This is me being really, really prompt 🙂
Well, folks, we had LOTS of fun at Sunday School this week!
In attendance: J. R., Katy Kaminsky, Maryam Rasoulian, myself, and a new friend, Emily Lysyk.
Like many families, Katy’s has a tradition of passing the family Bible from generation to generation. She wonders if it’s a way of “working the family mojo.”
She learned how to use Psalms from Cora Anderson. Learned to use the 23rd Psalm; got a candle with Psalm 23 printed on it and used it. Cora was shocked to hear that, because “that’s the death psalm.” She didn’t explain why: Because it’s used in funerals? Because of the line about “walking throught the valley of the shadow of death?” Katy (and the rest of us) just don’t know.
Psalm 23, of course, is one of the most frequently used psalms in spiritual work; it pretty much covers everything. Maryam, however, thought Psalm 109 was a better “death psalm,” which led J. to the subject of Imprecatory Psalms. Psalm 109 is such a clearly limned portrait of the evil heart that we decided it would be a powerful weapon against the truth-free political craziness that is going on lately.
Emily once called down a heart attack on the abusive stepfather of a friend; she wanted him – not to die, but to be more appreciative of life and family. It worked – for three months. As Miss Cat says, you can’t change people’s core nature.
Returning to Cora Anderson, though – she was always attached to the Bible. When she was very young, her uncle let her choose any gift she wanted from a mail-order catalog; she decided on a Bible of her very own. Now, Cora married Victor Anderson, founder of the Feri tradition, and took over its leadership when she died. And she was proud to be a Baptist to the end of her life. She lived to the age of 93 and died only last year.
Emily’s family has a family psalter, hard bound. Used to have old-style family Bible.
J. recalls some Irish Traveller traditions from old family letters. Many Travellers breed dogs & are concerned to keep them safe, prevent theft. They passed on advice to read Psalm 23 when putting dogs to bed, and to keep a Bible, or at least a Bible verse, where the dogs live to prevent hag-riding. He also learned a lot about bibliomancy from his grandmother and great-grandmother.
Travellers, by the way, are not Romany and don’t take kindly to being called “gypsies.” There is a Wikipedia article on them that looks not-sucky.
We also spent quite a bit of time on Harry Middleton Hyatt’s Folklore of Adams County, Illinois. Quite a number of Bible spells scattered throughout this book. You’ll note that most of them use the Bible itself as a charm, like the Travellers do, or as part of a divination “kit,” as when an infant is given a Bible and two other objects to choose from.
One of the spells – “A mother may open a Bible at random, drop into it her baby’s first louse, and close the book; the verse on which the louse was mashed will tell what is going to happen to the baby” – made us over-sanitized Americans laugh; but also prompted Maryam to ask: “Can you curse your enemies with lice? Spanish Moss, in the South, has redbugs in it, and you have to make sure you don’t catch chiggers when you use it. You’d have to make a dollbaby and stuff it with Spanish Moss, making sure it has dead redbugs in it.”
As the hour drew to a close, J. asked if he had ever seen a mojo bag that contained an entire miniature New Testament. I make them myself – I call them Triple Strength Bible Hands, and thought for sure I had invented them, but J. has seen some made by other people. I suppose great minds think alike.
On that note, we did not actually come up with a topic for next week, but I have lots of material that we didn’t get around to – so:
Next Week: The Bible in Magic and Divination, continued.