Honoring Appalachia’s Granny Tradition

Even in Appalachia, the term ‘Granny Women’ is one most folks don’t hear (or use) anymore.  It’s become obscured by the hectic pace of modern culture, and hidden under the overgrowth of history.  Its practicality has devolved into superstition.  Its relevance, now considered obsolete.  Luckily, the phrase, and the knowledge that comes with it, is making a comeback.

The Granny Women were the ones who answered the call for healing in their communities.  Doctors were not always available, and many preferred their local healers anyway.  They knew the herbs their mountain provided and where to find them.  They knew what ailments the plants treated, how to extract the medicine from them, and which formulations worked best.  Their midwifery skills saved the lives of countless babies and mothers.

They were known for having extraordinary gifts, from “blowing away” pain to forecasting the future.  They were revered for their dedication to their communities and their accuracy in practicing their craft.  They did not charge for their services, giving unselfishly of their time and energy.  However, grateful families often gifted them things, such as food and handmade goods.

Fortunately, this crucial skillset survived the decades that attempted to leave it forgotten on the shelf of history.  In fact, it is being rediscovered and even gaining credibility through science.  We now know how willow bark helps with pain.  We know about the synergy of plants and that it makes a better medicine than isolating just one plant compound.  It is not snake oil selling.  It is tradition in action.

wild apocathary
(a wild apothecary I envy,  photo from Joan on Flikr)

Now, don’t let the Granny reference fool you.  The gift does not discriminate whom is worthy of wielding it.  Young and old, male and female…doesn’t matter.  Often, it travels through families.  Sometimes, it’s taught by another healer.  One thread runs through them all: Faith, and a lot of it.  God speaks and works through them, and they don’t question it.

While they traditionally identify as Christian, often referencing God/Jesus and using bible verses, their work could easily be called witchcraft by suspicious, jealous, or self-righteous folks.  Their magic consists of ancient knowledge passed down from their Scots-Irish ancestors and the Natives they encountered, and they make practical use of it.  They know there is nothing evil or wrong with what they do.  They have a gift and are simply answering the call to use it.

Are you familiar with the term “Granny Magic”?  Do you, or someone you know, practice it?


Author: Lisa

I'm a mom, a writer, a marketer, and a nature lover.

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