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chomi congratulating dongwoo on his win

Appalachian Witch Initiation

An excerpt taken from Hubert J. Davis’ The Silver Bullet, and Other American Witch Stories

"Liz then said, "This is whut the Devil wants the most: promise you won’t never preach no more, nor go to a ‘ligious meetin. Then effen you git to be a witch, promise to do ennything you can to keep your pappy frum preachin’ agin witches. Now, hit ain’t a goin’ to be easy, and I ‘low you mought have to try more’n onct afore you git in. Whatever happens, you have to foller ‘structions zactly."

Jonas promised, “Yep, Liz. I’ll do zactly whut I’m told to do.”

So, following instructions, at midnight he sneaked into his father’s field and stole one of the black rams. He killed it and cut off its left horn, hiding the rest of the carcass in the woods.

The next day being Sunday, he got a boy to steal a silver coin out of the collection plate of his father’s church. He melted down the coin and made it into a silver bullet, which he put to soak in toad’s blood. He also went to Gladeville where he bought a pewter plate. Next, he scoured the hills until he found a spring whose stream flowed directly east.

He then waited until Friday the thirteenth and returned to the spring as the morning turned gray over the ridge. He dipped some water from the spring with his ram’s horn and poured it over the pewter plate. He did this seven times and repeated the verses Liz had taught him:

As I dip the water with a ram’s horn,
Cast me cruel with a heart of thorn,
As I now the Devil do my soul lease.

I renounce Christ as my Savior,
And promise the Devil my behavior
‘Til my life on earth will cease.

May my black and evil soul be
Of Christian love and grace free
As this plate is of grease.

And effen I become an evil crone
From my outer skin to inner bone,
I’ll never given any Christian peace.

Rain and shine, for eight mornings, Jonas came to the spring and repeated this ritual. On the ninth morning, he was supposed to become a witch and he took his gun and the silver bullet with him. He shot the bullet toward the sun as it came up over the ridge. They had told him that if the sun looked as if it were dripping blood as it came up, then he would be a witch. Jonas thought it did, and started home.

He had also been told that if he had become a witch, he would find a toad waiting for him when he got home which would be his familiar spirit or “imp.” But, there was no toad near the door, look as he might. This meant he hadn’t passed, and he’d have to do this all over again the next Friday the thirteenth.

The second time, there was till no familiar waiting, either. But Jonas was stubborn, and he tried a third time before he became a conjure man. This took him two full years, but he said it was worth the time and trouble. Liz told him that it took so long because of the preachers in his family.”

Collected by James Taylor Adams, Big Laurel, Wise County, Virginia, May 17, 1939. Told to him by his grandfather, Spencer Adams. It was Spencer Adam’s son, James Taylor’s uncle, who became the witch. Spencer Adams, his father, and his grandfather were all hardshell Baptist Preachers.

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