Post by The Folks @ TanneryWhistle.com on Sept 28, 2003 3:57:48 GMT -5
This section of this website may be potentially the most fertile. I think we are walking a thin line here between "culture" and "superstition," and probably in many instances the topics may qualify as both. To start a discussion, I am hoping to get some provocative responses here, as the "subject" on this posts indicates. I'm hoping that there are posters who know about madstones, heavenly crowns and hoop snakes. The floor is now open for discussion.TEXT
Hope we are going to be in one place for a while -- I am dizzy. Also, let's get rid of the smilies, winkies, wind-breakies, etc. BRAAACK! As the funnies used to say, back when there were funnies. Now. To the subject. Yes to all. I'll bet a lot of dresser drawers where old people live around here are hiding a madstone. I'll bet hunters still look for them too when they dress a deer. And I'll bet that whoever cleans out old people's belongings when they die and find a wad of feathers and are mystified, it is somebody's heavenly crown from when they died. Very sacred thing to the people who open a dead person's pillow and look. Most interesting thing to me, today my fourth-graders got off on stopping blood and taking out fire. Several said their granddaddies, etc. could do it. One little girl said she burned her hand and her mother called the grandfather and had her hold the phone while he talked out the fire, and it quit hurting as he talked. She could not remember exactly what he said. Another told that when granddaddy knew he was dying he called for a son and gave him the secret. I have the formula written down, but just having the words does not give anyone the actual power to do this. There was a man in Pickens who was called to accidents at the cotton mill, where he was expected to stop blood. About hoop snakes -- yes, there was one at Stanley Hicks's house, he killed it in his pasture and hung it on the fence. And then there was the long story about the guy who saw one in Pickens, and whacked it in the head -- last I heard, it was in a gallon pickle jar of alcohol at the Pickens Sentinel. The "experts" say it is really a legless lizard, but that's no fun at all. It has a bony spur for a tail, and when it's disturbed it flips up that tail up over its back and really looks like a rolling hoop. I don't know as it really does kill people but why ruin a good story?
Post by The Folks @ TanneryWhistle.com on Oct 1, 2003 19:12:28 GMT -5
Now, we are getting somewhere! As far as I know, madstones were once "accepted" by everyone. I think Abe Lincoln had one. I read somewhere, that old boarding houses used to advertise them. If you had the need of one, the boarding house had one or two available to the public. Over in the Ozarks, a wonderful old folklorist once noted that if you were on the backside of a holler and fifty miles from a doctor, you'd try one, too. I used to thing they were all green, but I saw a museum display once and they were also white, black and brown and came in odd sizes from the size of a quarter to big irregular flat stones.
A couple of years ago, I rode with Pete Lawson to see a heavenly crown. It was the best one I ever saw. The woman who showed it to me had taken it out of her sister's pillow some sixty years ago. The name is a little misleading since this one looked more like one of those oval things that orthodox Jews wear. It was obviously composed of the breast feathers of a goose and had lovely swirls of brown, read, white and blue in it. A week later, I visited a lady that had three and while I was there, she and her brother got into an argument about the "origin" of heavenly crowns. When I mentioned it in a newspaper article, a guy down in Clayton contacted me and said he had a dozen. It is generally believed that the movement of a sleeping person's head on the pillow creates the "crown," and that a prolonged illness is almost guarenteed to produce one. Since we don't have genuine feather pillows anymore, we don't have feather crowns either. I read once that in Ohio, the feather crowns were not associated with a heavenly reward, but were created by a curse. Wives learned to be watchful and to remove them as soon as possible when their husbands developed them. They even had an elaborate process for destroying a "crown" and thereby destroying the evil curse since the crown was sapping the strength of the invalid. I believe you had to take one out in the yard and beat it with the knot in a hemp rope until it disintegrated!
I never saw a hoop snake, but there is a mighty strange reptile in Lawson's description of the snakes he encountered. I also rememer one in a jar (described in an old newspaper account around 1900) that had two heads. Hoop snakes are not to be confused with coach snakes or whip snakes, of course. In South Carolina, whip snakes have the ability to stand on the tip of their tails and whistle. Erdajean, they may have traveled in the company of plat-eyes, too, since they would fall on children that didn't go to church and whip them unmercifully. I'll hush now. Gary
Post by chickenmaggie1 on May 13, 2004 16:00:14 GMT -5
You folks were here a long time ago. But I want to say that I'm fascinated by these superstitions. My mother had many. As a very youg girl I watched her and listenend to her kind of speak to 'herself' about things that happened and what she needed to do to make sure they didn't happened again. As far as I know she wasn't mentally ill. She worked as a nurse and did lay her hands on us when we were sick while she read scripture and prayed and sometimes someone else would ask her to do this. She always told us that she thought her patients were "comforted" by her hands and that none of the other nurses did this. I wish I'd been old enough to ask questions about it. I was born when she was 43 and Daddy was 57. I kind of grew up with the animals and the woods other than school and church. It was just a natural way of living to me. I never did see a mad stone though I've read about them plenty. I had no idea what the little collections of feathers were. I just thought the cats were doing something with them. I remember seeing my mom sweeping at them very quickly with her fingers and carrying them away somewhere while she mumbled to herself. I never knew what it was about. I find the description of the snake that raises up and whistles interesting...funny...odd...but believable. I met a snake in the woods in Tennessee when I was an adult who raised itself up , didn't whistle, but was raised way up and studying me hard while I studied it back for what seemed a long time. I was surprised and so was the snake, I guess. Then he just went on his way while I sat and wondered what had just happened. I used to roam the woods a lot and would take my lunch and wander over the hills. There were lots snakes but only this one seemed to take any interest in me. The farmers hung snakes, mostly chicken snakes, on the fences around there. We had an old neighbor lady who lived down the hill from us in the hollow. She used to tell me stories about things that had happened all around that area. After I got married and moved away I'd go back to visit and I asked her about that stuff after awhile and she wouldn't really give me an explanation. She said that she was just and old "hillbilly woman" and what did she know? I think she knew a lot. This is fact, not fiction, btw. I love this website! Chicken Maggie
Hello. Please tell me more about the madstones and heavenly crowns. I have read an article in the TRYON DAILY BULLETIN that said madstones come out of deer stomachs and you soak them in milk and that if you get snake bit it'll take out the poison. Is that about right and does it do anything else besides take out poison? I think you are supposed to put the stone back in the milk for the poison to come out in the milk. What do you do with the heavenly crowns? Do you just look for them and then keep them somewhere as a remembrance of your loved one? On another subject. I've always been told that if you get a little "shine" you are supposed to light it up and if it's blue OK and if it's red, not good. Why? Thanks and I love this site.
I'm going to try to post as a guest. I am a student with Appalachian heritage at Wright State University, and I am in a creative writing class, and I would like to write a story about the area my family came from in Kentucky. I have searched the academic databases for information about Appalachian superstition, to no avail. I googled and got this site, and it sounds like people here might be able to help me.
I'm 3rd or 4th generation, since my great-grandparents left the hills and my family wound up working at the factories in Dayton, OH. I know very little about my heritage.
I am interested in almost any kind of superstition or story involving that kind of thing. I would like to present a fairly realistic portrayal of life in Appalachia, although the story will be short, so I don't need a mountain of information, just enough to sketch things out and create an interesting setting.
I'm just getting into the lore of these mountains, although I know more of the supersitions of the N.A., I find this so fascinating. Actually my boss was given the power to "take the burn out" by her Aunt before she past and I experienced having a wart wisher take away a wart I had on my finger. I was told during the recent draught, that if I killed a snake and hung it on the fence it would rain before dark, but snakes and I have an agreement so I dont see many on my property and certainly wouldnt get close enough to kill it let alone touch it.
Just getting into the Granny Magick of this area. I lived in Cherokee for a short time so I know how Owls and their feathers affect them, seems they have the same reputation with the old timers too. Coyotes have the same impact in several differnt N.A. cultures as every animal represents something, some lesson or warning. The bear universally is the healer and the rabbit the liar and so on.
This is a great resource. I would hate to think that these things would pass away as society in general doesnt relate those stories too much anymore. I believe they are based in some truth and wisdom we have forgotten as we move further away from nature. Anyway, this section is really wonderful, love to see more activity on it!