Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Birds

Owl

Owl guts over the doorway – “A man in Fort Smith, Arkansas, told me that his father placed the entrails of a big horned owl over the door, to keep witches away.” ~Randolph OMF 284

Owl gizzard worn for luck – “…Otto Ernest Rayburn tells of a man on trial for hog-stealing who wore ‘the dried gizzard of a hoot-owl tied round his neck for good luck.’” ~Randolph OMF 284

Owl broth for whooping cough – “Give children Owl broth for the whooping cough. Many years ago broth was made from cooking an owl (like you would a chicken) and then give the broth made from cooking the owl to children who had the whooping cough. Then the children would get better and not cough so much.” ~Parler FBA III 3861

Sign of bad luck – “If you are out walking and head an owl hoot, it is bad luck and you should go home.” ~Parler FBA VI 6473

Death omen – “If a screech owl hollows near the house at night, there will be a death in the family.” ~Parler FBA VIII 8144

Taking the “cuss” off – “How to keep a screetch owl from screetching: Tie a knot in the right hand corner of the bed sheet. It will kill the screetch owl by choking him to death.” ~Parler FBA VIII 8148

“If you hear a screech owl at night, get up and turn a chair over; otherwise there will be a death in the family.” ~Parler FBA VIII 8149

“If you hear a screech owl hollow outside of your house, it means death to someone in your family; but if you lay a broom on your doorstep, he will leave and death will be prevented.” ~Parler FBA VIII 8150

“If a screech owl disturbs your sleep at night, get up and take a broom and lay it across the open doorway along the threshold, and the owl wouldn’t bother your sleep anymore.” ~Parler FBA XII 9991

“Stick a shovel in the fire to stop the screech owl’s holler.” ~Parler FBA XII 9997

“If a screech owl hollers in the daytime, it is bad luck and if girls and ladies tie knots in their dress tails or apron tails, it will ward off the evil.” ~Parler FBA XII 10020

“Tying a knot in a pillow slip corner will make a screech owl stop screeching.” ~Parler FBA XII 10023

Beak good luck – “John Claborn carried an owl’s bill for good luck.” ~Parler FBA IX 8772

Turkey

Turkey bones hidden to attract love – “Many a mountain girl conceals dried turkey bones about the room in which she meets her lover, or even secretes them in her clothing, in the belief that they will render him more amorous. I once heard some village loafers ‘greening’ a young chap because some turkey bones had been found behind the cushions of his Ford, the supposition being that they had been placed there by women who had ridden with him.” ~Randolph OMF 167

Turkey beard carried to attract love – “Mountain girls sometimes carry the beard of a wild turkey gobbler concealed about their clothing. Rose O’Neill, of Day, Missouri, asked a neighbor about this once and was told that ‘we use it to clean the comb with.’ Probably the gobbler’s beard does make a satisfactory comb cleaner, but there is no doubt whatever that some backwoods damsels regard it as a love charm.” ~Randolph OMF 167

Goose

Wild goose foot powdered and fed to lover – “The boys in northwestern Arkansas make a love medicine from the web of a wild gander’s foot, dried and reduced to powder. Put a pinch of this in a girl’s coffee, and she will not only fall in love with you at once but will be faithful to you as long as she lives. This is somehow connected, in the hillman’s mind, with the belief that wild geese mate but once.” ~Randolph OMF 168

“Love powder is made from the web of a wild gander’s foot.” ~Parler FBA VII 7046

Dove

Dove’s tongue hidden as love charm – “In some localities it is said that a man hides the dried tongue of a turtle dove in a girl’s cabin this makes her fall madly in love with him, and she can’t deny him anything. I was told of a case in which a girl’s superstitious parents searched the cabin for days, trying to find the tongue which they believed must be hidden there. The neighbors laughed about this, and the girl herself said that turtle doves’ tongues had nothing to do with the case, but the parents still believed the old story. They never did find the dove’s tongue, however.” ~Randolph OMF 169

“Dried tongues of turtle doves are used as love charms. A girl who has been charmed is unable to deny her lover anything.” ~Parler FBA VII 7041

Dove on chest for pneumonia – “If you place a dead dove on the chest of someone who has pneumonia, he will have a prompt recovery.” ~Parler FBA III 2874

Sign of travel – “The person hearing the call of the first turtle dove in the Spring, is a sign meaning that he is apt to go on a journey in the direction from which he heard the call.” ~Parler FBA VI 6646

Woodpecker

Parts of the great pileated woodpecker used in magic – “This bird is supposed to have some supernatural powers, and I am told that various portions of its body are highly prized by witches and goomer doctors.” ~Randolph OMF 249

Used to cure pain – “Get the brains from a Good God bird (Pileated woodpecker) while still warm and use to ease pain. Then cook the bird and eat it.” ~Parler FBA 1341

Pileated woodpecker good luck – “Seeing a ‘Good-God’ is good luck. A Good-God is a rather rare species of bird (Pileated woodpecker). It is about the size of a crow and is colored exactly like a red-headed woodpecker.” ~Parler FBA XII 9978

Redbird

Ill omen – “Various sorts of birds are believed to carry warnings. A woman in my neighborhood whipped her grown daughters un- mercifully, until one day ‘the redbirds come an’ ha’nted her’ by tapping on the windowpane, which gave the woman a terrible fright and caused her to mend her ways. Another of my mountaineer friends was greatly disturbed when a ‘rooster redbird’ hovered about his door; he said that it was a warning of death, and sure enough, one of his daughters died within a few weeks.” ~Randolph OMF 245

To bring in money – “If you need money and see a redbird that’s flying, say, ‘Money before the week’s out,’ and you’ll get it.” ~Parler FBA V 5881

Sign of visitor – “If a red bird flies across your path, you will see someone unexpected.” ~Parler FBA VI 6713

For a wish – “Make a wish on a redbird. If you can guess the direction he flies, your wish will come true.” ~Parler FBA XV 11421

Eagle

Eagle stone for fidelity – “An eagle stone, taken from a bird while still alive, will keep one’s mate faithful.” ~Parler FBA VII 7052

Claw is good luck – “It’s good luck to wear an eagle’s claw around your neck.” ~Parler FBA IX 8767

Blue Jays

Associated with the Devil – “Jaybirds go to Hell on Friday.” ~Parler FBA XII 9987

“All jay birds spend Friday in Hell.” ~Parler FBA XII 9988

“You never see a jaybird on Friday because on Friday they are busy carrying sticks to the devil to help him build his fires. If you put your ear close to the ground, you can hear them working.” ~Parler FBA XII 9989

Crows

To cause rain – “Kill a crow and hang it up, and it will rain within three days.” ~Parler FBA XI 9581

Misc.

Death signs – “If someone dies and a big bird like a crow or hawk flies over the house the bird carries the soul to Hell; but if a small bird like a Robbin etc. flies over, it carries the soul to Heaven; and if no bird at all flies over the house, the soul is doomed to float around anywhere through eternity.” ~Parler FBA VIII 8133


Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

Source: Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Birds

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