Mary Ann Miles
I spent a couple of years in the Southern States where I was exposed to my grandmother's culture. My grandmother was extremely superstitious.
They had extremely dangerous electrical storm in the Southern States, like you've never seen out here. Grandmother would say, "God is talking and we are listening. God is displeased with what man had done so that is why he sent the storm." You just stopped working; it was God speaking and he was angry. So you stay and read your Bible; you didn't run any water and you didn't use any cutlery, like knives or forks, because those were conductors and that was the devil working. If you had something like that in your hands and was struck by lightening - that was the devil. We were kind of afraid; and until this day I'm afraid of lightning. I still don't move when there's an electrical storm - which is hard when I have a job to do. I don't run water, I don't run electrical appliances, the radio is off and the TV is off during a storm.
My Grandmother didn't change; she just remained superstitious. She wouldn't let a man into the house before midday because that was bad luck. If a person came to see her that she had funny feelings about, or didn't trust, she shook salt on the steps and just swept it off - sweeping all the bad feelings with it. The same if you spill salt - you'd throw some over your left shoulder to prevent back luck. If you drop a knife, that means a man is coming to visit. If you drop a fork she would say, "Oh my goodness, a strange woman is coming to my house." It would happen and she would say, "You remember when I dropped that fork." She had many, many superstitions. When you had a long thread on you, that meant you would be getting a long letter; a short thread, a short letter. It was bad luck to loan a friend scissors or a knife; it's still considered bad luck. It was back luck for you, the lender, or something very bad would happen to your friendship. If our neighbour wanted to borrow a sharp knife or scissors, we never loaned it unless we put a copper penny on top - that meant our friendship would continue. When you visit someone for the first time you always carried something sweet, like jam, because you wished them happiness; or you carried a knife with a penny on it.
There were certain herbs grandmother made as medicine. She would take herbs and boil them down and take the juices. If a person had cramps - menstrual cramps - or other complaints or diseases, she knew which herbs would cure the ailment. If you had a headache, she folded an old rag and before tying it around you head she'd take some smudge from the stove and make a mark between your eyes. If you were in the wind and something got into your eye, you put a flax seed in your eye at night. Then in the morning, what was in your eye would be on the seed and you'd take the seed out. People didn't rush off and stitch themselves up if they were cut; they just held their cut under cold water. They'd hold the cut together themselves and wrap it with a piece of muslin.
My grandmother was a midwife and she delivered many, many children. By positioning her hands on your stomach she could almost tell you, to the day, when you were going to have that baby. When I was pregnant she held a threaded needle over my stomach - if the needle goes back and forth it's a girl; if it spins around, it's a boy. She was right with all three of my children. One time she delivered twins - the needle indicated there were two. She always knew; she was fantastic. She was a great lady.
Excerpted from Window of Our Memories.Reprinted with the kind permission of Velma Carter.
- Excerpts from The Window of our Memories:
- The Edmonton Capital: The Petition
- The Edmonton Bulletin: Party of 42 Negroes Coming From Oklahoma
- Articles reprinted from Legacy Magazine:
- Amber Valley