Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

July 5, 2006

Ex-Slave Interviews: Folk Remedies and Superstition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 2:17 am

The text below is from 1936-1938, and lifted out of the Gutenberg on-line book:

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves: Georgia Narratives, Part 4.

It is in the section called “Compilations [Richmond County].”

Individually, many of the folk sayings are poems. In their compilation, they make for a greater poem.

Compilation Richmond County–Ex-Slave Interviews

Folk Remedies and Superstition

Written by:
Louise Oliphant
Federal Writers’ Project
Augusta, Georgia

Edited by:
John N. Booth
District Supervisor
Federal Writers’ Project
Augusta, Georgia

Belief in charms and conjurs is still prevalent among many of Augusta’s older Negroes. Signs and omens also play an important part in their lives, as do remedies and cures handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

If a wrestler can get dirt from the head of a fresh grave, sew it up in a sack, and tie it around his waist, no one can throw him.

To make a person leave town, get some dirt out of one of his tracks, sew it up in a sack, and throw it in running water. The person will keep going as long as the water runs.

To take a hair out of a person’s head and put it in a live fishes mouth will make the person keep traveling as long as the fish swims.

If someone dies and comes back to worry you, nail some new lumber into your house and you won’t be bothered any more.

When the hands of a dead person remain limp, some other member of the family will soon follow him in death.

When a spider builds a web in your house, you may expect a visitor the same color as the spider.

A singing fire is a sign of snow.

If a cat takes up at your house it’s a sign of good luck; a dog–bad luck.

If a spark of fire pops on you, it is a sign that you will receive some money or a letter.

To dream of muddy water, maggots, or fresh meat is a sign of death. To dream of caskets is also a sign of death. You may expect to hear of as many deaths as there are caskets in the dream.

To dream of blood is a sign of trouble.

To dream of fish is a sign of motherhood.

To dream of eggs is a sign of trouble unless the eggs are broken. If the eggs are broken, your trouble is ended.

To dream of snakes is a sign of enemies. If you kill the snakes, you have conquered your enemies.

To dream of fire is a sign of danger.

To dream of a funeral is a sign of a wedding.

To dream of a wedding is a sign of a funeral.

To dream of silver money is a sign of bad luck; bills—good luck.

To dream of dead folk is a sign of rain.

Wear a raw cotton string tied in nine knots around your waist to cure cramps.

To stop nosebleed or hiccoughs cross two straws on top of your head.

Lick the back of your hand and swallow nine times without stopping to cure hiccoughs.

Tea made from rue is good for stomach worms.

Corn shuck tea is good for measles; fodder tea for asthma.

Goldenrod tea is good for chills and fever.

Richet weed tea is good for a laxative.

Tea made from parched egg shells or green coffee is good for leucorrhoea.

Black snuff, alum, a piece of camphor, and red vaseline mixed together is a sure cure for piles.

To rid yourself of a corn, grease it with a mixture of castor oil and kerosine and then soak the foot in warm water.

Sulphur mixed with lard is good for bad blood.

A cloth heated in melted tallow will give relief when applied to a pain in any part of the body.

Take a pinch of sulphur in the mouth and drink water behind it to cleanse the blood.

Dog fern is good for colds and fever; boneset tea will serve the same purpose.

Catnip tea is good for measles or hives.

If your right shoe comes unlaced, someone is saying good things about you; left shoe—bad things.

If a chunk of fire falls from the fireplace a visitor is coming. If the chunk is short and large the person will be short and fat, etc.

Don’t buy new things for a sick person; if you do he will not live to wear it out.

If a person who has money dies without telling where it is, a friend or relative can find it by going to his grave three nights in succession and throwing stones on it. On the fourth night he must go alone, and the person will tell him where the money is hidden.

If a witch rides you, put a sifter under the bed and he will have to count the holes in the sifter before he goes out, thus giving you time to catch him.

Starch your sweetheart’s handkerchief and he will love you more.

Don’t give your sweetheart a knife. It will cut your love in two.

If it rains while the sun is shining the devil is beating his wife.

To bite your tongue while talking is a sign that you have told a lie.

Persons with gaps between their front teeth are big liars.

Cut your finger nails on Monday, you cut them for news;
Cut them on Tuesday, get a new pair of shoes;
Cut them on Wednesday, you cut them for wealth;
Cut them on Thursday, you cut them for health;
Cut them on Friday, you cut them for sorrow;
Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow;
Cut them on Sunday, its safety to seek;
But the devil will have you the rest of the week.

If you start some place and forget something don’t turn around without making a cross mark and spitting in it, if you do you will have bad luck.

To stump your right foot is good luck, but to stump your left foot is bad luck. To prevent the bad luck you must turn around three times.

It is bad luck for a black cat to cross you to the left, but good luck if he crosses you to the right.

If a picture of a person falls off the wall it is a sign of death.

To dream of crying is a sign of trouble.

To dream of dancing is a sign of happiness.

If you meet a gray horse pulling a load of hay, a red haired person will soon follow.

If you are eating and drop something when you are about to put it in your mouth someone wishes it.

If a child never sees his father he will make a good doctor.

To dream that your teeth fall out is a sign of death in the family.

To dream of a woman’s death is a sign of some man’s death.

To dream of a man’s death is the sign of some woman’s death.

If a chicken sings early in the morning a hawk will catch him before night.

Always plant corn on the waste of the moon in order for it to yield a good crop. If planted on the growing of the moon there will be more stalk than corn.

When there is a new moon, hold up anything you want and make a wish for it and you will get it.

If you hear a voice call you and you are not sure it is really someone, don’t answer because it may be your spirit, and if you answer it will be a sure sign of death.

Cross eyed women are bad luck to other women, but cross eyed men are good luck to women and vice-versa for men.

To wear a dime around your ankle will ward off witch craft.

To put a silver dime in your mouth will determine whether or not you have been bewitched. If the dime turns black, someone has bewitched you, but if it keeps its color, no one has bewitched you.

To take a strand of a person’s hair and nail it in a tree will run that person crazy.

If a rooster crows on your back steps you may look for a stranger.

Chinaberries are good for wormy children.

The top of a pine tree and the top of a cedar tree placed over a large coal of fire, just enough to make a good smoke, will cure chillblain feet.


  1. aaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

    Comment by bob — January 21, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

  2. No

    Comment by Anonymous — April 3, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

  3. […] Ex-Slave Interviews: Folk Remedies and Superstition … – Jul 05, 2006 · The text below is from 1936-1938, and lifted out of the Gutenberg on-line book: Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From …… […]

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  4. […] Ex-Slave Interviews: Folk Remedies and Superstition … – Jul 05, 2006 · Ex-Slave Interviews: Folk Remedies and Superstition … – Jul 05, 2006 · The text below is from 1936-1938, and lifted out of the Gutenberg on-line book …… […]

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