and his great grandmother who taught and worked from her roost at the foot of Devil’s Nest Mountain. Jake is the author of Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure & Folk Magic from Appalachia; Doctoring the Devil: Notebooks of an Appalachian Conjure Man; and the Conjure Cards deck, all available for order and preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. When he's not writing, blogging, reading the bones or trying for clients: he is either traveling, gardening, sewing, book binding, reading, or sculpting. For questions, readings, recommendations for future posts, interviews and the like, you are welcome to email him below:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s