While she was the sternest woman I ever knew, I literally watched the color of her skin bleed white the day a bird flew over and around her head. And don’t even get me started on what she would do if one got into the house or flew into the window. Omens of death and dread and we all sure as hell better make note of it. Not long after, someone in the Family did die, although I can’t say as I remember who. I just remember my mother saying, “Momma, you said someone would when that bird flew ‘round your head.”
Cover the mirrors when someone dies, say excuse me when you walk over a grave – were all but many things she learned growing up and for good reason.
My Grandma’s children barely remember it all now. Some things stick. Some don’t. Some recall something here or there but surely not enough to help my generation memorize it all. I do remember when I was little, my cousins giggling at the silly little things that would trigger Grandma’s warnings, but I listened. I listened and took heed of all she would say if she would say anything. Eventually, even Grandma stopped sharing what no one else seemed to take as seriously as she did.
Unfortunately, a way of life, for those people who now Haunt Virginia’s mountains, happens to be long gone and nearly forgotten. And while many of their beliefs seem ridiculous to most now, to those people – the roots of where I come from—they were the tidbits and the knowings that were the very essentials of life. They were the rules and wisdom one needed to live day to day, of when to plant crops, the signs of when a ruthless drought may be over, or what sort of winter was due to creep into them hills.
Grandma’s knowing came from a time before cellphones, 24 hour radio or much less satellite. Her people knew these things long before the nightly News could be turned on at six, or even the delivery of a Newspaper came to a person’s porch. Those folks’ personal scope stretched only but so many miles and the most of what one would or could learn came from the rare utterings of a scarce traveler or the whisperings at Church. You couldn’t open an app to see a ten-day forecast. One didn’t turn on a computer that could see when a Frost might come. Health and well-being came from the home and depended solely on the women of our beautiful and mysterious Mountains. They carried with them the knowledge of every generation that came before. The generations before her, that easily reached across continents, even if where the actual knowledge sprang from had to be camouflage in order to survive the coming of times, religion and so-called progress. For instance, a woman back then couldn’t say, “I learned this healing tea from my Celtic or Druid Ancestors.” Perhaps even she didn’t know. Knowing where something came from wasn’t quite as important as the knowing of it itself. After all, women who knew how to heal or read signs had suffered enough throughout history, being labeled such negative names such as witch or worse. My Grandma would have smacked me sideways if I ever used such a word. And sadly, while these women’s roles were of such grave importance to communities where neighbors stretched across miles and no town Doctor was in sight because there were no towns – no true or worthy title was ever given to them – which could also be why History has forgotten.
In honor of them, here are some tributes to all that they knew…
1. A wish will come true if you write it on a Bay Leaf and then burn it.
2. Planting a Cherry Tree in the vineyard guarantees good wine.
3. A clear moon means Frost will come soon.
4. No dew in the evening after an extremely warm day is a sign of Rain.
5. If you see insects carrying eggs—bad weather coming.
6. If the Winter brings lots of snow then Summer and Fall will be plentiful.
7. If clouds are dark and the temperature falls quickly, snow is coming.
8. Horseradish can be used to make a tea that aids with bronchitis or chest congestion. Great for sinuses and if made into a poultice, can treat rheumatoid arthritis.
9. Ginger for stomach aches.
10. Milk thistle cleanses the liver.
11. Bark from a Red Oak made into a tea helps with diarrhea and if you gargle it, can aid a sore throat.
12. Raspberry Bush Leaves aids women during menstruation.
That’s all for today. Maybe I will post more some time. Until then, feel free to Cluck or Crow about any superstitions or knowledge passed down to you.