There was a time before modern medicine.

And also prescription drugs.

When healing happened at the local level, courtesy of granny witches.

That was especially true in the rural, isolated areas of the Appalachian Mountains.

In times before hospitals and modern medicine they were who others turned to for medicine and healing.

Granny witches lived deep in the mountains of West Virginia, and the other states that make up Appalachia.

Their origins go back to the 1700s.

They began as Scottish and Irish settlers who continued to practice their European witchcraft traditions after settling in the United States.

It was a blending of the two worlds as they became familiar with Cherokee Indian practices

A new tradition was born.

They called themselves water witches or witch doctors.

It depended on each woman’s special gifts.

Some were more gifted in healing, midwifery or even magic.



They practiced fae, dowsing, healing, song and dance. Granny witches were often called upon to heal a sick child, deliver a baby or help with the dying. Often they were the only healers available in secluded areas.

But their talents were used in other ways too.

The local granny witch might also be called to help dowse for water due to her closeness with the Earth. Their old world witchcraft was passed down from generation to generation, and wasn’t shared outside of the family circle.



Granny witches are famous for their expertise in herbs, and used nature to heal many ailments.

They understood the healing powers of bark, herbs, roots and other plants.

Money was not accepted for their healing work.

Other offerings, including deer meat, chicken eggs, handmade baskets and quilts, were the day’s currency.

From the 1700s to early 1900s, granny witches were plentiful, but are a rare breed today.

Some are still working hard to preserve their traditions and magic, long after having taken a backseat to modern medicine and technology.

Anna Wess, an award-winning essayist and storyteller, was raised in a family whose roots run deep in the world of magic.



She believes that her family may be the last of the granny witches.

“We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from,

We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.

There once was many more of us, back in the old days when it seemed like God was sleeping somewhere over on the mountain. And the old ones ruled the land and fended for themselves.

But that time has long gone. We must work harder to preserve our magic, for it is fading into the background noise of technology and naysayers and law men that tell us we are common simple folk and feed us pills and poverty to quiet us.

I fear that we are truly the last of the granny witches, the last tellers of tales, and that will be the end of our magic.”

Anna Wess writing about her family in her essay, “The Last of the Granny Witches”