Ozark Encyclopedia – P – Pawpaw

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Pawpaw – Asimina triloba

Parts used: bark, fruit

Traditional uses: Fruit used for food. Inner bark used to make strong ropes and string. Wood used in pegging for various illnesses. Fruit used in ritual associated with curing a man of drunkenness. Used in love magic and to prevent infidelity. A magical wood, associated with death and witchcraft. Used to protect from evil spells and curses. Seeds associated with death rituals.

Use in pegging against infidelity – “A hillman whose wife is ‘triflin’ on him’ is sometimes persuaded that he can make everything right by going into the woods at midnight and boring a hole in the crotch of a pawpaw tree. This done, he mutters a secret Biblical quotation, drives a stout wooden peg into the auger hole, and walks away without looking back at the tree. The hole behind the peg may contain a wad of human hair, dried…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – P – Paper

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Note for headache and eyestrain – “I met a witch doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas, who cured headaches and eyestrain simply by writing MOTTER FOTTER on a piece of paper and letting the patient burn the paper in the presence of three witnesses.” ~Randolph OMF 133

Used in curing warts – “Another way to ‘pass’ a wart is to spit on it, rub a bit of paper in the spittle, fold the paper, and drop it in the road; the wart is supposed to pass to the first person who picks up the paper and unfolds it. Children are always trying this, and one can find these little folded papers in the road near most any rural schoolhouse.” ~Randolph OMF 127

Paper doll against witchcraft – “I interviewed one renowned witch killer who cuts a silhouette out of paper and writes the witch’s name on it. Then he very slowly…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – O – Onion

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Onion – Allium cepa

Parts used: bulb

Traditional uses: Syrup of chopped onions taken for colds. Used to destroy germs because of a volatile oil in roots. Onion placed in a sick room to draw fever out.

“Antiseptic, diuretic. A roasted Onion is a useful application to tumours or earache. The juice made into a syrup is good for colds and coughs. Hollands gin, in which Onions have been macerated, is given as a cure for gravel and dropsy.” ~Grieve MH

Red onion on bedpost for a cold – “A big red onion tied to a bedpost is said to prevent the occupants of the bed from catching cold. A famous politician in Arkansas had an onion fastened to his bedpost as recently as 1937. When I asked him about this he laughed rather sheepishly. ‘That’s just one of Maw’s notions,’ he said, referring to his mother-in-law. ‘She lives with…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – O – Oak

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Oak – Quercus

Parts used: bark, leaf

Traditional uses: Astringent, antiseptic, bark and leaves can be used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, can be used in poultices and to help stop bleeding.

“The astringent effects of the Oak were well known to the Ancients, by whom different parts of the tree were used, but it is the bark which is now employed in medicine. Its action is slightly tonic, strongly astringent and antiseptic. It has a strong astringent bitter taste, and its qualities are extracted both by water and spirit. The odour is slightly aromatic. Like other astringents, it has been recommended in agues and haemorrhages, and is a good substitute for Quinine in intermittent fever, especially when given with Chamomile flowers. It is useful in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, either alone or in conjunction with aromatics. A decoction is made from 1 OZ. of bark in a quart of…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – N – Needles

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Held in mouth while cutting onions – “A girl from Cape Fair, Missouri, once told me that a woman can peel or cut up raw onions without making her eyes smart, simply by holding a needle in her mouth while she does the job.” ~Randolph OMF 138-139

Held in mouth for sore eyes – “…in other backwoods towns I have heard that a needle in the mouth is generally believed to be good for sore or watery eyes, no matter what the cause of the irritation.” ~Randolph OMF 139

Needle used in making a love charm – “A girl can take a needle which has been stuck into a dead body, cover it with dirt in which a corpse has been laid, and wrap the whole thing in a cloth cut from a winding sheet; this is supposed to be a very powerful love charm, and a woman who owns…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – N – Nails

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Nails have been used in Ozark folk healing and magic in a variety of ways. There’s a belief among Hillfolk that the object that hurt the individual was just as important to the healing process as the medicine put onto the wound. Knife blades, bullets, and nails were often treated with healing salves and plants alongside the puncture or cut itself. Rusty nails were added to tonics to prevent tetanus or to treat illnesses like tuberculosis. Water made from soaking new nails was seen as a sure treatment for anemia and iron deficiencies, and sometimes the sickness itself could be taken off the patient and nailed to a tree. Nails were driven into footprints to deal lethal blows to foes and witches alike. Coffin and gallows nails were carried by Hillfolk as an amulet to ward of certain venereal diseases.

Curing a boil – “One way to cure boils, according…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mustard

My grandmother was a BIG believer of in mustard plasters.

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mustard – Brassica

Parts used: seed

Traditional uses: “Irritant, stimulant, diuretic, emetic. Mustard is used in the form of poultices for external application near the seat of inward inflammation, chiefly in pneumonia, bronchitis and other diseases of the respiratory organs. It relieves congestion of various organs by drawing the blood to the surface, as in head affections, and is of service in the alleviation of neuralgia and other pains and spasms…Internally, Mustard is useful as a regular and mild aperient, being at the same time an alterative. If a tablespoonful of Mustard flour be added to a glass of tepid water, it operates briskly as a stimulating and sure emetic. In cases of hiccough, a teaspoonful of Mustard flour in a teacupful of boiling water is effective. The dose may be repeated in ten minutes if needed.” ~Grieve MH 

Mustard and camphor poultice for colds – “I know…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Mullein

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Mullein – Verbascum thapsus

Parts used: root, leaf, flower

Traditional uses: Leaves and flowers can be used to clear chest congestion (smoked or as an infusion), as an analgesic for rashes, aches and pains. Leaves can be wilted and used in poultices for swollen glands. Roots can be used in decoctions for gynecological issues.

“The Mullein has very markedly demulcent, emollient and astringent properties, which render it useful in pectoral complaints and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. The whole plant seems to possess slightly sedative and narcotic properties…The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption. They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes, for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general. Fomentations and poultices of the leaves have been found serviceable in haemorrhoidal…

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Ozark Encyclopedia – M – Moon

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Silver connection to the Moon – “It is always a good idea to be touching a silver coin whenever you see the moon, and it may be for this reason that rings hammered from silver coins are so popular in some sections.” ~Randolph OMF 330

Medicine and the Moon – “Medicine works best when there is a full moon.” ~Parler FBA II 1376

Moon ritual for warts – “Go outside on a moonlight night and sit down on anything. Look at the moon and concentrate on it. Then after a few minutes, still looking at the moon, reach down and pick up whatever your hand touches. Rub it on your wart. The wart will go away.” ~Parler FBA III 3628

Moon madness – “If you look at the moon too long it will make you go crazy. This is called ‘moon madness.’” ~Parler FBA III 3944

“A person who sleeps…

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That Old Granny Magic

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Last night, in the darkest of early morning hours, I heard the call of a distant train. We all know what that sounds like. It’s unmistakable, like the voice of somebody you once knew. I heard it just as clear and plain as I did when I was a child, when we lived across the river from the railroad tracks and the Norfolk and Southern would sound her alarm as she sauntered by our quaint, coal town neighborhoods. Most of the time, the train’s call was such a distant nuance, like a dream, that we never even woke up at all. We got used to that distant call, and after a while, it became a part of us, a comforting and peaceful wail, an Appalachian child’s lullaby, faithfully reminding us that we were home in our warm beds.

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Despite the passing of time and the fact that I no longer…

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