M is for Moon, track it at night –
Keeping up with the phases of the moon is an essential part of Ozark folk healing and magic. Each stage has a different part to play in the work being done. A waxing moon is always used for when you want something to grow, take for instance making a good luck charm when the moon is waxing so that as the moon grows, so too will your luck. Likewise, a waning moon is for whenever you want something to diminish or rot away. Work for healing sickness and charming warts is almost always done during the waning moon. The new moon is for adding a little extra power to anything new that your starting and the full moon is for coming to fruition. The full moon is also especially useful for dream divination and working with the spirit world.
N is for Needle, a doll for your spite –
The Ozark spite doll was made famous by folklorist Vance Randolph who published a photo of an old “granny witch” and her spite doll in an article in Life magazine back in the Thirties. A spite doll is a physical representation of your enemy and can be made from almost anything. String, wax, cloth, cornhusks, apples, carrots, branching plants, and a lot more have all been used in making a spite doll. Most often, some of your enemy’s hair or nail clippings will be put somewhere into the doll, thereby connecting it sympathetically to the person themselves. Then the doll will be manipulated in some way. Unlike Hollywood depictions of the “voodoo doll,” needles aren’t usually used for poking a victim but instead for attaching other items like charms or curses to the body of the doll. Nails are also sometimes used for this same purpose. By connecting these items to the spite doll, you are magically connecting them to the person you’re working on.
O is for Oak, protected from thunder –
There’s a folk belief in the Ozarks that an oak tree is protected from lightning strikes. I can personally say that they aren’t, but this notion goes much deeper than just being an old anecdote. The mighty oak, because of its size and strength, has long been associated with the planetary sign of Jupiter. He is also called Zeus, king of the gods and master of lightning. Parts from the oak tree, especially the acorns, have been used in the Ozarks for bringing in that aspect of power and strength. Acorns can be added to charm bags for protection, tied around a patient’s neck to bring them strength, or carried in a pocket for good luck.
P is for Pawpaw, a witch-tree and wonder –
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is an amazing native fruit. It tastes like a cross between a banana and pineapple and has nourished the Ozark people for at least a couple centuries. Both pawpaw and sassafras are known as “witch trees” because they attract the swallowtail butterfly, whose caterpillars love munching on these specific leaves. During certain times of the year, you might see a tree full of these beautiful blue and yellow butterflies. In Ozark folklore, the butterfly is sometimes seen as the embodiment of a departed soul. So, a tree that attracts these spirits is naturally looked at with some suspicion. For the healer, though, these trees can be used to take sickness and evil off their patients, better perhaps than any other trees in the forest. For example, a healer might take their patient out to a pawpaw tree, put their back against the bark, then wrap some string three times loosely around their chest and the trunk of the tree. Then they lower their patient out of the loop of string and knot it tight against the trunk, thereby sealing the curse or sickness there on the spot.