Tag Archives: Ozark

Finding Community at Ozark Research Institute


For years, a couple of my Metaphysically-minded friends have been telling me about a place they like called the Ozark Research Institute. At first I wasn’t interested because it sounded like the same new age Christianity I sampled at Unity and I was always looking for something more Pagan and polytheistic. But recently I’ve been open to attending more social functions, and looking for more community to supplement my UU and Druid gatherings. ORI’s monthly potluck was brought to my attention in time for me to go, and so I finally went. I did see a lot of Unity members there, as well as members of Centers for Spiritual Living, both “New Thought” (read New Age) Christian denominations I have visited in the past. And yes, there were a lot of angel images everywhere. But…I also saw a lot of people I’ve known in the local Pagan community as well. There were a lot more people there than I thought there would be. Everyone was so friendly and seemed to know each other so well. I struck up easy conversations. The mood was homey and earthy and loving. It’s strange to say, but I felt like I had walked into some kind of haven; a community made just for me.

I stayed after the potluck for the workshop that followed; “Dowsing with your Angels”. This wasn’t just a talk. Pendulums were passed around for everyone to practice with, but beforehand everyone there was asked to introduce themselves. There were more people here than at the UU fellowship I had attended that morning, and yet the facilitators took the time for everyone to introduce themselves, taking as long as they liked- and the introductions were often quite lively! When someone didn’t say much about themselves, one of the facilitators would chime in and tell more about each person. I have never experienced such a community as this!

When the workshop began, I kind of expected everything to be framed in Christian terms, but the facilitator took the time to add phrases like “or whatever higher power you call to” when mentioning god, and “or spirit guide” when mentioning angels. (In any case, when I hear the word “angel”, I have started to do this thing where I mentally translate it to Dísir– ancestral protective female spirits.) The facilitator had a very down to earth and inclusive way about her and I immediately felt at home and a part of the group.

So we dowsed a lot. We dowsed to learn more about our angels or spirit guides. We broke down into smaller groups to discuss our findings and dowse for other things. Occasionally someone would ask a question or ask for everyone to dowse on a certain subject to see how many people got a “yes” and how many a “no”. I asked someone in my little group “what other divination methods do you use” and got some answers I had never thought of. The question went around the circle with very interesting answers in response. A couple of these people (who aren’t even Pagan, that I’m aware of) said that they receive messages from Nature Spirits! One older gentleman said he used to dowse for water so people could dig wells- and the dowsing rod he brought out when water witching was just for show. He didn’t even use it to find the water- he felt vibrations in his body when he walked over the best spot for digging a well and didn’t need the tool at all!

The facilitator shared with us lots of little tidbits of wisdom. One of these is that the state of your car and house reflects the state of your consciousness. Once she had her car stolen. When she got it back, she noticed that the energy of the car had changed- but in a way that was positive for her. She had needed the youthful daring energy at that time in her life. Another thing she shared with us is that your angels/spirit guides “don’t want to twiddle their thumbs in heaven”. The idea is that the spirits attached to us want to help us. It gives them purpose, and so we should feel free to commune with them and ask for help and guidance as much as we please.

I learned a lot; from the facilitator and the participants. It appears that this group is a meditation and healing circle with a bit of magic school thrown in! All-in all, a great place for community. I look forward to many happy returns and widening my circle of community.

metaphysical community

Countdown to Beltane – Holiday Planner


April 1st – 7th

  • Decorate for the holiday / make crafts to decorate home and altar.
  • Take seasonal (outdoor) pictures with family/friends.

April  8th – 14th

  • Firm up ritual plans, if you haven’t already. Will you be attending a festival, local event, a family event, or doing something on your own? If you are planning the ritual, decide on location and script/liturgy.
  • Obtain ribbons, pole, etc. and construct a may pole (unless you already have one you use every year).
  • Scope out good places to forage various wild foods (especially nettles, and other greens).

April  15th – 21st

  • Make menu plans and grocery list.
  • Find place to pick/obtain flowers for ritual.
  • Start a batch of mead for next year.

April  22nd – 30th

  • Shop for menu items.
  • Gather Sassafras leaves.
  • Pack away winter clothes in Sassafras leaves (an Ozark folk tradition).
  • Prepare some menu items in advance (if applicable).

April 31st / May 1st

  • Forage for wild greens, if part of feast.
  • Pick wild flowers and make garlands, crowns, altar decorations, etc.
  • Cook Feast.
  • Observe ritual, or honor the Kindreds in one form or another.
  • Feast and make merry.


Old-Time Ozark Customs of Pregnancy and Childbirth


August is the month that the most babies are born, so what better time to share a little folklore on the subject…

~After a woman’s first baby was born the granny woman (midwife) would count the lumps in the umbilical cord to divine how many children the woman would have.
~If a woman’s first child was born in August, she was said to have many more.
~They used to say that if a baby is carried high, it will be a girl. If carried low, it would be a boy.

Pragnancy Taboos
~It’s was considered bad luck to make a cap for a baby before it was born, or to talk about the cap or the head of the baby- it would cause a difficult birth.
~It was once believed that children became “marked in the womb” by a sudden fright or other unexpected happening or disturbance experienced by the mother.
~Cravings during pregnancy were catered to so the baby would not receive a birthmark resembling the craved food.

Birthing Rituals
~The laboring woman’s head should be toward the north.
~In a difficult birth, the granny woman would put a sharp axe or plowpoint under the bed to symbolically “cut the pain”.
~If things were going wrong, the granny woman would dip all the blankets in hot water and hang them up around the bed.
~Spikenard (wild licorice) or sweet flag (acorus calamus) were herbs used to ease childbirth. Blackberry tea was used to speed up labor.

Arival and Recovery
~After the baby was born, a handful of chicken feathers were burned beneath the bed.
~The bed was not swept under, nor the ashes removed, until it was certain that the mother was fully recovered.
~It was believed that the afterbirth had to be buried for the mother to recover properly.

~If a newborn’s head is bathed in stump water, it will prevent baldness later in life.
~The newborn baby was carried three times around the the house. It was believed that this would keep the child from running away in the future, but also protect against sore eyes and colic.
~A baby and a cat cannot live together in the same house. This belief has a basis in the fact that babies have been smothered by cats, which had lain across them for warmth.
~Catnip tea was a common remedy for colic.
~Babies are irritable when the wind is in the northeast.
~Babies are best weaned in the (zodiac) signs of the heart, legs, knees, and thighs.

Sunday’s child is ne’er to want.
Monday’s child is fair in face.
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is woeful and sad.
Thursday’s child has a long way to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving.
Saturday’s child will work hard for a living.

Old-timey Ozarks Beauty Treatments and Lore


~For rough skin and pimples, wash in dew, dew and buttermilk, or honey and buttermilk.
~Washing in Mayday rainwater clears up muddy complexions.
~To lighten skin, apply fresh tomato juice, or cucumber pulp scrub before going to bed.
~In addition to being a spring tonic, sassafras tea can be used as a rinse for the complexion.
~The best time for getting ears pierced is when the peach trees are in bloom, to avoid infection.

~Wild cherry bark, wild grape vine sap, and sage act as hair tonic/restorer, and sage also colors hair.
~Peach tree leaf tea with sulfur can cure dandruff.
~Flaxseed steeped in hot water can be used as a curling fluid.
~If you place a lock of your hair under a rock in a running stream, your hair will be glossy and attractive.
~For beautiful hair, bury a twist of it under a white walnut tree in the light of the moon.
~It is better to wait until hair is dry to comb it.  When it is wet, only untangle it with a wide-toothed comb.
~It is better to comb hair in natural light.
~Combing one’s hair after dark will cause the loss of memory or passion.  The saying goes: “Comb hair after dark, comb sorrow into you old man’s heart.”

Ozark Love Charms/Magic


With Valentine’s day coming up, I thought I’d post a bit on what I know of traditional Ozark love magic. However, dear readers, I must also include a word of caution concerning love spells- they usually come back to bite you in the ass. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Various charms:
~A peach pit or cherry stone would be carved with initials or symbols and would sometimes contain a bit of specially made pink soap. This charm is worn on a necklace or garter.
~Orrisroot, worn around the neck, is another love charm.
~Wasps’ nests would be pinned to undergarments to attract men.
~A man’s hatband, secretly taken from him, and made into a garter, works as a love charm on the original owner of the hatband.
~Yellow garters are attraction charms and make a lover faithful. However, they are not to be worn by a married woman unless she is interested in another man.
~When my dad was growing up, young women would tie strips of their clothing (in particular, a torn off piece of undergarment, like a slip) to the branch of a pawpaw tree as a love charm.
~I’m not sure why, but one item of lore says to place dried turkey bones about the room to make someone you’re meeting there fall in love with you.

Ozark Aphrodisiacs:
Yarrow, lady slipper roots, dodder/love vine/angel’s hair, moccasin flower roots, and the leaves and stems of mistletoe were all considered “love medicine” a few generations ago in the Ozarks.

The Love Cure
So lets say despite all warnings, you tried a love spell and were successful- only to realize later that it was a mistake- you don’t much like this person after all. Or perhaps you have an unwanted suitor through no effort on your part. Don’t worry, just serve him/her a bowl of turnips and s/he will fall out of love with you.

Ozark New Year’s Day Traditions


It is a long standing tradition in the south to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day. The specifics may vary from place to place in the south, but in the Ozarks, the peas are eaten with hog jowls and most commonly accompanied by collard greens and cornbread (not rice- that would make it “Hopin John”- which, although southern, is not an Ozarks thing.)

The reason most commonly given for why we eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s day is because the peas resemble coins, and so we are symbolically drawing in money when we eat them. Same with the greens- they are like the green of paper money. Before the association with paper money, greens may have been eaten to symbolize fertility and growth. Pigs are associated with prosperity and plenty for a number of reasons. Eating peas and other legumes on New Year’s day is an old and very wide spread custom. I think it may have been originally tied in with the worship of Carna- as Philippe Walter talks about in “Christianity: The Origins of a Pagan Religion”.

Other Ozarks traditions for the New Year include “first footing”- the belief that the first person to visit the home in the new year is key to the luck of the household- a dark-haired man being the most auspicious. Also- whatever you are doing on New Year’s day is what you will be doing all year long. It’s bad luck to wash on that day- surely you would wash someone out of your family. Whatever you do, good luck and Happy New Year!!


I know a lot of people who don’t like black eyed peas, but who like them prepared in the following recipe:

Ozarks Caviar

2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
½ red onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped

Place oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a canning jar, twist on a lid and shake. Place peas in a large bowl. Stir in garlic, onion and bell pepper. Pour over the vinegar mixture and stir. Cover and refrigerate for a day or so before serving. Serve chilled with saltine crackers, or use as a vegetable side dish.


It’s paw-paw time!


paw-paw1Right now there is the delicious aroma of paw-paws (also called Ozark bananas) filling my kitchen.  The taste is a cross between a banana and a mango, and they’re really good for you- a truly nourishing food.  Pawpaw trees grow wild in moist soil- they don’t usually grow very tall, and are often more of a bush or shrub.  When ripe, paw-paws are yellow with brown spots.  My dad used to wait until they were all the way brown to eat them- but by then they are way too ripe in my opinion.  Right now, the ripe ones are laying on the ground ready to eat, and some that are not all the way ripe, but loosening from the stem, can be picked and will ripen quickly on the kitchen counter.  I’ve read that paw-paws can be eaten as a vegetable when green, but I haven’t tried that.  There’s all kinds of recipes paw-paws, in case you have so many paw-paws that you aren’t able to eat them all before they go bad- they do go bad fast.  You can store them a little while in the fridge, but chilling them to below 40°F can change their flavor- though the pulp can be frozen with good results, but it’s better to freeze them quickly.  You don’t want to heat them too hot either, that destroys the flavor- but cakes and breads are good.  Use your recipe for banana bread to make paw-paw bread.

In the Ozarks, the paw-paw is considered a very magical tree.  It’s been used in love spells in so many peg spells, and for protection and revenge.  Even paw-paw seeds have been used for magic (they have lots of big seeds).  I think the reason it’s been used in love spells is because the fruit seems so exotic and smells so intoxicatingly good.  As for revenge (the seeds were thrown into coffins to insure revenge for a murder)- I think this was to make a paw-paw tree grow over the murderer’s grave… the flower of the paw-paw tree has the odor of rotting flesh.  The reason behind paw-paw trees being used in protection magic may somehow be related to the fact that the bark and wood of the tree are natural insecticides.

My dearly departed dad use to sing this song to me:

Where oh where is dear little Johnny?
Where oh where is dear little Johnny?
Where oh where is dear little Johnny?
-Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Common girls, let’s go find him.
Common girls, let’s go find him.
Common girls, let’s go find him.
-Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Pickin up paw-paws, put ‘em in yer pocket.
Pickin up paw-paws, put ‘em in yer pocket.
Pickin up paw-paws, put ‘em in yer pocket.
-Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.



Ozark Moon Customs


In Ozark lore there is the belief that if you see the moon ‘clear of brush’ for the first time in that moon cycle, you should kiss your hand 3 times and you will receive money before the moon changes phases.  Perhaps this is a remnant of a widespread ancient Pagan moon ritual, because  the Bible forbids “kissing one’s hand to the moon” (Job 31:26-27) and there probably wouldn‘t be a prohibition against it if it wasn‘t a Pagan custom. 

Another Ozark belief is that a woman who happens to get her first glimpse of the new moon clear of brush is lucky.  To see the new moon through the leafy branches of a tree is bad luck for the entire month.  Clearly, this is a remnant of Pagan tradition- the importance of the moon was preserved in this folk belief so that the custom of greeting the moon without obstacle could be carried on.
There is also a bit of Ozark lore concerning the moon and silver coins- when you first glimpse the waxing crescent moon, turn over a coin in your pocket for good luck.  Also, touch a silver coin, or wear silver coin jewelry while looking at the moon, for prosperity.  I think this may also be a clue to the earlier moon rites of pagan times. 

These customs are like ‘mini rituals’, but can also be combined and elaborated on to form a more fleshed-out moon ceremony.  These customs could be combined with folkways from an older ancestry, like song prayers from by the Carmina Gadelica, for example.   Or this song, inspired by the Carmina Gadelica, by Lisa Thiel:

“Jewel of the Night”

Hail to thee o Jewel of the Night- Hail to thee o Lady of the Heavens
Hail to thee o Jewel of the Night- Hail to thee o Queen of the Stars
Hail to thee o Jewel of the Night- Hail to thee o Mother of the Worlds
Hail to thee.

O thou fair Moon of the Heavens
O thou luminous lamp of grace
She who made thee created me likewise
Thou Queen-maiden of loveliness.
O thou Queen-maiden of virtue
Thou Queen-maiden of radiance
Thou glorious jewel that shines through the ages
Though glorious jewel that shines through all.

Ozark folk beliefs about doorways and houses


The magic of doorways lingered on in my culture.  The old folks used to say that you should always leave a neighbor’s house through the same door you came in, to avoid a serious quarrel. 
And never sweep out the front door after dark, for spirits of place linger there.  Could this be a remembrance of a time when food offerings were left to the Sidhe at the back step?
It’s bad luck to step over a broom that’s been knocked over, and to bring an old broom into a new house because you‘re symbolically bringing the dirt (troubles) of the old house into the new.  It’s also bad luck to carry a hoe inside a house, probably for a similar reason.
If you find your initials in spider webs near the door of your new home, you will have good luck for as long as you live there.  My grandfather believed that spiders had supernatural regenerative powers.  He believed that they would come back to life if you killed them.  Another old belief is that if you kill a spider in the morning, you will kill the spirit of one who had entered its body while it was sleeping.  This seems to be a survival of a belief in rebirth/transmigration of the soul similar to one held by the ancient Celts, or it could be a remnant of some Native American belief (Grandmother Spider Woman?).
Also, a house made entirely of new lumber is bad luck to live in.  I think this belief is telling us to not throw out all of the old in favor of the new, but to keep the old ways alive.
It’s bad luck to return home for something forgotten when starting on a trip.  I think this belief could have come from someone getting in an accident after turning back, or some similar misfortune occurring after turning back.  But also, it reminds me of the Celtic belief in always traveling sunwise/clockwise.

Knot Magic


Knot magic is probably one of the most basic and practical forms of magic.  This is the origin of the custom of tying a ring around your finger to remember something.  It’s the origin of the saying “he’s bound to do it”. 
The premise is simple- you concentrate on your goal, building up emotion concerning it, then you release that energy just as you tie a knot.  The knot is a physical representation of your goal.  Traditionally, knot spells are employed in a situation where you want to ‘bind’- as in binding an illness or an enemy, but also as in binding something to you- like luck or health.  There was also the idea of the knot, braid or twist as a magical barrier of protection.
It was common in the Ozarks just a couple of generations ago to see people, especially kids, with red wool strings (or leather bands) tied around their necks in the fall/winter.  This was to protect the wearer against colds and flu.  
Knots are also untied, as a magical act of release.  It was once a common custom to loose all the knots in a household of a woman laboring in childbirth.  The fairies are associated with knots.  If you wake up with knots in your hair, the fairies have been playing in your hair as you slept.  When performing magic, it is commonly considered prudent to loose all braids from your hair or knots from your clothing/jewelry so as not to inhibit the flow of your magic.  For spells of protection, however, it is considered beneficial to have these braids, knots, knitted items, etc.  Knot magic is ideal for the fiber-art handicrafts; macramé, knitting, etc., making one’s handiwork also an object of magic.
One popular form of knot magic is the wishing (or “witch’s”) ladder; nine natural objects, symbolic of one’s goal, are knotted onto a long cord in the places indicated while reciting these or similar words-
By knot of One, the spell’s begun *——–
By knot of Two, it cometh true *——-*
By knot of Three, so mote it be *—*—*
By knot of Four, this power I store *-*-*—*
By knot of Five, the spell’s alive *-*-*-*-*
By knot of Six, this spell I fix ***-*-*-*
By knot of Seven, events I’ll leaven ***-*-***
By knot of Eight, it will be Fate *****-***
By knot of Nine, what’s done is mine *********