We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.
God knows our names.
We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.
We are not peaches.
And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are as tough as the men, and then some. There was only one person Papaw was leery of, and that was Mamaw. No, you are not a peach, never mind how long you’ve thought you were or the times your daddy said so. No, you’re not. You are not easily bruised fruit. The blood in our veins is laced with old magic and the secrets of the noble savants before us.
We are the last of the granny witches.
The old ones, the original Appalachian queens, were daughters of the Celts and the offspring of Druids and medieval mavens and the natives of the old world craft, and we are their children. And although we are indeed as mysterious as these old hills, we still have that Celt and Cherokee elder magic in our bones.
I have beheld divination in my grandmother’s kitchen as she would foretell future events spelled out in the remnants of black tea or coffee grounds on the bottom of a common porcelain cup. With my own eyes I have witnessed warts and scars blown clean off the skin with nothing more than a believing breath and a skyward nod towards The Maker. Those magic women, those healers of wounds and tellers of fortunes and hex casters never considered themselves anything but noble and proud and God-fearing, and it didn’t bother them to be called a granny witch or a bee charmer or a medicine woman. These were gifts to them from the Divine.
And I recall bed sheets over mirrors in rooms where some tired soul had just given up the ghost. Nobody wants to be haunted forever, not even by somebody they once loved, and so they cover up the mirror so the spirit won’t see themselves and linger around. Ain’t a’ one of us needs a specter in the house. That’s why Sister Brown paints her ceiling haint blue. You just never know and can never be too sure. Some folks don’t know when to leave, even after they’re dead. And the horseshoe hanging upright above the front door won’t do a thing for the spirits, but at least your luck won’t ever run out.
And you do such things yourself, too, and likely have never spent a juncture of a thought as to why, or from where or who, or for what consequence. I would wager you’d never pick up a coin that’s face down or cross the path of a black cat without blessing yourself (or at least thinking that you’re not superstitious anyway and you convince yourself there’s no need give that cat a second thought), and your very blood will chill when a broken clock starts a tick-tick-ticking again, for you already know what that means, and it’s not to tell the time.
There once was many more of us, back in the old days when it seemed like God was sleeping somewhere over on the mountain and the old ones ruled the land and fended for themselves. But that time has long gone. We must work harder to preserve our magic, for it is fading into the background noise of technology and naysayers and law men that tell us we are common simple folk and feed us pills and poverty to quiet us. I fear that we are truly the last of the granny witches, the last tellers of tales, and that will be the end of our magic.
Some of us have already lost it.
But that old blood still courses through my veins, and perhaps you can feel it, too, when the sparrow smashes against a window or the cow moos after dark. What we send out into the yonder surely comes back home to us, eventually. It always has.
Send out your magic. Don’t be the last of your kind. We are the daughters of the Celts and the offspring of Druids and medieval mavens and the natives of the old world craft. And yes, God knows your name. Tell your tales and bewitch history, just like the mother mountains with her ages of charm and mystery, where peaches have never grown.
Written by Anna Wess @ Appalachian Ink
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