Mountain Magick Folk Wisdom from the heart of Appalachia
By Edain McCoy

I’m just a poor way fairing stranger,
Traveling through this world of woe,
But there’s no toll or sweat of danger,
In the world to which I do,
I’m going home to see my loved ones,
I’m going home no more to roam.
I’m just a poor way faring stranger
A long way from home. –Traditional Mountain Air

There’s an old spinning wheel in the corner,
Spinning tales of the long, long ago,
The wheel turns and out comes a story,
The tales of a girl and her beau. –Traditional Mountain Ballad

Folk magick—“low magick”—magickal practices of the common people. They’re the spells, incantations and daily rituals known throughout clans and communities that have been handed down orally from one generation to another.

Characteristics of Mountain Magick

1. A division of all that exists into distinct and warring camps of good and evil.
2. A sense that all things have their own sentient quality, be they plant, animal, or inanimate object, and that their intent for good or evil can be made manifest.
3. A strong belief in the influence of evil.
4. An acceptance that magick is real and that it can be worked for either good or evil purposes.
5. The belief that certain individuals are blessed with paranormal powers and that their magick is always more powerful than that of the layperson.
6. A sense of fatalism in the face of certain dire circumstance, particularly during severe illness or intrusion by outsiders into the local way of life, conditions that no amount of magick can completely cure. {Fatalist thinking is the first cousin of predestination, a spiritual legacy left to the mountain people through the Calvinist theology prevalent in the early Scottish Protestant Churches.}
7. That the resting places of the dead are places wherein evil may lurk, but that contain great magickal powers that can be harnessed by the brave.
8. An underlying magickal philosophy that say it is wicked to work magick for momentary profit or to gain power over another individual, through the latter condition is frequently ignored, especially in matters of no mane or inter family quarrels.
9. The acceptance of the reality and potency of magickal curses.
10. The belief that nature provides omens and portents of the future, and these are to be heeded by the wise.
11. An emphasis upon actions, rather than upon thought and willpower, as the ultimate magickal catalyst.

Granny woman—always women, usually elder members of the community. “Midwives”. They possess ancient herbal knowledge of the land know how to concoct poultices, teas, and other remedies to ease-if not cure-most of the ailments common to their people. Possess second sight, predictions given at the New Year, see into the character’s person’s soul, asked to bestow a name onto the children they help deliver.

Water witches—“Dowsers” able to find well, underground creeks, and springs and other hidden water sources by the use of a 2-handled rod. Mostly male uses a dowsing rod, a wooden or metal tool crafted by the dowser that best resembles a long sling shot. Mostly inherited from a father or grandfather, when found of water the rod will wobble from side to side or point straight down.

Storytellers—Entertainment to people of all ages. In Scottish/Celt the itinerant storytellers were often traveling bards who also kept the traditions and mythology of their people alive and provided entertainment on long quiet nights.

10 lessons in Spell casting

1. Have a clear desire or need for something that you can put both into simple words and mental pictures.
2. Build your emotional investment in the outcome of the spell by spending as much time as you can visualizing it as manifest in your life.
3. Decide if the spell is ethical, or if it will bring harm to others.
4. Smile a lot as you think about your spell, or laugh or dance…whatever you think of as an expression of joy. Magick should be fun, and being solemn too often can only work against you in the long run. Old magickal wisdom tells us that expressions of overt joy in the face of disaster will often turn the balance in our favor.
5. Gather whatever items you will need for the spell itself, handling them often as you visualize so that your energy and need become a part of these tools. This is called charging or enchanting the items. These will not work the magick for you, but will act as a catalyst, or focus for your magick and, as such, is very important.
6. Plan the time and place of the spell to suit your lifestyle and to incorporate any special timing preferences you have, such as, working spells on the new moon, on a Sunday at dawn, etc. Keep in mind that privacy for concentration is essential an that certain demands on your time may force you to deviate from the traditional timing of the spell. For instance, if you work nights, then getting up to do a spell at dawn is exhausting and counter productive. A well-rested magickan who is alert and focused always makes the best magick, regardless of when the spell is cast.
7. Work the actual spell at least once, but be wiling to repeat it as often as needed with all the energy and devotion you put into the first working.
8. Be willing to experiment with new working in your spells often referred to as words of power, herbs or stone substitutions, new locations, a different time of day, etc. Sometimes small changes that feel right to you can make a big difference.
9. When you are finished, know on all levels of your being that your magickal operations have indeed caused the need to manifest on an unseen place of existence and that it is only a matter of time before it comes into your physical life. So much of successful magick is based on the magickian’s own mental perception, and so this belief is crucial to the outcome.
10. Have the ability to keep silent about your magickal work.

Lych—corpse-number of rights-age of person when bell is rang for the dead. Bells rung to scare away ghosts, evil spirits, and faeries that might be lurking around, especially those attracted to funeral rites.

Mountain woodruff is tossed inside both as a practical measure against odors and as a gesture of ritual blessing-another carry-over from a Pagan past. Blessing: Place herbs in casket and say aloud/whisper/think after placing in the herbs.

“On wings of air, may your spirit soar,
Onward and upward, ever more-
To find at last their joyous rest,
In the arms of {insert name of deity}
Your soul be blessed.”

If you want them to reincarnate into this life
“Into the otherworld, riding on love
Which I sent to you on your journey above
Don’t leave me lonely through my earthly trail,
Rejoin me, if you will, and stay a while.”

Omens of Death

Celtic mythology, birds symbolize the transition from the physical realm to an other worldly existence, particularly when a person find him/herself magickally transformed into a bird.

A bird flying into your house is a death omen that is still respected not only in the mountains but in Britain and numerous other places as well. Symbolizes bird flying away with the human soul.

If a bird flies down and gets tangled in your hair, it is an indication that the bird has linked itself with your soul and whatever befalls the bird is likely to befall you also.

If a blackbird comes to rest on a windowsill of your home, it’s generally a bad omen but if it takes anything with it, or caws at you while sitting there, the ill luck becomes a death in the family.

Owls, if encountered in the mountain woods, give it a wide berth and heed its warning if you feel it’s telling you to leave. Owl flying directly overhead, a death’ll shortly follow.

A rooster heard crowing at midnight heralds a death within the community. A crowing hen is also a death omen that can be thwarted by killing her and then wiping her blood on your door post or by killing and burying her at a cross road.

A dog howling three times in a succession after dark also heralds a death.

Being hit by a rock falling off a mountain side without human or animal aid can magickally open a hole in the body through that gorm {soul/life force} can escape.

Allowing a digging tool to be brought into the house is a sign that a grave will need to be dug before the year is out.

Seeing “torch lights” moving through the woods at night is a portent of one’s own demise.

If a clock begins to make a strange noise or run erratically, it’s a sign that a death is occurring in the extended family at that very moment. If a clock stops suddenly for no apparent reason, it means the death of the eldest family member. If a clock starts working again that was not working, will stop working at the death of that person.

To dream of riding a black horse is another death omen. Whomever riding the horse is the potential victim. Dreams of muddy water, falling out of a tree, crossing over water, or being lost in a cave are other well-known omens.

Hearing someone laugh in their sleep, whether or not they remember dreaming, is another sign of approaching death.

If you hear the sound of shattering glass when none has been broken, it foretells the death of someone in your acquaintance within a fortnight.

If you clearly hear the voice of someone who has died recently, it heralds another death in the family within a year’s time.

When seeing a doppelganger means that death shall soon follow.

To see a white dog after dark is a very ill omen but to see it look at you is an omen of death.

When the snow bush, a white blooming mountain tree, bloomed early and lush it was a sign that many deaths would occur before it bloomed again the next year.

The sound of an unknown woman singing after dark is a sign that death will come to someone in the community before dawn.

Respect to the Dead

Take dried beans and a shovel. Take objects to a nearby graveyard and set the shovel on the ground in front of you, with the rounded side down. At the stroke of midnight cry out to the guardian of the cemetery with words such as:
“Guardian of fearful face
How many will soon take thy place?”
Toss the beans high into the air and let them land where they will. A few or many of the beans many land in the bowl of the shovel. When the beans have settled, pick up the shovel and carry it out of the cemetery without spilling any of the beans. After away from the cemetery count how many beans are in the shovel’s bowl and you should know how many deaths will occur before the season’s change.

Haint—haunt, ghost or spirit

Hang dry basil over the threshold to keep ghosts from entering the house and place a sprig{twig} or two in each windowsill.

Rapping three times on your doorpost before entering your home and rapping three times on your bedpost before falling asleep.

Wind chimes and bells over the door entrance keeps evil spirits away.

Take a mirror and candle and head for your friendly neighborhood graveyard, make sure to be there at the stroke of midnight.{beware of daylight savings time}. Lean the mirror up against either the wall of the cemetery or the trunk of a nearby tree. Stand with your back to the mirror and light your candle. Hold the candle in the front of you and stare into the flame for as long as is comfortable. {3-5 minutes is sufficient} try to make your mind as blank as possible except for the question of wanting to know the identity of the ghost. When done chant:

“Flame, which is the truth of light,
reveal the face who haunts the night.”
Blow out the candle and turn around quickly to look into the mirror. The face of the spirit should be reflected there.

I love my love and well he knows,
I love the ground on where he goes,
If he on earth no more I could see,
My life would quickly fade from me. --Traditional Mountain Air

Take a bean and slice it in half. Prick a finger from your ring hand and put a drop of blood into the bean. Press the bean back together and planet it near your home.

Appalachian Weather Omens

When it’s going to rain, cows will lie down in the fields, birds will fly low overhead and locusts will sing. If clouds in view shroud the top of the tallest mountain, the rain will appear within six hours. If the mountaintop is visible, expect the rain in 8-12 hours.

Chickens hovering near open doorways and trees turning the undersides of their leaves upwards also heralds rain. Pigs will gather their young beneath them if an exceptionally heavy rain is approaching.

Winds blowing strong from the southeast heralds a drenching rain, possibly a tropical storm. Winds from the southeast are always the strongest and are potentially cyclonic.

If it rains on the day of the summer solstice, it will be an especially rainy summer one during which you should be alert to flooding. If it rains on the spring equinox, look for a summer drought instead.

If the sun rises red, the weather that day is likely to be violent. If it sets red, look for a dry night.

If you see a burrowing animal frantically digging at midday, it forecasts a tornado within three hours time. Dogs whimpering while turning in circles, or horses stamping at the edge of their corrals are other indications of an approaching cyclone.

Green-tinted skies to the southwest area is a sign that a tornado or hail storm is fast approaching. Yellow-tinted skies heralds an electrical storm and gray-tinted skies, a gentle rain.

On Feb 14 not Feb 2 is groundhog day. Sees shadow-6 more weeks of winter, no shadow-an early spring. Other burrowing animals between 14 of Feb-March 1, indicates an early spring.

Hot summer if animals shed their winter coats before the 1st day of May, or if spring storms have lots of low, rumbling thunder with little or no lightening. It’ll be a cool summer if the night skies are mostly clear in May.

Whenever poison ivy turns red before the 1st of August or when you notice excessive spider activity the 1st week in September count on an early autumn.

An early and severe winter is indicated by a thick berry harvest in September, and this should be taken as a sign to load up on winter food stores.

If, by early September, animals cease their summer shedding, if snakes are no longer seen in the woods, or if field mice or earth worms enter homes and cabins seeking shelter, an early winter’s at hand. Wide and/or numerous black bands on the backs of wooly worms, or crickets observed resting on their backs, are other signs of early winter.

The first killing fronts should arrive precisely 3 month after the first katydid is heard in the late summer trees. If the apple harvest comes more than 2 weeks earlier then normal, a sharp frost will occur within 3 weeks.

It’ll be an especially harsh and cold winter if squirrels begin gathering food in late July, or if birds are seen gathering feed from the ground near your house.

Owls who make sounds like crying humans then birds are a sign of a serious winter to come, as is chimney smoke that does not rise in the sky but instead seems to settle down around your home.

Snow will come within 3 days time, should a winter fire made of dry wood pops when lit. if the fire causes tapping noises to come up the chimney flute, a blizzard is likely.

If you don’t count the number of days that you are into either the new or old moon at the time of the first stone, that it foretells how many other times it will snow that winter.

Calling the Wind

To call the wind stand in the direction from that you wish the wind to come, standing in the highest area. It helps if you’re in an open area. Raise arms upward and outward to the direction you face with your mind reach out to the wind, visualize yourself making contact with it to the farthest corners of the earth. make the sound that you have discovered goes with the particular wind you wish to call {whistling, calling out to the wind, other utilizes or whip} allow the sound to rise slowly in your throat, building a piercing cry if you are trying to project your voice over vast miles. If you can do this all in one breathe, so much the better, through beginners may find this hard to do at first.
When you feel the wind has heard your cry, peal out 3 sharp whistles, just as loud as you can make them. Or call forth 3 sharp hoots. Then, with your arms still raised and spread, fall silent and wait to feel that 1st exhilarating brush of breeze to come rushing at you.

To make a wind instrument

Tie up the wind by using knots. Any rope of 3-6 feet in length should be enough. You might want to color-coordinate each of your ropes to math choose red or orange for the south, blue or silver for the west, brown or green for the north or white or yellow for the east.
When a good, brisk wind is coming from the direction of your choice, take your rope and head outdoors. Hold your rope in both hands and stand facing into the wind. Call out a greeting.

“Wind of the {direction}
I have eagerly awaited your coming.
Welcome to this land.
It is blessed by your presence.”

Hold the section of the rope up and feel the wind rushing it {3 knots} charging it with magickal power and say:

“Wind of the {direction}, elusive and free,
come into this rope to work for me,
as I tie this knot, your help I secure.”

Still holding the rope above your head, tie a quick, snug knot into it, visualize the wind being captured there. Then repeat this for as many knots as you wish to make.
When you want to utilize the magick of the wind, take the rope to your working place and untie a single knot just as you reach the climax of your spell, more if you need an extra boost of air magick. May even be rewarded with a faint breeze from the wind’s direction, reaffirming your spell’s success.
Keep the charged ropes in a dark place when not in use, preferably in pouches where they will not touch each other, or come into contact with other magickal tools. So they’ll retain their power/charge.

Rain Spell

A long stick or branch, small cup or bowl. Noon is the traditional time for rain-making spells but choose the time you feel you can best attune to the weather pattern.
Start by standing alone outside, facing the direction that rain is most likely to come to in your area. Throw your head back as if rain were falling in your face and allow your mind to attune to the frequency of rain. You can hum or sing if it helps you to connect. Then raise the stick above your head and begin spinning it counter clock-wise, the same direction as the air moves in the low pressure system necessary for rain. Visualize the end of the stick extending fair into the heavens churning and stirring the sky into the pattern you need for rain making.
When you feel your spell successful or you have done all you can for one session, quit by lowering the stick and tapping it on the ground in front of you 3 times. You may repeat at the spell again later in the day or the next day, if needed.
End the spell by setting out a cup or bowl in which to catch the rain. This is an act of faith in your magick by which you are saying ‘alright now, I have done it, and I believe so much in my power that I am setting out these receptacles to catch the product of my magick.”

Tornado Protection Spell

If a tornado is likely to come your way, take a moment to place the palm of your right hand against a windowpane and utter:

“wind born of evil, spinning fast,
jump this place, move on, go past.”

Finish by marking a giant X over the glass with your finger and walk away without looking out that window again until the danger has passed.

Hail Protection Spell

To shield your house against hail, toss acorns onto your roof just as it begins to rain.

A pot {cauldron} of some sort must always be kept warm on the hearth to catch and destroy any evil that might come down the chimney.

Cauldron-symbolizes the womb of the great mother goddess.

Burning oak logs in the hearth strengths the home against natural disasters, pine and cedar logs bring it prosperity, birch wood brings happiness and elm protects it from curses and other evil intents. Tossing basil or rosemary into the fire also protects and brings happiness.

Black smoke-curse

Gray smoke-a quarrel to come between 2 who live under the roof

White-clean and happy dwelling

Golden sparks-good times ahead

Hissing sounds-bad times to come

Heat a long stick or fireplace tool in the hearth and take it outside to draw a clockwise circle on the ground around your home, protects it from unwelcome, influence or spirit that might seek entry.

Salt water can be used in the same method and walk around the house with the water and chant:

“Water and salt cast out the sin,
Blessings to take their place come in.”

Company’s Coming

If your dog choose to sleep in the front doorway of your home, you may expect a visitor that day.

Accidentally dropping your flatware means you can expect company that will need to be fed.

If you sneeze upon awakening, it means a cherished friend will arrive before sundown, but if you sneeze upon going to bed at night, a stranger will come of whom you should be wary.

A rocking chair that travels across the floor as it is being rocked is another omen that your family should be cautious in dealing with strangers.

Dropping beans on the floor is an indication that friends who have not been seen in a long time will soon be heard from.

Right palm itches, means welcome company will soon be at your door. Left palm, you will soon be faced with visitors you would rather not see.

Spinning-given to the oldest daughter until her wedding day
Never marries-she becomes a “spinster” referring to an older, single woman dream of future husband while spinning in the hope that she would magickally draw that mate into her life
Singing-singing or chanting to speed the word process
Weaving and dying-promotes a magickal state of consciousness that can be used for a variety of purposes and singing/chanting strengthens this
Cooking-cooking in shapes of what you want and as you consume as you eat it bring into yourself the desire “Kitchen witchery”.
Potpourris-certain scents have certain magickal purposes

Potpourris Herbs and Magickal Properties

Apple Blossom—Romance, Love
Apple Cores, Dried—Healing
Asafetida—Purification, Protection
Basil—Protection, Fidelity
Bay Laurel—Exorcism
Cinnamon—Protection, Exorcism
Clove—Protection, Binding
Ginger—Prosperity, Luck
Goldenseal—Healing, Prosperity
Linden Flowers—Protection, Dream Magick
Magnolia—Fidelity, Peace
Mint—Protection, Healing
Myrtle—Love, Fertility
Peaches, Dried—Happiness, Fertility
Pears, dried—Love
Pennyroyal—Vigor, Protection
Persimmons, dried—Healing
Pine Cones—Prosperity, Fertility
Pumpkin, dried—Healing, Clairvoyance
Rosemary-protection, intellect, love
Rue—fidelity, unity
Sage, wild—Intellect, protection
Sassafras bark—prosperity, healing
Valerian root—astral projection, psychic work


Astral projection—the art of “leavings one body” or “lucid dreaming” whereby someone in a trance state visits other locations, realms or times. This is often referred to as traveling on the “astral plane”, a place that is generally conceptualized as an invisible parallel world unseen in our world of form.

B.C.E or BCE—a time designation meaning “before the common era”, which is synonymous with B.C.

CE or C.E.—a time designation meaning “common era” synonymous with A.D.

Clan—a Gaelic word referring to an extended family.

Fetch—a spectral, human duplicate that is believed to appear to someone who will die within a fortnight. Sometimes referred to as a doppelganger, has its origins in Scotland.

Magick—spells in the text with a “k: to differentiate it from the magic of stage illusion. Probably by the best definition of magick was coined by infamous ceremonial magician Alsiter Crowley, almost a century ago “Magick is the science and art of casing change to occur in conformity to will.”

Nunnehi—{Nun-ay-hee} nature spirits of the great smoky mountains who were friendly with the Cherokee.

Talisman—a manmade object, often containing natural materials, which is used for personal protection or as a charm against evil influences.

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