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  • Writer's pictureTonya Jewel Blessing

Granny Witches

My husband and I recently traveled with my mom to wild, wonderful West Virginia for an Ashby family reunion. We had a marvelous time. I thoroughly enjoyed our brief day trip through the Appalachian Mountains. The scenes were familiar, and my mom’s insightful narrative added to the experience. The beautiful mountains beckoned to me. The deer with their white tails in the air, seemingly playing in green fields with small pools of standing water from the recent fall rains, reminded me of childhood fun with my numerous cousins. The connection of family and friends rang true with the Appalachian traditions of good food, good humor, and good relationships no matter the separation of distance and time.

I’m in the process of writing a sequel to my novel Whispering of the Willows. The sequel, like the first book in the series, is set in the Appalachian Mountains during the late 1920’s. While doing research for the new book, I came across an internet article about Appalachian granny witches.

“Anyone who travels through Appalachia knows that it takes a while. The backroads dip through hollows and twist through the mountains, with endless offshoots of narrow roads that disappear into the hills. This isolation is a distinguishing feature of the Appalachian Mountains that has helped shape much of the region’s culture and the legacy of granny witches as faith healers. When it takes a half an hour or more to get into town, and town is little more than a supply and feed store, self-reliance and strong beliefs become crucial. In the old days, hospitals were often too far away and a little suspicious to mountain people. When accidents and illnesses happened, the locals relied on granny witches. These traditional folk healers were skilled in herbalism, home remedies, spells…Granny magic healed sickness, birthed babies, removed curses, and predicted the weather. In the far reaches of Appalachia, granny witches were often the sole source of medical care and spiritual guidance. Their practices were simple, inventive, and always grounded in the natural world…Granny witches harnessed the power of their natural and supernatural resources to guide and aid their communities.”

The idea of older women guiding younger women and helping their communities is biblical, yet the intention of using supernatural resources is concerning. The Scottish-Irish roots of the Appalachian folks co-mingled Christianity with sorcery and spells.

I am excited to continue my research on granny witches and to possibly incorporate a granny in my new book.

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