The Crow’s Nest: Appalachian Granny Women Reviving a Tradition

A tradition near and dear to my heart is that of the Appalachian Granny Woman. I come from the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and my family has lived here for generations. While growing up, I was introduced to this tradition by my mother and other female members of my family.

Photo from Pixabay.  CC0 License.
Photo from Pixabay. CC0 License.

Granny Women originated with immigrants from Scotland and Ireland who bought their folk magic over during the 1700’s and blended them with Native Cherokee knowledge and practices, especially that of local herbalism. Sometimes, Granny Women were referred to as “Water Witches” due to their skill with dousing.

Skill with plants and herbs, healing work, spiritism, music and more comprise this tradition.

As a young girl, my mother and I would walk through the woods and she would point out wildflowers, herbs, trees and shrubs. She would tell me their “old-timey” names and their uses, whether medicinal, edible or magical. On subsequent walks, she would “quiz” me about the same plants. This tradition continues between us even today and serves as an example of how knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.

One of my cousins was widely known in my area for the ability to “heal with her hands.” She allowed me to watch her work once, on my uncle. I was fascinated by the process. But much to my dismay, when I asked her to teach me, she refused, saying “I’m afraid if I show someone how to do it, I will lose the Power.” Now, she resides in a nursing home, her mind far afield and her methods and art are lost forever.

When that occurred, I became determined to learn all I could from anyone I could about this tradition. Now, I work actively to pass that knowledge on to others in the hopes that the knowledge will not be lost forever.


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