A is for Asafetida, hung in a sack –
Asafetida (Ferula assa-foetida) is a pungent plant known for its noxious odor that has been described as a mix of rotten garlic and onions. It’s used frequently in recipes throughout Southeast Asia where the aroma is nullified through cooking and leaves behind a very pleasant, savory taste. Because of it’s strong smell, asafetida, or asafetidy as it is sometimes called in the Ozarks, is said to be able to magically ward off evil by choking it. The same theory is used for other strong odors like onion and sulfur, both of which are also used in warding off illness and evil. In the Ozarks, asafetida root is hung in bags to ward of illness, especially with children. It’s also burned in a hot skillet then wafted through the house to drive away malign witchcraft and hexes.
B is for Booger, don't turn your back –
The word booger comes from the same root as bogey, as in the bogeyman. A booger is a particular kind of Ozark cryptid. Generally speaking, a booger is described as an all-black animal with red eyes and unusually long life. They are also known for their violence towards the innocent. There are many types of boogers, depending on which animal is seen. For instance, there are commonly booger dogs, cats, owls, rabbits, wolves, coyotes, possums, and even turkeys, but in theory, a booger can take the form of any natural animal. There are several theories about where boogers come from. Some say they are a monstrosity of their own, others that they are really the animal form of a witch skilled in shapeshifting. Either way, the booger is terrifying to behold and nearly impossible to kill save for a silver bullet to the heart.
C is for Cross, sewn on a bag –
The cross is an important symbol of protection and healing in the Ozarks. Stemming from the hillfolk connection to Christianity, it’s still used amongst folk magicians and healers today, even those not affiliated with the religion. A quick protection bag can be made from a buckeye nut dropped into a white cloth bag tied closed with three knots, then a cross is sewn on the bag in blue thread and the whole thing is carried in the pocket.
D is for Dishtowel, milked by a hag –
There’s an old folk belief in the Ozarks, traced back to European sources, that when a witch needs milk they need only say a certain curse over their neighbor’s cow then go home, toss a dishtowel over a hook on the wall, and milk it like an udder. In no time milk will start to flow into a bowl or bucket. Most of the folktales relate that the neighbor will get wise to the witch’s curse when they see their cow’s udders shrinking fast but no milk is produced. It’s said you can break the witch’s connection by dropping a red-hot horseshoe into some of the milk, or taking a cupful into the house, heating it to boiling on the stove, then whipping it with a bundle of elm or witch hazel sticks. These days few people have cows anymore. I wonder if with the same technique you could drain the milk bottled in someone’s fridge? Or, more importantly, does the curse work on milk alternatives? An endless supply of almond milk is indeed a tempting thought.