Shared by Tina Whittle
As a woman with her roots firmly in the red clay of the South, I turn my ear to any voice that sounds like home. Sara Amis writes with such a voice. I am the daughter of a healer, and the granddaughter of a fire talker, so I know the people of whom she writes in her most recent blog post, “Poison in the Heart of the World” (you can read the entire piece on No Unsacred Place, a blog she shares with several other writers through the Pagan Newswire Collective).
Here is an excerpt from that piece, a rumination on magic and medicine and mountains that reveals, with grace and unwavering precision, exactly what we stand to lose if we can’t protect West Virginia’s land and people from environmental destruction. As Amis notes, “This is not just a story about Appalachia, you understand. This is a story about everywhere.”
There is magic there, in those mountains. Inherent in the woods and hollows, tumbling down the mountain sides, rising up like mist, but also in the people: their songs and stories and ways, their yarbs and praying rocks, their burn-talking, water-dowsing, blood-stopping charms. Things get remembered there that other people forget, until one day somebody wonders where that Child ballad or old-timey cure went and comes looking to find it, kept safe in the memory of the mountain and its folk. It is not a coincidence that Faery, the most well-known “home grown American strain of religious witchcraft” as Ronald Hutton called it, has its roots in Appalachia. If you have any love of such things, know that the tributaries of your knowledge have springheads in those hills.
The magic cannot be separated from the land. You can put the knowledge in a book, perhaps, but that does not preserve it; once everything is gone but the dry pages, they only point to what is lost. Magic is alive, as the mountains are alive, as we are alive. One of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth cloaks those mountains like a mantle woven from a million colors. Richness, true wealth, in the living breathing threads, wealth we barely comprehend because it seems so ordinary, precious beyond anything else we know or could tell. Like the old ballads, we remain ignorant of its value, perhaps, until it is lost…except when a thing is finally gone from these mountains, the oldest in the world, it is gone forever.