Appalachian New Year Traditions and Practices

For everyone in Appalachia, the New Year is more than a second chance at life. It is another trial of survival through another year of obstacles, poverty, loss, and work. Superstitions and charms were devised to help bring luck, blessings and health in the New Year.

I will be somewhat quiet here as I turn my attention to my book to turn in to the publisher in a couple months. But stay up to date with me via my Facebook page and website. Below are a list of practices to do tonight and tomorrow. Happy New Year everyone!!

  • Clean out the pantry and cabinets. Dust them and make sure there is food in it at this time to guard against food insecurity for the coming year. If any occupied spider webs are found while cleaning the kitchen or cabinets, they are not to be disturbed as this foretells that the household will not starve.
  • Silver coins are cooked and hidden in mashed potatoes and cabbage. The one who finds the coin will be extra lucky in the coming year.
  • Cornbread is baked and eaten to ensure honest, steady work and a flow of money.
  • Black eyed peas are eaten raw for good luck and good health. Remember in the old days when no medical services were readily available or close, many things were done to keep ones health and strength up.
  • Look into a well at midnight on New Years and you will see your future love or hear their name echo from the bottom. This is also done on Halloween night.
  • Air all the blankets and quilts out side and beat them with a stick to ensure comfortability in the New Year and to also air out the sicknesses of the last (as the ill are always bundled up, especially the fevered).
  • For good health in children the next year, measure them from their nose to their knee with a string of ribbon. Tie the ribbon up some place it won’t be disturbed.
  • Recite Psalms 23 while sweeping and mopping the house, always from back to front and down the drive.
  • Lay out cut onions to soak up any remaining ill or bad fortune so you don’t take it with you into the new year.
  • Put a silver coin in your wallet/purse to ensure wealth.
  • Stick seven pennies into a potato, place in a tin can and hide it in the back of the cabinet. You’ll always have what you need.

  • To help the furniture beds last another year of use, rub the wood down with a mixture of oil, lard, and whiskey. Don’t wipe any drips off until Jan 2nd.
  • Oil door hinges, wheels, etc. on New Year’s Eve, and always push open or turn the wheel the correct way. (Oil the door hinges from behind the door and only open once).
  • Don’t see on New Year’s Eve or Day (we don’t at all until Old Christmas passes), or else your strings will knot all year in whatever you try.
  • Light three candles for those passed before the New Year, but don’t set them in a line and don’t light them in the same root. Otherwise this foretells someone of the house will get burned by March.
  • Smack the corners of the property with branches of willow to keep away misfortune. Use hawthorn to guard against lightning strike and thieves.
  • Stick a gold eyed needle into the top of an eye and push it all the way in and bury the egg, upright, in the front yard to ensure blessings and protection.
  • There is a Scottish practice still alive in Appalachia called “First Foot”. To be the first foot in someone’s house is good luck. The first person to visit you on January 1st signifies your fortune for the year and sometimes the blood of chickens to come. A man signifies good luck, a woman is bad luck. A man foretells a large hatching of roosters, and a woman many hens.

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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:

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