Knife Folklore in Appalachia

My life in appalachia - Pocket Knives 

I've been around pocket knives my entire life. Pap always said he felt naked without his knife in his pocket. The Deer Hunter says he feels the same way.

Both the girls carry knives and even I carry a pocket knife in my pocketbook that The Deer Hunter bought for me when we were still dating.

There's a bone handled Case pocket knife laying along the studs inside a wall in one of the back bedrooms at Granny and Pap's house. 

When Pap was sheet-rocking the back bedroom he closed up his knife in the wall. The entire wall was covered before he realized the knife was laying alongside one of the studs behind the sheet-rock. Paul and I used to dream about figuring out exactly where it was laying so that we could cut open the wall and get the knife to surprise Pap. 

More times than I can count I've seen men stand around and admire someone's new knife. You've probably seen the same thing.

Have you ever noticed that after the looking is done the knife is handed back to the owner with the blade still open?

Whoever opens the knife must also shut the knife or bad luck is sure to follow. In other words if someone hands you their knife you have to return it in the same state they handed it to you-either shut or closed. 

Another piece of folklore I've heard is if you give someone a knife you should also give them a penny so that they can "buy" it from you, otherwise the gift of the knife will cut the friendship.

Two more pieces of knife folklore:

If you drop a knife a visitor will soon arrive. 

Place a sharp knife under the bed of a woman in labor to help cut the pain.

Tipper

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Sweeping is Important in Appalachia

My life in appalachia sweeping under my feet

 Sweeping Folklore

  • You'll never marry if someone sweeps under your feet. (I heard this one all the time when I was a teenager.)
  • Never sweep twice in the same place. (You'd have to be a much better sweeper than me to pull this one off!)
  • It's bad luck to sweep trash out the door. (I think it's bad luck because then you'd have to clean the yard!)
  • Never sweep after dark. (Sounds good to me.)
  • Never step over a broom...unless of course you're jumping it to get married.

And that concludes my Appalachian advice on sweeping for today. 

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing August 5, 2017 @ 8:00 p.m. Unicoi State Park  in Helen GA.

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Have You Been Hearing the Katydids?

Katydids and folklore

Have you been hearing the katydids at night? We've been hearing their chatter for a few weeks now. 

Granny and Pap didn't have air conditioning when I was a girl and with all the windows open on hot summer nights the katydid voices came through in true surround sound. 

Can't remember if I read the story of the katydid or if someone shared it with me somewhere along the way, but here is the gist of it:

There was a lovely maiden named Katy who fell in love with a handsome man. She loved him with all her heart and soul and only wanted to please him. Fate turned against her when the handsome man fell in love with her sister. The pain of seeing them together was to much for Katy and in a fit of jealous anger she killed them both. No one in town would have ever believed she killed them, but the bugs turned against her telling the towns people: Katy did it Katy did it.

Other katydid folklore:

  • katydids sing to bring in cold weather
  • 3 months from the first katydid chirp there will be frost
  • the earlier in the summer you hear the katydids-the earlier the first frost will be that fall
  • the first katydid you hear in July-it'll frost on the same day of the month in September

Here's a video I made a few years back of the katydid chorus around my house:

Hope you'll leave me a comment and tell me if you've been hearing the katydids this summer too.

Tipper

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June = The Month for Weddings

  Wedding customs from appalachia
June is one of the most popular months for weddings. Appalachia has many interesting customs and sayings surrounding matrimony one of which is a shivaree.

A shivaree is a loud greeting given to newlyweds on their wedding night and includes banging, hollering, and serenading. Putting the couple in a wheel barrel and pushing them around is sometimes part of the fun as well. Over the years many of the traditions have fallen by the way and I don't know anyone personally who still observes the custom.

Pap and Granny dated a short three months before they ran off and got married. Granny tells that she was all for getting married, but after it was over she was deathly afraid to go home and face her mother.

When they told her mother, Gazzie, she warned Pap to be good to her daughter or else! He followed through on his promise to treat her right all the years they were married.

The Deer Hunter and I dated for four years before we took the plunge. We tease about how if feels like we've been married 40 years. It's actually been closer to 25. Our wedding was small and inexpensive. All these years later my favorite part of the wedding was using his grandparents rings as our wedding bands. 

A few other Appalachian customs or sayings concerning weddings:

  • If someone sweeps under your feet you'll never marry-I heard this one my whole life.
  • The couple jumps the broom after the service to signify crossing over from single life to married life.
  • The word courtin was used to describe a couple who were serious in their relationship and most likely headed for matrimony. When I was a teenager someone was always asking me if I was courtin yet.
  • This last one is for all you quilters. When young ladies gathered to put the finishing touches on a new quilt they each held a piece of the quilt and someone threw a cat onto the quilt. Whoever the cat jumped off closest to was the next girl to be married. 

Drop back by in a few days and I'll share what the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has to say about shivarees and if you'll hop over and visit Beth at Tennessee Mountain Stories you can read a great post about weddings in Appalachia. 

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing at Unicoi State Park this Saturday June 17 at 8:00 p.m. 

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Funny Rabbits

My life in appalachia - Rabbits

Chitter snapped this picture out her bedroom window.

Mr. Cottontail pranced back and forth so long that we decided he must have been posing for her or laughing at us because he just ate the tops off all of my beans. 

I tried to remember all the rabbit folklore I knew to share with you, but only 2 things came to mind: the obvious a lucky rabbit foot; and you shouldn't kill rabbits to eat until after the first few heavy frosts in fall to make sure any wolves (parasites) on the rabbit are gone.

I checked with Frank C. Brown to see if he had any good ones to add:

  • A rabbit cannot be trapped in a new box trap-you must use old boards to make the box
  • If a rabbit being chased by dogs stops and licks his paws-the dogs will never find him (I know a beagle down the hill who would disagree with this one)
  • Seeing a rabbit while fishing is bad luck
  • On the first day of the month say Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit and you'll get a present before you know it (I hope all of you will be saying Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit with me on June 1)

Seeing Mr. Cottontail out Chitter's window reminded me of some of her silly videos from snap chat that make her look like a rabbit. 

Click on the video to start it and then click on it again to end it. 

 Aren't I just a pretty little rabbit? I think my ears are to big though. So I'm thinking about having just a little bit of bunny botox!

I'm just a little rabbit. They told me I could be anything. So do you know? Do you know what I said? I said, bite like a spider, run and sting like a rabbit!

Let me tell you something in rabbit world. I just saw my best friend Benny's foot hanging on a chain in a little treasure shop. That's messed up its not lucky for the rabbit!

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Hope you enjoyed the silliness and if you've got any other rabbit folklore please share it.

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Saturday May 20, 2017 @ 2:00 p.m  at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center - Robbinsville NC and Sunday May 21, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. at Mount Moriah Baptist Church - Murphy NC. Their summer is schedule is filling up-to see a complete list of performance dates go here. If you make it out to any of the shows please come up and say hello!

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Wishing You a Blessed Easter

The legend of the dogwood tree

I've known the legend of the Dogwood since I was a small child, whether I learned it in Sunday school or from Pap and Granny I couldn't tell you. But I can tell you, I never look at a Dogwood bloom that I don't remember.

Wishing each of you a blessed Easter.

Tipper

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What To Do For Warts

 

How to remove warts

A few of my past posts continue to be quite popular. Even though it may have been years since I shared the posts here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn, internet search engines bring people to visit them on a regular basis. 

One of the old posts that is still garnering attention, as well as comments, is one I wrote back in 2011 about the mystery of folks who are able to remove warts by seemingly magical ways.

I've never had a wart before, but I did have some hideous growth on the inside of my thumb when I was pregnant with the girls.

My pregnancy was filled with one complication after the other. The weird growth was the most annoying and embarrassing. The condition has some long hard to say name, but I can't remember what it was. The doc who removed it explained it like this: I had injured my thumb in some small minor way-maybe I got a splinter or pricked it on a straight pen. My pregnant body went into over drive sending way too many resources to fix my thumb which resulted in a growth full of blood that bled all over the place at the slightest touch. A plastic surgeon removed the disgusting mass. He said it might come back, but thank goodness it didn't although I do still have a scar.

I've heard about folks who could remove warts all my life. I thought about going to see such a person for my weird growth but since it wasn't really a wart and I was at the doctors office practically every single week I let them take care of it. 

The most common methods of magically removing warts are related to rubbing, buying, and counting. Here are two examples straight from the mouths of two long time Blind Pig readers.

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Garland Davis:

I had numerous warts on my hands. Everyone told me that they were caused by playing with toads and letting them piss on your hands. I remember thinking that wasn't right. I knew that I hadn't touched any toads. I remember trying to keep my hands in my pockets so that people wouldn't see my warts. My parents tried any number of homemade potions to no avail. Some things from the drugstore were tried, but again no remedy for my warts. I remember going to the doctor and him telling them that I was too young to have them "burned" off.

We carried my 'Granny' Salmons to Yadkin County one Sunday afternoon to visit some friends. I remember that it was late in the day and Daddy was ready to leave. She told them to wait that she was going to take me to get my warts "witched". She led me for a long distance (probably not that far, but to a little boy, quite a distance) down a path through the woods. We eventually came to a log house. An old (again, old is relative to my age) woman came out and talked with my grandmother.

Granny gave her a sack that she had brought. The old lady sat me down on the stoop to the cabin door and started touching the warts on my hands. She then took a piece of cord and tied a number of knots in it (I later realized that she was counting the warts and tied a knot for each one.) She then hung the cord around my neck and led me by the hand around the yard. She then took the cord and went into the woods. She returned and told me that my warts would leave me to look for the cord. She said if I ever tried to find the cord all my warts would return. We left and went back home. Within a few days, all my warts, except one, disappeared. I still have that one wart on the knuckle of my ring finger and have had it my whole life. I always figured that she missed counting it.

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Miss Cindy:

When I was around 10 years old I had a wart on my left thumb. It was on the side of my thumb at the knuckle. The wart measured about 3/8 inch across. That's fairly large on a 10 year old hand. My folks took me to the doctor for removal. The doctor burned it off. It wasn't long till it came back, so it was back to the doctor. This time he cut it off but again, it came back.

My cousin, Zoolie also had a wart. Hers was on the thumb also but it was on the side growing partially into the nail. It was about the same size wart as mine. Her folks took her to a dermatologist. They were really concerned because of the way it grew into the fingernail. The dermatologist removed it several times, several different ways. Each time it grew back.

My dad finally said "enough, get in the car, both of you". He took us to an old man in Henson Cove above Canton, not too far from my grandmothers house. I think the man's name was Mr. Hall. He looked at both warts, rubbed them and sent us on our way.

I looked down a couple of weeks later and it was gone, I called Zoolie and her wart was gone as well.

I don't know what to tell you happened.....the warts were gone and never returned.

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When The Deer Hunter and I first met, he had two or three warts on his hand. After dating him for a few months I was so head over heels in love that I paid the warts no attention and didn't even notice they were gone until he pointed it out. He said he'd grown up hearing about folks getting their warts rubbed by someone with special powers-so every time he thought about it he rubbed his. In a few weeks they were gone. I still tease him about having magical wart removing powers.

Drop back by in a few days to read comments left on the original wart removal post I published in 2011.

Tipper

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Legend of the Moon-eyed People

After reading my post about fairy crosses, Blind Pig reader Johnny Hurt sent me a link to the following video from Channel 5 WRAL.

I've heard the story about the gentleman who found the statue, but I didn't recall the connection between the moon-eyed people and the fairy crosses.

If you'd like to read more about the statue and the moon-eyed people go here

If you're ever in Murphy drop by and visit the Cherokee County Historical Museum-and if you do be sure to tell them the Blind Pig and The Acorn sent you. 

Tipper
 
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Fairy Cross

The legend of fairy crosses in brasstown nc

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."

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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?

Tipper

*Source: Mountain Bred: The Fairy Crosses - Brasstown written by John Parris

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After Christmas Folklore

After Christmas folklore when to take the tree down

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. 

Tipper

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