Fingernails have long been used in folk traditions for both healing and magical purposes. The fingernail, much like hair which is often used in a similar way, is a symbolic connection between the healer and the patient. Through the manipulation of the fingernail the patient is thereby manipulated as well, for good or bad depending upon the healer. Because of this symbolic connection there are many warnings regarding fingernails. For instance, many people will flush fingernail clippings down the toilet, or burn them, so that enemies won’t find them and use them as a way to put a hex on that person. Here are a few more common uses for fingernails in Ozark folk magic:


To attract a man’s love – “Whiskey in which her fingernail trimmings have been soaked is said to have a very similar effect.” ~Randolph OMF 166


“Fixing” fingernails to make lover visit – “By cleaning her fingernails on Saturday, and muttering a mysterious old sayin’ at the same time, a girl can force her lover to visit her on Sunday. When a boy says ‘my gal fixed her fingernails yesterday,’ he means that he is going to see her and implies that he does so rather reluctantly.” ~Randolph OMF 168


Hair and fingernails used to summon a future husband – “Some hillfolk say that a girl can call up a phantom of the man she is to marry by wrapping a lock of hair with some of her fingernail clippings in a green leaf and thrusting them into the ashes in the fireplace. Then she sits down before the fire. When the hair and fingernails begin to get warm, the ghostly appearance of her future husband is supposed to rescue them from the fire. Sometimes several girls try this at once. The door must be left open, and everyone must maintain absolute silence.” ~Randolph OMF 177


Biting baby’s fingernails – “Always bite the baby’s finger nails off the first time instead of cutting them. Then the baby will become rich.” ~Parler FBA V 5744


Sources:

Parler, Mary Celestia – Folk Beliefs of Arkansas
Randolph, Vance – Ozark Magic and Folklore