Fairy Cross found in Brasstown, NC
Mountain Bred: The Fairy Crosses - Brasstown written by John Parris
Even the Fairies in the Great Smokies wept when Christ died. And the tears they spilled turned to stone and formed tiny crosses-symbols of the Crucifixion. That is the story old Indians tell.
For the skeptical, the Cherokee will show you the tiny crosses to prove the story they tell-a story that has been handed down through almost 2,000 years of telling. No human hand carved these crosses, which lie scattered upon the earth near here. And nowhere else in all the Cherokee land will you find them except at this one spot in the Clay County hills.
I first heard the story of the fairy crosses many years ago, but it was only recently that I went searching for the spot where the strange miracle occurred.
A friend of mine, Lynn Gault, led me to the spot and I have a hundred or more of the tiny crosses which I picked up to prove they do exist. But unless you know what you are seeking you probably would never notice them, for they are the color of the earth and at first glance look like so many pebbles. The little crosses only become significant when the story about them is told.
And the story the Cherokee tell is a story that rightfully belongs in the treasury of world folklore and myth and legend.
"My people," said Arsene Thompson, "have told the story through the ages about the crosses. It is a beautiful story."
Arsene is a Cherokee Indian preacher who plays the role of Elias Boudinot, the Indian missionary, in the Cherokee Indian drama, "Unto These Hills."
"Yes," said Arsene, "it is a strange story. And this is what the old men told me when I was a boy. When the world was young there lived in these mountains a race of little people. They were spirit people. Like the fairies you read about. Now, one day when these little people had gathered to dance and sing around a pool deep in the woods a spirit messenger arrived from a strange city far, far away in the Land of the Dawn. But soon the dancing and singing stopped, for the messenger brought them sad tidings. The messenger told them Christ was dead. The little people were silent, then they were sad. And as they listened to the story of how Christ had died on the Cross, they wept and their tears fell upon the earth and turned into small stones. But the stones were neither round nor square. Each was in the form of a beautiful little cross. Hundreds of tears fell to earth and turned into tiny stone crosses, but the little people were so dazed and heartbroken they did not notice what was happening. So with the joy gone from their hearts, they wandered away into the forest to their homes. But around the spot where they had been dancing and singing, where they had stopped to shed their tears, the ground was covered with these symbols of the death of Christ."
What happened to the little people? I asked. Are they still here in the mountains? Has anyone ever seen them?
"No one knows for sure what happened to them," said Arsene. "I first heard the story when I was a boy and the old men of the tribe who told it to me said that after that day the little people were never seen again. But the old men said that on still nights you could hear them whispering along the river and that when there was a gentle breeze their sighs could be heard in the tall trees."
I don't remember where I first heard the legend of the fairy cross, but it seems like I was very young when someone told me about it. I'm thinking it might have been Pap. There was a gentleman along his oil route that collected Cherokee artifacts and one time he sent home a fairy cross with Pap for us kids.
One of the girls found the fairy cross in the photo at the place in Brasstown that Parris described. Although he states that's the only area that fairy crosses can be found, I believe there is a place in Fannin County GA where the rocks are common too.
Ever found a fairy cross?
*Source: Mountain Bred: The Fairy Crosses - Brasstown written by John Parris
It think our Christmas tree was the prettiest one we've ever had! The girls and The Deer Hunter will tell you I say that every year. It's true I do say it every year and its true that I believe the tree to be the prettiest we've ever had.
When I was growing up Granny was never picky about when she took the tree down. Seems like she left it up till the first of January and Paul's birthday-he was born on New Year's Day.
The Deer Hunter and Papaw Tony left their tree decorated year round. They pulled it out of the attic when Christmas rolled around and stuck it back in the attic when Christmas was over.
We put our Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving-typically the following weekend. By the day after Christmas I'm ready for it to come down.
Every year after Christmas I have the strong urge to Spring clean the house. I clean out closets and cabinets, move furniture, and change curtains. Getting the house in order seems to brighten the house after the chore of putting up Christmas until next year. And when Spring rolls around I'm too anxious to be out in the garden to think about cleaning anyway.
The Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore has some confusing folklore to instruct you on when the Christmas tree and other decorations should be taken down.
- take Christmas decorations down before the month is out or misfourtune will come to the house
- never leave the Christmas tree up over New Years or it will bring bad luck
- it is bad luck to take Christmas decorations down before Old Christmas (Jan 6) or to leave them up afterwards
- Christmas decorations left hanging after 12th night (old Christmas) bring bad luck
My Christmas tree is still up, but I'm thinking I'll take it down in the next day or two.
The days following Christmas are called ruling days because they are supposed to dictate the weather for the coming year. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this to say about Ruling Days:
The twelve days beginning on Christmas day, each one of which is said to govern the weather for one month of the following year. 1905 Miles Spirit of Mts 107 But he and Arth do not disagree about certain weather signs their mother had taught them when they were "shirt-tail boys," signs about Groundhog Day, for example, and the Ruling Days, the twelve days from the twenty-fifth of December to Old Christmas, each of which rules the weather of a month of the coming year.
My Christmas was unusually warm so I guess there goes my chance for a snowy January.
A few weeks back I told you I'd share some Christmas folklore from one of my favorite books Dorie Woman of the Mountains written by Florence Cope Bush. The book was first published in 1992 and has been published at least 7 times since then if not more. In the introduction Florence Cope Bush writes
"Dorie: Woman of the Mountains was not written with the idea that it would ever be published. I wrote it as a gift to my daughter, my mother, and myself. The manuscript was in my possession for fifteen years before a friend talked me into letting him publish two thousand copies in paperback for local distribution."
The book is a biography about Bush's mother, Dorie. The story spans the years between 1898 and 1942 and is set primarily in the Smoky Mountains.
Here's an excerpt that tells of Christmas folklore that was common to Dorie:
Many legends and superstitions came to the mountains with our ancestors. One legend says that on Christmas Eve the animals talk. Bees in their hives are said to hum the melody of an ancient carol from dusk to dawn. The old people say they have heard the music of the bees and have seen cows kneel and speak. On this holy night, the plants will bloom as they did when Christ was born. Although covered with snow, underneath, the ground is covered with soft green vegetation.
Old Christmas, or January 5, is surrounded with superstitious beliefs. On this day the dawn comes twice. The first dawn comes about an hour earlier than usual, and the skies brighten until sunlight seems close. The poke weed sends up sprouts big enough for everyone to see if they're lucky enough to be awake. When dark returns, the sprouts die, then the true dawn appears. Also, the week before Christmas, roosters crow in the middle of the night, trying to make the day come sooner.
You can hear an angel sing if you're willing to pay the price. If you sit under a pine tree on Christmas Eve, angel voices will sing all around you. The price you pay for the miracle is death. You won't live to see the sun rise again.
Wear something fresh and new on Christmas, and your luck will be good. Don't wash clothes on the Friday before Christmas if you want to stay out of trouble. Don't let the fire go out on Christmas morning, or spirits will come and take you away. Don't give your friends or neighbors a match, a warm coal, or even a light to be taken out of the house. If you do you'll be giving away your hope of a good future. If you leave a piece of bread on the table after Christmas supper, you'll have enough to eat until next Christmas.
I checked out Frank C. Brown's Collection of NC Folklore to see if there were any other interesting tidbits of Christmas Folklore. Here's what I found:
- Nothing made of leather during Christmas time will be durable
- It is unlucky to carry anything away from the house on Christmas morning unless something is brought in first
- If it snows on Christmas day-the grass will be green on Easter
- A warm Christmas means a cold Easter
- If a rooster crows repeatedly at midnight he is crowing for Christmas
- Horses talk on Old Christmas (Reminds me of the first time Chatter saw a 'talking' horse on America's Funniest Videos-she said "Oh Momma I didn't know horses could talk!" She was so excited-I hated to tell her they really couldn't.)
- Water turns to blood at midnight on Old Christmas
- I discovered there are many variations to the one about animals kneeling at midnight-such as: On Old Christmas animals kneel down and face the East; On Christmas Eve at midnight Cows kneel and low; At midnight on Old Christmas all horses and cows stand up and then lie down on their other side.
The folklore about plants blooming on the Holy Night and animals kneeling are the ones I'm most familiar with. Hope you'll leave me a comment and let me know if you've ever heard any folklore mentioned above. And if that wasn't enough Christmas folklore for you, jump over to Appalachian Mountain Roots and read some more.
A few years ago Mel Hawkins left a comment on the Blind Pig asking if I knew about Dumb Suppers. I told Mel I thought I had heard of them before, but to please enlighten me if he knew about them. Mel sent me the following:
"My little grannie on mama's side used to entertain us kids with stories of young girls looking to get 'em a husband setting "Dumb Suppers." They would prepare the meal and table silently, set the table backwards (silverware arranged backerds, etc.), and then await the arrival of their, as of yet unknown, swain...this resulted in many "quare" things like big night bugs flying in and biting off the flame of the lamp (indicating death perhaps), ghosts and haint-like apparitions, and one time two handsome soldiers in Confederate grey eating, kissing the girls goodbye and disappearing--and this was in the late 1800s!"
Mel is from the North Georgia Mountains-just a hop, skip, and a jump from me. After reading about the stories his Granny told him I had to do a little research.
The book American Regional Folklore: A Sourcebook and Research Guide edited by Terry Ann Mood, describes the ritual of dumb suppers as:
"...the custom of "dumb suppers" during which young girls prepare a meal in total silence, then sit down to eat it with an empty chair between each two girls. If a man comes in and sits in one of the chairs it is thought that he will marry the girl he sits next too."
"The purpose of a dumb supper is for a young, unmarried woman to see the 'spirit' of the man that she is going to marry. The meal is prepared in complete silence~no talking (dumb) whatsoever. Most people believed that you had to walk backwards while cooking and serving the dumb supper.
When the dinner is done, an extra place is set at the table and the young girl (or girls if done in a group), open all the windows and doors and take their place at the table and bow their head. Sometimes all the lights are blown out, as well. The 'phantom' husbands are supposed to enter in silence. Each girl should be able to recognize the 'husband' that sits down beside her. If no one appears, it means that she will never marry. If only a dark blob appears, it means she will die within the year.
There are quite a few versions of this 'supper'. Some involve making the dinner using thimblefuls for ingredients instead of spoons and cups. In some versions, they see the 'reflection' of their husband's face in their empty plates."
Vera, a commenter on Mary's blog had this to say about dumb suppers:
I have heard my mom and aunts talk about dumb suppers. My Aunt Irma told me that her and two or three friends started a dumb supper one time but they got too scared to go through with it. Everything had to be done backwards, you had an empty chair beside everyone for their future husband to sit in. No one could talk while this supper was being prepared. Maybe I have heard about this because I am a lot older than most of you.
I'm glad Mel sent me down the road of dumb suppers-fascinating folklore. Makes me wonder if there are any girls out there using dumb suppers to catch a glimpse of their future husbands today.
The dumb supper custom is one Chatter and Chitter could never participate in. If you've had the pleasure of meeting them you'll know the reason why: They could NEVER be silent!
Have you ever heard of dumb suppers?
p.s Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details.
p.s.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls
- Saturday October 22, 2016 @ 2:00p.m. Cherokee County Fair Murphy, NC
- Thursday October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC
Cats-mostly black cats-have long been associated with spooky folklore. According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of NC Folklore :
- seeing a black cat is bad luck (Back in the day when I was a teenager-riding the roads with my best friend, every time we saw a black cat she would lick her finger and make a X mark on the windshield to ward off bad luck)
- if a cat follows you home-it brings bad luck with it
- if a black cat enters the house through the front door it brings good luck
- if a black cat looks through the window-bad luck will soon befall the house
- if a black cat licks its fur the wrong way trouble will come to the entire family (how do you know if its lick is wrong?)
- it is good luck to pull a black cats tail
- if you kill a cat-its soul will come back to haunt you
I've also heard:
- cats can steal a baby's breath
- cats are supposed to be familiars for witches
- cats will gather around a house where a body is lying in state
- to cure a sty rub the tail of a black cat across your eye
If you have any cat folklore-hope you'll leave me a comment!
p.s. Interested in discovering some new Black Walnut recipes? Jump over to the Wild Things Round Up where this month's subject is Black Walnuts-you might see one recipe you recognize-mine!
p.s.s. A few upcoming performances for The Pressley Girls
October 15, 2016 @ 4:00 p.m.- Stecoah Valley Center Harvest Festival Stecoah (Robbinsville), NC
October 22, 2016 @ TBA Cherokee County Fair Murphy, NC
October 27, 2016 @ 1:00 p.m. Wofford College Spartanburg, SC
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2012.
God Drawing Water painted by B. Ruth
B. Ruth's comment on my recent post Sun Drawing Water:
Yes, I have heard that all my life...but that "God was drawing water!" One time I painted a lake scene with dark clouds...I showed it to my art teacher, he said "Did you purposefully draw the rays of the sun thru the clouds going down to the ground?"..."Course I did...they are drawing water!" He laughed and said, "I don't know about that!" and a few other comments about my shafts of light..Kinda broke my heart, as I was sorta proud of the effort...You know what, just for spite, I didn't change it and still have that painting today..."Please teachers, give students some kind of encouragement, even if you differ in their beliefs...After all, art is in the heart and mind of the artist as well as the viewer!!...
My first emotion after reading B.'s comment was a touch of anger at an art teacher who would squash a student's artistic creativity by bringing into question her beliefs.
After I got over being a little put out by B.'s teacher, I noticed she most often heard the sun rays referred to as "God drawing water" instead of the phrase Granny commonly uses "the sun is drawing water."
My thoughts on the sun drawing water made me think of other sun related folklore in Appalachia.
- If the sun shines while its raining (like in the photo above) it's said the Devil is beating his wife.
- If the sun rises brightly on Old Christmas-the coming summer will be good for fruit trees and bushes.
- If the sun shines while it's raining-it'll rain at the same time the next day.
- It will rain the following day if the sun sets with clouds.
- Red sky in morning sailors take warning Red sky at night sailors delight (I know this one is common all over the world)
- If you lay a black snake over a fence or tree with its belly facing the sun-it will soon rain.
We even use the sun in a few of our colorful sayings:
- Why he thinks the sun rises and sets in his hind end!
- Happy as a dead pig in sunshine.
- The sun don't shine on the same man all the time or The sun don't shine on the same dog all the time.
In Appalachia we often say sundown and sunup instead of sunset and sunrise.
I'm positive I left out much on the subject of sunshine-please add any folklore or sayings by leaving a comment!
Today's guest post was written by Susie Swanson.
A foggy August morning in Brasstown
Dog Days And Weather Signs written by Susie Swanson
The forty dog days of summer begins in the United States on July 3rd and end August 11th according to history and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. They’re so often said to be the hot, sultry days of summer, July and August being the two hottest months of the year.
The older generation had a lot of sayings about Dog Days. One being, “it’s dog days and snakes are blind, ye better be careful cause they’ll strike at anything that moves.” We surely did listen to that one cause we were reminded enough, especially while playing outside after dark or catching lightning bugs.
Another one is getting Dew Poisoning which means if you get a cut on your finger or hand and get the morning dew in it the cut will never heal. My daddy got dew poisoning one summer. He’d cut his finger with his pocket knife and was picking beans one morning and got dew in it and he went around all summer with his finger bandaged up and it finally healed come Fall. Mama told him, “ye know what done that and ye should have bandaged it up before ye hit the dew.”
I heard daddy and mama say it was hard for a cut or any open wound to heal during dog days many times. This pertains to anything even getting one’s ears pierced. I got mine pierced in the summer months after I got up the nerve to have it done. Mama told me, “ye shouldn’t have done that. They’ll never heal.” I can honestly say she was right about that. I had one to get infected and I thought it was going to rot off. If it hadn’t been for lots of peroxide and alcohol and babying, I would have given up and let them grow up. I still have to baby my ears and bathe them in alcohol quite often. I very seldom take my ear rings out except to change them.
There were a lot of weather sayings as well and I don’t know if any of them pertains to dog days but thought I’d add a few.
If you’re hoping for a nice, dry day check for dew on the ground.
When the dew is on the grass
Rain will never come to pass
When grass is dry at morning light
Look for rain before the night
There’s also one that helps to tell what the weather is going to be pertaining to cattle and horses, which means if you see a cow or horse take notice of which way the wind is blowing their tails. Cows and horses prefer not to have the wind blowing in their faces so they usually stand with their backs to the wind.
Tails pointing west
Weather’s at it’s best
Tails pointing east
Weather is least
Summer fog means fair weather is on its way and you can look for a sunny day.
Summer fog for fair
A winter fog for rain
A fact most everywhere
In valley or on plain
And the one I like the most is,
If the rooster crows at going to bed
You may rise with a watery head
I just don’t know about this one but my mama sure hated to hear one crow at bedtime. She’d throw a rock at it every time just to get it to stop. She claimed it meant bad luck.
Just a little folk lore and I hope you enjoyed. I’ll try to post more on my blog later as they come to me.
Thought I’d add a little poem for some humor as well, concerning the fogs in August because of the most heard one of all. “For every fog in August there will be a snow come winter.” This one is kinda worrying me this August cause we’ve had fog just about every morning so far.
I counted forty, foggy mornings in August
an old lady once said
I wondered how can this be
as I scratched my head
Thirty one days in August
is all I’ve ever known
unless the calendar has changed
and the months have grown
I worked so very hard
to try and figure it all in
But the forty, foggy mornings
I didn’t know where to begin
And then I thought to myself
and I came up with a good try
When summer’s heat lingers on
there’s forty, hot days in July
In January’s snowy weather
there’s at least forty flakes
that lies on the ground
forty days for goodness sakes
How can I forget March
with so many windy days
The wind probably blows forty
I just don’t count the days
No, that can’t be right
I thought to myself
When thirty one days are gone
in a month, there’s none left
So I’ll just keep on waiting
August has just come in
If there’s forty, foggy mornings
Will winter ever end??
© Susie Swanson, 2016
Susie is a dear friend and our family friendship goes back several generations. Jump over to her great blog Country Side Poet and look around, I know you'll be glad you did.
p.s. If you've been reading the Blind Pig for a while, you know I'm hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that those forty snows show up this winter.
In my opinion a toothache is one of the most aggravating and painful problems to have. Lucky for folks today relief is usually just a phone call away.
Back in the day things were a little different. Dentists weren't plentiful, it was hard to get into town to see one, and even if you could see one you might not have the money needed to pay the bill...well that last part might still be true!
Several years ago, I had a terrible toothache. I kept taking over the counter pain meds and putting off going to the dentist. One night when the the pain was pretty bad, Pap told me to take peroxide and swish it around in my mouth, then take a toothbrush and dip it in the peroxide and brush the tooth as hard as I could-all around it. Well desperate as I was, I did what Pap said. Honestly, for about 15-20 minutes I thought I was going to pass out from the pain, it was almost unbearable, but after about 25 minutes it eased off and actually quit hurting for a while.
As with most ailments there are tons of old medicinal remedies for toothaches in Appalachia.
Appalachian Toothache Remedies I've read or heard about:
- hold liquor in the mouth for several minutes-then swallow
- chew ragweed leaves
- put cinnamon oil on the tooth
- put clove oil on the tooth (I tried this one-couldn't really tell that it helped)
- put persimmon juice on the tooth
- place a piece of cloth soaked in kerosene on the tooth (if you did this one I think you'd have more problems than a toothache)
- hold a warm bag of ashes, salt, or water on the cheek (I've tried this with a hot water bottle-it seemed to help a little)
- if the cavity is deep in the tooth, the hole can be stuffed with soda, spider webs, aspirin, alum-that was burned, cow manure, or salt (again this one might cause some other issues for you)
- take a splinter/piece of a tree that has been struck by lightning and pick the cavity
- get up before sunrise each morning and say a Bible verse for 3 days
- make a hole in a tree trunk a little higher than the toothache sufferer's head, cut a piece of their hair, place it in the hole, and plug up the hole
- carry a hog's head bone in your pocket
- always put your left shoe on first
- wear nutmeg around your neck
- always cut your fingernails on Friday
- never cut your fingernails on Friday
- to dream of losing a tooth is a sign of death
- If you get too close to a spider-and it counts your teeth-you'll die
After reading all that, those tooth jumpers don't sound quite so bad.
p.s. Christmas is just around the corner-check out the great sale Chitter is having in her Etsy Shop ALL sale items are under $20 AND have FREE Shipping - Visit this link to view the sale items. And while you're on Etsy, visit Chatter's new shop of all natural skincare Apothecopie.
We've had afternoon thunderstorms for the last several days. I have been so very grateful for the rain and our garden has been too. Thursday afternoon a storm with heavy heavy rain hit at exactly 5:00-you know the time I get to walk across the parking lot and go home. As I waited around for the rain, lightning, and thunder to at least let up a little before I ventured outside I thought about Granny.
When Steve, Paul, and I were growing up, Granny had all kinds of admonitions about storms, specifically about lightning.
According to Granny you can't take a shower, talk on the phone, or run water when it is lightning. You also can't flush the potty or stand by a window.
And, at all costs, Granny said you should have shoes on even if your inside the house when its storming, and she means real shoes not some sort of flimsy house shoe.
Granny had so many warnings about lightning that Paul and I started making up our own.
- don't stand on one foot and open the frig or it will draw lightning.
- don't cross your right arm over your left arm while crossing your left leg over your right leg because it will draw lightning (obnoxious I know)
Silly or not Granny lives by her "lightning rules" and if you happen to be with her in a storm she'll make sure you do too.
"If you catch a falling leaf in your hand in the autumn you'll be free of colds all winter. But if you've never tried to catch a falling leaf in your hand you've got a surprise coming. Grandpa always grinned when he recited the old saying about catching a falling leaf and you'd be free of colds all winter."
~John Parris Mountain Bred
As I washed dishes over the weekend I looked out the window just as a big gust of wind blew what looked like a million leaves out of the trees all at once. I yelled at Chitter to come look, but it was over before she came to see what I was hollering about.
I had a great urge to run outside and try to catch one of those leaves before they hit the ground. After reading the folklore shared from John Parris's Grandpa I'm thinking I should have at least tried!