What Is Appalachian Witchcraft? Not A Religion.

I hate being generalized and lumped together with people that I am really nothing like.

I found a “definition” of Appalachian folk magic (or witchcraft) that I find to be very, very wrong. And I have legitimate reason to find it very, very wrong. The definition is made up by someone who obviously: (a) isn’t an Appalachian Witch and (b) hasn’t had any connection to Appalachian Witches. It’s rather like saying, “I’m a straight guy – I can tell you exactly what it means to be gay and how it feels.”

The “definition” I found was this:

Those who practice witchcraft in the Appalachian mountains see good and evil as two distinct forces that are led by the Christian God and Devil, respectively. They believe there are certain conditions that their magick cannot cure. They also believe that witches are blessed with paranormal powers and can perform powerful magick that can be used for either good or evil purposes. They look to nature for omens and portents of the future.

What it is, is bull. (Not all of it, but most.) So I’m going to break it down for you real quick. Ready or not, here it comes …

Those who practice witchcraft in the Appalachian mountains see good and evil as two distinct forces …

No, no we do not. Any real Appalachian Witch doesn’t see good versus evil, period. From the perspective of a good old-fashioned Mountain Witch who was brought up with this practice (i.e., me), an Appalachian Witch knows that Nature is neutral. We’re animists. We don’t believe in an absolute force of anything except What Is. We Appalachian Witches realize that Nature is in constant pursuit of one thing: homeostasis (a.k.a., wholeness). We can’t even say that nature seeks balance, because balance is different from homeostasis. Homeostasis is wholeness, completeness; not the teeter-tottering force between opposites (which is balance).

… that are led by the Christian God and Devil, respectively.

No, no we do not. Appalachian Witches may not even believe in a singular God, let alone the arch nemesis of such a fairy tale. Many Appalachian Witches, up until the government raided the Appalachians to take over the lands of indigenous Tribal cultures, were still hardcore animists. In fact, today, many of us are reclaiming the beliefs of hardcore animism and forsaking a lot of the Freud-based drivel of the church and modern psychology. If you’re a real Appalachian Witch, your Devil is nothing like the Satan of Christianity.

How do I know this? Because Appalachian culture is descended from the Scots-Irish, English and indigenous Tribal cultures of North America. Just because a person went to church on Sundays doesn’t make one a Christian or a “True Believer,” any more than parking in the garage every day makes you a Chevy or a Subaru.

They believe there are certain conditions that their magick (sic) cannot cure.

This really depends on what you’re talking about. Some of us are medically trained and highly intuitive, so we can spot the subtle differences between a mental/emotional disorder and an issue that is truly caused by magic or spirits. The smart ones among us stay far away from treating mental/emotional disorders or medical issues with magic. Now, granted, there are those among us who are gifted Healers. In that instance, we know what we’re doing. When something is beyond our scope, we’re certainly capable of recommending professionals within our network of friends or business associates. But when something is legitimately caused by the magical or spiritual realms, we absolutely can cure it and we’re not going to shy away from it. If you’re a Witch worth your (black) salt, that is.

They also believe that witches are blessed with paranormal powers and can perform powerful magick that can be used for either good or evil purposes.

Couple of things here.

  1. As stated above, we don’t believe in “good versus evil.” A real Appalachian Witch understands that nature is neutral and impersonal and will give or take as it is due in the pursuit of wholeness. So just disregard that “good or evil” bullshit.
  2. Yes, to some degree, Appalachian Witchcraft espouses the idea that there are people born with spiritual gifts. And there are people who acquire spiritual gifts. Often, these are considered both blessings and curses in their own right. There are those who are “born with a caul” (a piece of the placenta covering part of the face at birth), which signifies having “the sight.” There are people who learn how to use chants and incantations and charms to remove warts, stop bleeding, find water deposits in the ground suitable for well-digging, and much more. Appalachian Witchcraft is very heavily based in European lore and magical practice, particularly an amalgamation of English and Scots-Irish. But some of what came into the practice was also gleaned and garnered from the indigenous Tribal cultures of North America.

They look to nature for omens and portents of the future.

Yes, and no.

No, there are plenty of ways to tell the future. We don’t only look to nature. We often use Tarot Cards or plain old playing cards for “telling fortunes.” We use “throwing the bones” (historically, not dice, but often using dice for divination is referred to in this way) for the same purpose. The pendulum and reading tea leaves (or coffee grounds, as most of us prefer coffee to tea) are also methods of divination used in Appalachian Witchcraft.

Natural omens may include:

  • knowing that leaves on trees often turn over to reveal the lighter-colored bottoms when there is impending rain;
  • the old saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morn, sailor’s be warned,” is common;
  • obviously, birds flying south in the fall means winter is on the way;
  • if you prop your broom by the kitchen door and it falls over, you’re likely to receive company soon;
  • if your ears are burning, someone’s talking about you;
  • if your right palm itches, you’ll be getting money soon;
  • if your left palm itches, you’ll be giving away money soon;
  • if your nose itches, you might receive a visitor;
  • and so on.

A lot of the “old wives’ tales,” and “superstitions” are really magic-in-the-making.

Understand This About Appalachian Witchcraft …

Appalachian Witchcraft is not a religion, and therefore, there is no need for (the Christian) God and Satan duo. Appalachian Witchcraft is a magical practice, particularly folk magic. It may be practiced by any number of people – including Christians (as diametrically opposed as that may be). Just because a Christian chooses to practice magic doesn’t make the magical practice a form of the Christian religion – any more than my choosing to purchase a Hyundai makes me Korean.

2 Comments

  • Terri

    March 17, 2016

    I am thoroughly enjoying your blog-site. Articulate, informative, and interesting.

    • Alan

      March 17, 2016

      Awesome! Thank you so much!