Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Appalachian Folklore: The Legend of Stingy Jack (HIstory of the Jack o' Lantern)

As I was recently reading some Appalachian Folklore, I came across a tale that I had never heard but thought would be good to share now that it's time for Halloween! As you may know, much of Appalachian folklore was brought to the area from wherever the settlers came from and this tale is said to have originated in Ireland. Out of all the versions I read, Dave Tabler's over at Appalachian History is my favorite. Hope y'all enjoy! 

     There's an old Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." Stingy Jack was a drunken brawler who found great enjoyment from playing tricks on anyone who crossed his path Jack also had the great misfortune of running into the Devil more than once.

     Jack's first encounter with the devil happened at a local Irish pub within the village. Obviously Stingy Jack was called Stingy Jack for a reason, and he wasn't about to change now in the face of the Devil. Jack convinced the Devil to transform into a sixpence piece so that Jack could use him to pay for their drinks. In exchange for this transaction, the Devil would receive Jack's soul. Little did the Devil know, Jack sill had a few tricks up his sleeve. 

After changing into the sixpence piece, Jack quickly tossed the Devil into his pocket next to a silver cross - thus preventing the Devil from returning to his original form. Jack then bargained with the Devil to keep his soul for 10 more years - in return for the Devil's freedom. The Devil reluctantly agrees and Jack frees him. Ten years pass and Jack crosses path with the Devil a second time. With the Devil ready to claim his soul, Jack made a last request: "I'll go, but before I do - will you retrieve and apple from that tree for me? I'm awfully hungry!"

The devil began to climb the tree, and while the Devil was climbing to the top of the tree, Jack carved a large cross into the back of the tree. Again, the Devil had been tricked and could not get down. 

Jack being quite pleased with himself; bargained yet again with the Devil - this time for the promise that the Devil would never, ever try to take his soul again. With no way out of the tree, the Devil agreed. 

Year pass and Jack finally passes away. Unfortunately for Jack, after all of his evil trickery and horrible deeds - God did not allow Jack into Heaven. The Devil, still bitter at Jack and his bag of tricks, kept his word and did not claim his soul. Jack was unable to get into Heaven, and unable to get into Hell. 

"Where shall I go?' Jack asked the Devil, confused and afraid.

"Back to where you came from!" The Devil growled angrily at Jack and sent him on his way back to earth.

Jack's journey back was very dark, and he begged for the Devil to lend him a light to help him lead the way. The devil provided Stingy Jack with a coal from the fires of Hell - which Jack then placed into a turnip he had in his pocket. The carved out turnip lead the way back to earth. Since then; Jack appears every Halloween. doomed to roam the earth in search of eternal rest - leading the way with his turnip lamp.

The Irish people began to refer to the ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern, " and soon "Jack O 'Lantern."

Traditionally on All Hallows Eve, many Irishmen make their own versions of Jack's lantern by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them near doors and windows to scare away the body-snatching spirits. 


According to Appalachian History, pumpkins weren't actually used until the Irish immigrants brought the tradition of the Jack-o-Lanterns with them to America - only to discover that pumpkins were easier to carve than their traditional turnips and potatoes. 

Have you ever heard this tale? I was very surprised to learn that the tradition all started with a turnip! Dave has all sorts of Appalachian related lore and info over at his website and I encourage you to check it out.

Hope y'all enjoyed the tale and I hope you have a Happy Halloween! 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Phrases Of Appalachia: Fit To Be Tied

Fit to be tied: An exaggeration referring to someone being so angry that they should be tied up to keep them from being aggressive.
Example: Tom was fit to be tied when he realized someone had shot his prize turkey. 

Just recently I wrote a blog post about a story that Granny had told me and while I didn't write the story down as she told it, I could almost hear her speaking as I recalled and typed it. "Fit to be tied" was a phrase that she used often and is something that I still say. 

I always try to add a picture to every blog post and as I immediately thought of this one of my son, Dude (not his real name). This was taken at our VBS when he was about 5 or 6 years old and from the looks of it, he was fit to be tied! There ain't no telling why he was so mad but he definitely was. 

If you are a visitor and hear someone use this phrase, proceed with caution! Other Appalachian phrases that refer to being mad: 

  • Ill as a hornet. 
  • Mad as an old wet hen. 
  • All riled up. 
  • Got my feathers all ruffled up.
  • All worked up. 
  • Having a hissy fit.
  • Pitching a fit. 
  • Got their panties in a wad.
  • Got a burr in their saddle. 
  • Puffed up like a bullfrog.
  • He's tore plumb outta his frame.
  • She's gotta a bee in her bonnet.
  • Mad enough to spit nails. 
  • Plumb fed up! 

    What are some other "mad" phrases that you've heard? 

    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    How Black-Draught Cured Granny's Lonesomeness

    Spring makes me think about Granny. Back in April 2017, about a week before she passed away, we had an unusually warm, sunny day. She decided that she wanted to go out in the sunshine for a while so I went out and sat on the porch with her. "Granny, tell me a story." She pondered a minute or so, gave a little chuckle, and then the tale began...

    "When I started school, I'd become awful lonesome for my Mama. I'd get to school, get to missing her, and then get to crying. I decided that I'd tell my teacher that I had a bellyache."

    Now you have to remember that this was the early 1940s. A teacher or school secretary couldn't just pick up the phone and have her Mama come and pick her up. One, Granny and Pa Wilson didn't have a phone, and two, if they had a car or truck it would've been being used by her Daddy to get him to work.

    "My teacher went and found my older brother Keith and told him I was sick and that he would have to walk me home. So me and Keith set off for the five mile walk home, he told Mama I had a bellyache, and then he turned around and walked the five miles back. Mama loved on me and all was right with the world.

    The next day, I got to school and was missing Mama...again. I thought I'd be slick and use the bellyache excuse...again. My teacher went and found Keith and told him to take me home...again. Keith was fit to be tied because he knew I was fibbing. He marched me the whole five miles home, begrudgingly told Mama that the teacher sent me home with a bellyache, and turned around and walked the five miles back. Now Mama was no fool. She knew from the day before that I was perfectly fine. She had to do something to nip this problem in the bud. She went to the medicine cabinet and pulled out the Black-Draught. Whew, I never came home from school early because of missing Mama again!"

    For those of you who don't know, Black-Draught is a liquid laxative sold since the late 18th century. Much like castor oil, it was a commonly used folk remedy for many ailments.

    We had ourselves a good laugh over that one! Granny would probably whoop me if she knew I was telling this story but I also know that she would chuckle after she had done it. I'm thankful that, despite all she was going through, she NEVER lost her sense of humor or her ability to tell a good story. I hope that whenever I leave this world people will be able to say the same for me.

    Thursday, November 15, 2018

    My Mountain Memories: Popcorn & Hee Haw

    When I was little, my brother and I would spend the night with my Granny and Pa Holloway. We loved getting to stay over and always had a good time. Granny would usually cook one of our favorite suppers for us to enjoy...grannies are good like that. After a long day of quilt fort building and games, we'd settle in for the evening for my favorite thing: eating a big pot of popcorn and watching Hee Haw. 

    I wasn't born until 1979, so I only got to enjoy the reruns. I remember my Granny telling me that her Daddy liked to watch it too. Grandpa Wilson (Granny's Daddy) died when I was 2 so I don't really have any memories of him but always loved that I got to enjoy something that I knew he liked too. My Pa liked the show more than my Granny and I always hoped that there would be something funny enough on the show to make him laugh until he lost his breath and slap his knee. He had one of those laughs that would get you tickled too. 

    My favorite memories from Hee Haw are the "Pfft, You Were Gone" song, Archie Campbell telling the story of Rindercella, and Grandpa Jones' supper report. My son enjoys the show too and still asks, "Hey, Grandpa, what's for supper?" Here's a clip I found of Hee Haw's Rindercella over on YouTube if you've never seen it or would like to watch and laugh again. Roy Clark, Minnie Pearl, & Buck Owens will always evoke happy childhood memories for me.

    My Pa was the official popcorn popper at my grandparent's house. He would take my Granny's big yellow pot (that she still has and I hope to have some day), pour in a little oil, heat it up, and pour in the popcorn. After he put the lid on, we'd all wait to hear that first little pop. He'd shake the pot around on the stove eye to keep the popcorn from burning and take it off the heat once the popping slowed down. What a treat! Even when we finally got a microwave, this was and is my favorite way to make popcorn. 

    A couple of nights ago, my little family was watching a movie and I got a craving for popcorn but wanted something salty AND sweet. I decided to whip up a batch of Salted Caramel Popcorn. It's really not a hard recipe to make but will take a little time.

    Salted Caramel Popcorn
    • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
    • coconut oil or preferred oil for popping
    • 3/4 c. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/3 c. light corn syrup
    • sea salt
    Preheat oven to 300*. Add coconut oil to a large pot until there's enough to cover the bottom of your pot. Heat for a few minutes and add popcorn kernels. Place lid on pot and listen for the first kernels to begin popping. Slightly shake the pot back and forth over the stove eye until popping slows down and then remove from heat. I like to look through my popcorn and remove all unpopped seeds once it cools for a few minutes. In a saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and about 1 tsp of sea salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 4 minutes without stirring. While your caramel mixture boils, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. After the 4 minutes, remove from heat, pour, and mix the caramel over the popped corn. Once mixed, pour the covered popcorn onto your lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Pour mixture onto parchment paper spread out on your counter until cooled. Enjoy!

    Warning: Highly addictive! 

    Please let me know if you get a chance to make this delicious sweet and salty snack! I'd also love to hear about any of your favorite memories of Hee Haw or spending the night with your grandparents. You can leave me a message down below in the comments section. And remember, if you ever lall in fove with a prandsome hince, be sure and slop your dripper! 
    This post was originally published here on Appalachian Mountain Roots on 01/04/17.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2018

    Signs, Superstitions, and Omens: Week Three

    Here is our last week of Signs, Superstitions, and Omens! If you happened to miss the past two installments, you can find them HERE and HERE.

    A sign is believed to predict the future but unlike the omen, signs do not foretell negative happenings.
    • According to Native American superstition, biting your tongue is a sign that you will soon receive either good news or a present.
    • A dropped towel is a sign that you will have the arrival of an unwanted visitor. According to Scottish pioneers, you can nullify the sign by stepping backwards over the towel.
    • If you dream that your teeth fall out, its a sign that your enemy will soon die. I always heard that it meant you would have sickness approaching.

    A superstition is an irrational belief, usually arising from ignorance or fear, that is believed by a number of people but is without foundation.
    • Is there a thief in your community? Have a group of suspects dance around an upturned axe & when if falls over, the shaft will be pointing to the thief.
    • If a baby sees it's image in a mirror before the age of six months, it will die before it turns one year old. 
    • I remember when my Dude was around 5 months old, I left him sleeping on the couch while I went to make up my bed. I heard a thump and a cry not even 2 minutes after leaving the room. I raced back to the living room and scooped him up and cried right along with him. My Papaw Glenn happened to call about that time and calmed me down. He told me that he had always heard that if a baby didn't roll off of the bed before it was a year old, it would die. I'm not sure if that was really a superstition he had actually heard or if he was just trying to make me feel better...it helped a little.

    Omen- a phenomenon that is believed to tell the future, which also signifies change...usually negative.
    • Bad luck will come to a household if someone dreams of an axe.
    • Dreaming of a lizard is an omen that you have a secret enemy.
    • If a bat comes close to flying into a person, it is an omen that the person will be betrayed by a friend. 
    • A cat in a coal mine is an omen and the cat must be killed to avoid a death in the mines.

    I hope that y'all have enjoyed this last week of SSOs. I've enjoyed reading the ones some of you have shared in the comments here and over on the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook page!

    Thursday, October 25, 2018

    Signs, Superstitions, and Omens: Week Two

    It's time for our next installment of signs, superstitions and omens! If you missed last week's you can  CLICK HERE to catch up.

    A sign is believed to predict the future but unlike the omen,
    signs do not foretell negative happenings.

    • Two blackbirds flying together is a sign of good fortune.
    • If a person's medicine has been spilled accidentally, it is a sign that he will soon recover. 
    • A bee that flies into the house is a sign that a stranger is coming. 
    • If a chair falls over as a person rises from the table, it is a sign that the person is a liar. 
    • It's a sign of good luck when your right eye itches.

    A superstition is an irrational belief, usually arising from ignorance or fear, that is believed by a number of people but is without foundation.

    • If you walk barefoot in the first snow of winter you will not catch cold all year. -submitted by Mary Blevins
    • If you leave a piece of tin on top of an ant's nest during the full moon it will turn to silver.
    • Placing a knife on the doorstep of the house where a birth had taken place will prevent witches from entering and harming the baby. (Scottish)
    • You should not was a baby's right hand for its first three days or life or you will wash all of it's luck away.
    • If a coal miner washes his back right before going to work, the mine roof will collapse on him. 


    Omen- a phenomenon that is believed to tell the future, which also signifies change...usually negative.  

    • If a picture falls off a wall for no apparent reason, it is an omen of a coming catastrophe. 
    • It is an omen of an extremely hard winter ahead if several plants come into bloom out of season. 
    • See a butterfly at night? It is an omen of unexpected death. 
    • A candle that has been put out but continues to glow is an omen of misfortune. 
    • If a rooster crows as you leave to go on a trip, it is an omen of trouble. 

    I loved reading some of these that you shared with me here and over on Facebook. I would love to hear any more that you happen to thing of! *This post was originally published here on 9/27/16*

    Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Signs, Superstitions, and Omens: Week One

    As the diversely ethnic settlers came into the Appalachian region, a detailed system of folklore was developed by combining signs, superstitions, omens, music, stories and beliefs. This system was passed down orally through the years and practiced as a way of keeping the folklore alive. I've heard many of these stories and beliefs while growing up and while I would not consider myself a superstitious person, the possible outcomes of not abiding by these rituals will inevitably worm its way into my mind. Better safe than sorry, right?

    Over the next few weeks, I plan on sharing some of these signs, superstitions, and omens and hope that you will be willing to share any that have been passed on in your families and communities. 

    A sign is believed to predict the future but unlike the omen, signs do not foretell negative happenings. 
    • A chin dimple is a sign of bad character. Dimples on the chin are said to be made by the devil's shoe. (Why not start off with one the applies to me, huh? I have a chin dimple and like to think that I'm not known for my bad character!)
    • Tingling or itching ears are a sign that someone is talking about you. If it is the left ear, you're being gossiped about. If the right, good things are being said.
    • Sole of your foot itching? This is a sign that you are about to embark on a long journey.
    • If you have a candle that is hard to light, it is a sign that rain is on the way.
    • Dreaming of bees is a sign of good fortune.

    A superstition is an irrational belief, usually arising from ignorance or fear, that is believed by a number of people but is without foundation. 
    • An acorn placed on a window will will protect the house from lightning strikes.
    • Treading on an ant nest will cause rain that day.
    • A man who wipes his hands on a girl's apron is sure to fall in love with her. (German)
    • Spitting on a new baby will bring the child good luck. (Irish)
    • Never leave a baby's washed diapers on the clothesline during a full moon because they will attract evil forces.

    Omen- a phenomenon that is believed to tell the future, which also signifies change...usually negative
    • A chicken laying an uneven number of eggs is an omen of danger.
    • If a rabbit crosses your path before sunrise, unhappiness will cloud your day.
    • If the dough for baking bread cracks while being shaped, a funeral will occur soon.
    • If a broom falls over for no reason when someone walks past, it is an omen of bad fortune.
    • Calling out the name of a deceased person while dreaming is an omen of a death.

    I would love to hear any of the signs, superstitions, and omens that are a part of your families or communities. Feel free to share in the comments section below or you can send me a message on the Appalachian Mountain Roots Facebook page. 

    *This post was originally published here on Appalachian Mountain Roots on 9/20/16.*