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Natural medicinal herbs - Discover plants and herbs which have been used for healing purposes and maintaining good health for ages.


 The early Ozarks settlers were almost totally farmers so it was natural that they spent much time thinking of the weather
Before scientific forecasting was available, farmers relied upon their observations
They were actually very accurate in their short-term predictions based upon natural phenomena
Their long-range predictions were based upon lore and superstition to a greater degree and took into considerations three main factors
The Farmers Almanac
Weather signs
Superstition or folklore
II. Examples of weather lore which are common to the Ozarks are as follows
Predictors of rain included;
Rabbits playing in a dusty road
Any animal turning its back to the wind
Hogs carrying a piece of wood in its mouth
A rooster persistently crowing at nightfall
Flint rock sweating
Rings around the moon
The liquefaction of a murdered mans blood stains
Predictors of frost included;
Katydids will sing six weeks before the first frost
The first sighting of the Walking-stick insect will be six weeks before the first frost
Early frost will occur when fawns lose their spots
Thunder in February will mean a frost on a corresponding date in May
Predictors of wind included;
Wind always lets up a "Milkin time" or daybreak and nightfall
If a hog looks up to the sky a tornado is on the way
Animals always become excited before a big wind storm
A person can "see wind" if he rubs sows milk in his eyes
Predictors of Winter and snow included
The number of fogs in August will predict the number of snows in winter
The number of sunny days between July 1 and September 1 taken times 2 will equal the number of freezing days in winter
When a campfire sputters and spits in the fall a snowstorm is not far off
If a goose's breastbone is thin and transparent, winter will be mild
If it is thick and white there will be much snow in the winter
A summer where the foliage is thick and green will give way to a hard winter
When snowflakes are big the snow will be short-lived and light
Predictors of Spring included
When green first shows on the Osage Orange tree winter will be over
Groundhog day, which was celebrated on February 14 instead of the 2nd by most Ozarkers, was the best predictor of Spring
If a groundhog sees its shadow then winter will last for six more weeks
If the groundhog does not see his shadow then winter is over
The arrival of the Turkey Buzzard will mark the last day of freezing weather
After the first frog croaks, there will be three more frosts
The arrival of the Killdeer bird signals the arrival of Spring
III. Traditional Ozarkers tried to produce or "charm up" rain by different methods including
Burning brush along the creek side
Hanging a dead snake over a fence, bellyside up
Pouring salt on a gravel bar
Submerging a cat in sulphur water
Burning used motor oil on top of a hill during the night
Praying for rain
I. The traditional Ozarker was among the most superstitious group of people in American history
Many of these superstitions were recorded and preserved in Ozark Folklore and Magic by Vance Randolf
Superstitions, generally, were not specific to any particular events
Superstitions recorded by Randolf included
If a woman drops her dishrag, company is coming
If a woman's nose itches then unexpected company will arrive
If your right eye itches then bad luck will follow
If your left eye itches then good luck will follow
If your ears burn then someone is saying something about you
Sneezes and they day they occurred were important as demonstrated by the following rhyme
Sneeze on Monday--kiss a stranger
Sneeze on Tuesday--a letter will arrive
Sneeze on Wednesday--good luck will follow
Sneeze on Thursday--bad luck will follow
Sneeze on Friday--sorrow will follow
Sneeze on Saturday--you will find a new friend
Sneeze on Sunday and the devil will be with you all week
If you run out of salt you will suffer a whole years poverty
It is bad luck to return borrowed dishes unwashed
If two friends are walking and a third party walks between them then the two friends must turn their backs to each other to avoid a quarrel
You should always leave by the same door you came in from
A rock with a hole in it is very good luck
It is bad luck to pick up a black button
Always break bread--never cut it with a knife
Always put your right shoe on first
It is unlucky to cut your fingernails on Sunday
If a girl wants a new dress she should catch a butterfly of the same color and mash it between her teeth
Any job you start on Saturday will take six weeks to complete
Never use the wood from a tree struck by lightning
Thunder and lightning causes milk to spoil
If you find your initials in a spider's web you will be lucky all of your life
Misfortunes and deaths always come in threes
It is lucky to celebrate Christmas on "Old Christmas" (January 6th)
Whatever you do on New Years Day you will do all year
Never take anything out of you house on New Years Day
A woman who drops her comb while brushing her hair is doomed to bad luck
The above can take the curse off by counting to 10 backwards immediately

I. "Keepin Company" referred to courtship, dating, etc

Most courtship was very localized
Most men were limited by the range of walking or riding a horse
Most couples did not meet at school since most young people only finished the 8th grade
Courtship age was generally as follows;
Girls--15 to 20 years of age
Boy's--16 to 22 years of age
Most couples met at social functions such as;
Community or church pie suppers
Neighborhood parties
Some communities sponsored dances while others, such as Purdy, looked down on dances as a sin
Courtship usually took place only on Sunday, since other days of the week were workdays
Courtship usually progressed in set stages such as
The boy asked a girl's parents permission to court her
The boy would then be invited to the house for Sunday dinner after church
The boy would then later ask permission to go walking with the girl as long as their was a married chaperone along--usually a brother or sister
If the courtship got "serious" and the boy had proven his intentions were honorable then the couple would be left alone for short periods of time
The final stage prior to marriage allowed the couple to go horseback or buggy riding
Courtships lasted usually from six months to one year

II. Ozark superstitions abound concerning courtship rituals
There were many ways a girl could win a boys favor including
Carrying a wasp nest hidden in her clothing
Stealing a man's hatband and making a garter out of it
Drawing blood from the third finger of the left hand with a needle and then writing the boy's initials on a wood chip, encircled by three rings, which was then buried
Boys could win the favor of his special girl by
Making a love potion of ground wild goose foot and putting it in the intendeds drink
Tie pieces of cloth to a Paw-paw tree
Hiding the dried tongue of a turtle dove in the girl's cabin
Girl's believed it was bad luck in courtship to do any of the following;
Ride a mule
Sit on a table
Let someone sweep across her feet with a broom
Take the last biscuit from the plate

III. "Gettin Hitched" refers to marriage and the union of two people much like a pair of horses hitched to a wagon
Wedding dresses were usually made of shades of blue or brown not the now traditional white
The dresses were simple and made to worn for later use such as going to church
Men wore a simple suit in the same blue or brown tone
Bridal showers were almost nonexistent
Dowrys were unknown except among the most wealthy Ozarkers
There was no such thing as a traditional Ozark wedding but most had some things in common including;
Weddings were held in a private home or at the courthouse rather than at a church
Most weddings occurred on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings
While common gold bands were exchanged engagement rings were rare
Receptions were not common except among families of Germanic origin
Vows were taken very seriously since divorce was considered a sin
Honeymoons as we know them today were unheard of
The couple might ride around together after the wedding for a couple of hours
The couple usually spent their wedding night at the house of one of their relatives
A wedding dinner was prepared and served to the couple
The "Shivaree", a community greeting for the new couple, had many traits including
Friends and families would surround the couple's house late at night some days after the marriage and make noise banging pans, firing shotguns, etch
The couple was expected to provide gifts of candy for the women and cigars for the men
Failure to do so usually resulted in the couple being thrown in a nearby creek or river
Sometimes the man would be rode around the house or a rail
If the couple was not shivareed it was a sign of disrespect by the community

IV. Superstitions regarding marriage included;
June and January were the best months to get married
May weddings were considered unlucky
Weddings during a rain or snowstorm was considered unlucky
It was believe good luck would follow a couple who stood with their feet parallel to the cracks in the floor
It was believed that which ever of the couple fell asleep first on the wedding night would be the first to die
A bride should never cook her own wedding dinner
Good luck would follow a girl who made her own wedding dress
It was bad luck for a girl to look at herself in a mirror after she was completely dressed until after the wedding
It was considered bad luck of the groom to immediately put away his wedding suit


I. "Ketchin Babies" was a term used by traditional Ozarkers to signify childbirth

Childbirth almost always took place at home since hospitals were nonexistent
Doctors, which were very rare, attended childbirth only in the most troublesome pregnancies
If a doctor was summoned he was most generally paid in dry goods since money was scarce
The infant mortality rate as well as of the new mother was very high

II. Childbirth was generally assisted by neighbor women
These women fell into three categories collectively known as "Granny Women"
Neighborhood women who were willing to help in times of need
"Granny Women" who specialized in childbirth but were trained only through experience
Midwives who also specialized in birth but who did have some training from a doctor
The "Granny Women" assisted the expectant mother throughout the pregnancy if they were close friends or family members
They prepared a layette of homemade childrens clothing and objects
The gave the expectant mother advice on food, herbs, etc.
Often made the important "bellyband" which was used to protect against umbilical hernias
In normal cases the "Granny Women" moved into the expectant mothers house about one week prior to the birth
They stayed at the house from one to three weeks after the birth
They very seldom received or accepted pay
They cooked, washed clothes and dishes and took care of other household chores

III. Ozark women often had difficult and laborious pregnancies and childbirth
Women often had 8 to 10 children
Infant mortality was very high
Most brides had absolutely no knowledge of reproduction
Labor often lasted for days and was very difficult

IV. The process of childbirth was characterized by traits such as
Unsanitary conditions
Rooms were usually too hot or cold
Granny Women did usually require clean sheets and boiling water
The newborn child was given an immediate bath
The cutting of the umbilical cord was an event of importance
The cord was usually not cut for at least two hours after birth
The cord was first tied off and a band of scorched cloth was put over the exposed end
The cord was usually left 7 inches in length
A bellyband was put on the baby immediately to prevent umbilical hernias
Infants were then nursed at least for two years and sometimes not weaned until the age of three or four

V. Ozarkers had many superstitions about pregnancy and childbirth
Girls were thought to have as many children as their mother
The number of lumps in the umbilical cord of the firstborn indicated the number of children the mother would have
Ozarkers thought pregnancy could be avoided by
Never let a baby be placed on a couples bed or pregnancy would occur
One should never let a mother leave a diaper at a home she visited
The wearing of pebbles in the hemline would prevent children
Ozarkers thought a babies sex could be determined by
If the baby was carried high or the mother was big in the back the baby would be a girl
If the baby was carried low or the mother was big in front the baby would be a male
Ozarkers believed babies could be "marked" by experiences including
Birthmarks were a result of a mother craving a certain food (thus a strawberry craving would leave a strawberry birthmark)
A sudden fright or unpleasant experience might produce a nervous child or one that was not of normal intelligence
A child whose mother witnessed a murder might mark the child for an early death
Expectant mothers were cautioned never to look at a dead body for the same reason
It was bad luck to make any kind of hat or cap for an expected baby or it would mean a hard childbirth
The hanging of an empty hornets nest in an expectant mothers house was good luck
Almost all Ozarkers would put an axe under the bed of the expectant mother for good luck
Childbirth could be made easier by "quilling" or blowing smoke through a turkey quill into the expectant mothers face
Ozarkers thought a premature baby of seven months had a better chance of living then one born eight months into term
Multiple births were considered very unlucky
It was thought a woman would lose a tooth after every birth
During childbirth the mothers head should always be facing north
Cats should be kept away from newborns because they might "catch the babies breath"
The day of birth was significant as demonstrated by the traditional Ozark rhyme
Mondays child is fair of face
Tuesdays child is full of grace
Wednesdays child has far to go
Thursdays child is full of woe
Fridays child is loving and giving
Saturdays child must work for a living
Sundays child will be rich and happy
The seventh son of a seventh son was thought to have extraordinary powers
The third child was thought to be the smartest
It was considered bad luck to call a baby "angel" or it might not live long
When a baby smiled or laughed in its sleep it was thought to be talking to angels


I. The traditional Ozarker accepted their shortness of life and its natural end better than their modern counterpart

They had a deep belief in religion and accepted that life after death was certain
Infant mortality was very high because
Medicine was nonexistent or primitive
Hygiene was poor
Doctors were scarce
Childhood disease such as measles and chicken pox were often fatal
Common causes of death among adults included
Typhoid fever

II. The family of a seriously ill person was given comfort in the following ways
The ill person was never left alone when death was imminent
Friends helped with farm chores and provided tangible support when possible
Friends and family who lived away were sent black-edged death notices which were promptly delivered by the post offices

III. Preparations for burial included
Undertakers and embalmers were seldom used prior to 1930
For this reason funerals were often held the next day after death
If possible it was desirable to delay the funeral for three days to signify the resurrection
The "laying out" of the body was very ritualistic
All bedding and clothes were immediately burned or washed
The room where death had occurred was totally cleaned
The body was totally washed
Quarters were placed over the eyes of the deceased and later kept as keepsakes
The body was dressed in the persons "Sundays best"
A persons favorite jewelry, hat, etc. was often placed in the coffin with the deceased
Once prepared the body was laid out on a "cooling board" to await rigor mortis
Wet soda clothes were placed on the face and hands to preserve the skin texture and color
"Sitting up" with the body was very important
Friends always remained with the body until the funeral
Coffins were hand made usually by family members or friends
The room where the body was "laid out" was darkened and all furniture removed except for chairs which were placed backwards against the wall
The digging of the grave was a chore for neighbors and sometimes relatives
Graves were traditionally six feet long, four feet wide and six feet deep
The grave always faced the East or the rising sun
If the ground was frozen or rocky dynamite was used to dig the grave
A little dirt was always left in the grave until the day of the funeral and was to be dug on that day

IV. The funeral procedure included
On the day of the funeral neighbors gathered at the home of the bereaved and prepared a large dinner
Most funerals were at 2:00 in the afternoon if possible
The funeral was generally attended by the whole community
While it was acceptable to be emotional, funerals were expected to be respectful and dignified
Children were even taken to church during the school year to be taught how to behave at a funeral
Attendees were expected to wear black or dark clothing
Women of the bereaved family always wore black hats or veils to the funeral
Funerals were held at churches or in the home since funeral homes were found only in large cities
The actual funeral ceremony was very ritualistic
A song was sung
Scripture was read
Another song was sung
The persons obituary was read
A sermon was preached which was often long and very emotional
A closing prayer was voiced
The body was viewed by the attendees with the family last

V. The burial
The body was taken to the cemetery by a wagon or carried by pallbearers if near the home or church
A short prayer was given by the preacher at the grave site
Hand picked flowers were placed on the coffin prior to internment
As the grave was being covered by neighbors, others gave the family expressions of grief to the family members
Neighbors often visited the family members the same night of the funeral or the next day

VI. The aftermath
The next day all went back to work and life returned to normal
If the widow did not have a family she often faced a difficult time because she was expected to
be in a state of mourning for one year
wear black in public
Not attend "questionable" events such as dances
care for the children and the farm
Often widows remarried as soon as the grieving period was over

VII. Superstitions about death included;
Predictors of death
A window sash falling in the night
Any household noise suggesting the tearing of cloth
The hearing of "death bones" or rattling
Church bells ringing without a cause
The howling of a dog four times while under the front porch
A rooster crowing in the doorway of a house
Any bird coming into the house but particularly an owl
Transplanting of a cedar tree
Superstitions about dying included
It was bad luck to lift a dying person from one bed to another
A sick person thought if he touched a piece of bread to his lips and then gave it to his dog he could detect how serious his condition was depending on whether the dog ate it or not
Death is near if a person begins to smell like crushed pumpkins
Superstitions about preparations after death included
All clocks had to be stopped because if it stops by itself while a dead body is in the house another person will die
All mirrors had to be covered since for a viewer to glimpse his own reflection means they would also die soon
All chairs had to be placed backwards against the wall
The body was never left alone or animals would get it
A relative was to cut a hickory stick the exact length of the body and carry it during the funeral procession
Rainy weather on a funeral day was very good luck
Mourners were to never leave the grave site until the last clod of dirt in replaced
Dead people often left a "Feather Crown" in their pillows if they were of exceptional character or a saintly person


I. Traditional Ozarkers often depended on untrained, self-styled herb doctors for most of their medical needs

Trained doctors were almost nonexistent in the remote Ozarks
Patients had little money to pay for a doctor even if one was available
Ozarkers believed that God had put a natural cure on earth for every illness
Recent discoveries have proven that this alternative medicine were more effective than originally thought
The best known herb doctor of the Ozarks was Dr. Omar Palmer
He was known as the "Wizard of Oto"
He practiced in the Hurley area in the 1930's
He fought the medical establishment
He had a huge following in the Ozarks area

II. Mountain medicine was often in the form of smelly poultices and teas and included
Cold remedies
Horehound candy made into a tea
Skunk oil poultice
Onion poultice
Cherry bark tea
Asthma and hay fever remedies
Summac leaf tea
Chewing bark from the wild plum tree
Stomach distress remedies
Tea made from ground chicken gizzards
Tea made from rattlesnake weed
Chewing of horse mint leaves
Tea made from slippery elm bark
Tea made from the Mandrake plant
Tea made from the inner bark of the white walnut or butternut tree
Epsom salts taken orally
Diarrhea remedies
tea made of the ragwood weed
Tea made of artichokes
Tea made of egg shells
Sprains were treated by a poultice of vinegar and salt
Blood poison was treated by a poultice of prickly pear, beets and sweet milk applied to the area very hot
Snake bite was treated by immersing the bitten area in kerosene or coal oil
Blood diseases could be purified by drinking vast quantities of sassafras tea (which actually tasted good for a change)
Tobacco was widely believed to have medicinal powers
Tobacco smoke could cure an ear ache
Colic was treated by the same method
Poultices made of tobacco were used to treat bites, cuts, stings, bruises, bullet wounds and infected areas
Kerosene and coal oil were the next most often used medicine to tobacco and was used to treat the same afflictions
One of the few "store-bought" remedies was the widely used Castor Oil which was used for virtually every illness





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