Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Asfidity and Mad-Stones




My friend Byron the Village Witch, who has been a valuable source of information as I write of mountain ways, has a second hillfolk's hoodoo book out (I wrote about her first HERE)  -- a further exploration of  mountain charms and folk wisdom. 

I can't do better than to quote my own foreword:


  
On a hot July evening with a Blue Moon on the rise and crickets making mad music outside my window, I settled in to read an early copy of Byron’s latest -- Asfidity and Mad-Stones. And oh! what a pleasure it was. Her voice comes through with such clarity that I find myself feeling that she’s sitting at my side – a friendly witch come to visit. When she begins to speak of the necessity of familiarizing ourselves with the particular bit of ‘hallowed ground” we inhabit, I grin in recognition, remembering my total immersion into learning the flora, fauna, and folkways of this adopted home of mine. Books and neighbors and keeping my eyes open helped a lot but, forty years on, I’m still learning and Byron is one of my most honored teachers. When I dare to incorporate Appalachian magic into my novels, I look to Byron to help me get it right.

This magical place we call Western North Carolina cast its spell on me from the beginning. I learned from my neighbors about scheduling not only gardening but almost any activity on the farm according to the moon signs and The Old Farmers Almanac. 

Louise, down the mountain, made me soon aware of the importance of staying out of the cucumbers and not making kraut when my period was ‘on me.’ She showed me how to make a powder from a dirt dauber’s nest, a powder that cleared up my son’s stubborn diaper rash overnight. And another neighbor left me momentarily dumbfounded when she called in great agitation, telling me to come quick and read the verses from the Bible that would stop her husband’s nosebleed.

I went, I read, and the bleeding stopped. If I’d had this book back then, I wouldn’t have been so puzzled.




And what a glorious mélange of folk wisdom, nature lore, mother-
wit, and just plain good story telling this little book is! It really is like sitting on the front porch with a friendly witch, sipping iced tea and learning what it means when your left ear itches or how to use dirty dishwater for a hex.

If you seem hesitant about all this talk of magic, the witch leans
back in her rocker and reminds you that “children grow up with a
belief in magic that is fueled by a certainty that the world is
more than it seems” and, shooting you a long, knowing look, she
promises “practicing these simple magics affords you a chance to
return to this place of wonder, where mystery is an always-sweet
puzzle and there is adventure and delight.”


You trust this friendly witch and as you hear more of her family’s
handed-down teachings and the accumulation of years of practice,
you lean back, relax, and listen, led into that place of wonder. She
tells you of candle magic and the use of various dusts, of chicken
feet and Reeses cups, and she delves into the glorious
pharmacopeia of our mountain plants. Witch hazel, elderberry,
chickweed and dandelion, plantain and mugwort, mint and ‘sang – 

even the names are a healing song.




You are surprised to realize that evening is drawing on – how long have you been sitting here listening to these wonderful tellings? You excuse yourself and go into the house, returning with little glasses, a plate of shortbread, and a ‘drop of the creature.’ Anything to keep the flood of wisdom flowing.

Accepting your offering, the friendly witch moves on to practical magic – from dealing with burns to politely clearing a house of lingering haints. The tinctures and hexes, omens and admonitions she shares are drawn mainly from Appalachian tradition but with a sprinkling of items ’borried’ from other cultures. And in the liminal time between day and night, as the full moon rises over the mountain, the friendly witch has stories to tell of hauntings and cleansings and she talks with reverence and affection of the Little People who share the land.


She’s right good company, this friendly witch and when at last you must say goodbye to her, your head is spinning, filled to the brim with receipts and charms, hexes, hoodoos, and workings of all sorts– a veritable cornucopia of folk wisdom.


You’ll be glad you have this little book to consult, should you forget the words of the burn charm or should the exact sequence of belling and anointing the house slip your memory. And with the book, you can summon Byron to come sit at your side again and once more delight you with the wisdom of The Ancestors.

Vicki Lane
Wool Branch Farm

July 31, 2015

Available at Malaprops -- our wonderful local independent bookstore -- or from the Witch herself on her WEBSITE.




5 comments:

Ms. A said...

Chicken feet and Reeses cups???

Barbara Rogers said...

Well, how can you review a book that you've written a review as a forward for? Yep dangling preposition, but then, since Byron is also my friend, I hope y'all don't mind. What a great book, a treasure trove of Byron's accumulated wise ways!

Martin Hodges said...

Very timely.

Thérèse said...

I love friendly witches.

Jim Egerton said...

Maybe I will find a cure for my restless soul and body. I will also send a copy to my sister in Winston Salem. I never get tired of saying thank you Vicki