The Bible along with an almanac were likely the only two books in the hillman’s cabin. The Bible was not only for keeping record of births, deaths, and family affairs, but also contained powerful healing verses for those in the know. Connected to certain marriage divinations. Used as a physical talisman against witchcraft, nightmares, etc.


Blood stopping (see entry on Blood Stopping) – “There used to be a woman at West Plains, Missouri, who had a great reputation as a ‘blood stopper.’ A wounded man was brought to her home in a wagon. The whole wagon bed seemed to be covered with blood, and the man’s friends were unable to stop the bleeding from two deep knife cuts. The woman looked at the patient, then walked out to the barn alone, with a Bible under her arm. In about three minutes the bleeding stopped, and the healer returned to her house.” ~Randolph OMF 122

Love divination – “To find out if her sweetheart loves her, a girl hangs a Bible up with a string and repeats aloud: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go. Where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, thy God my God.’ Then she shouts the name of her boy friend Jim or Bill or Alec or whatever it is. If the Bible turns on the string so that the edge points toward the speaker, it is a sign that the boy loves her. Some say it means that they will marry.” ~Randolph OMF 178

“If you tie one end of a cord around a Bible and the other around a key, you can tell the person’s initials whom you’re going to marry. You hold the key, letting the Bible revolve and each time it goes around once is a letter, A, B, C, etc. When it stops that letter is the person’s initial.” ~Parler FBA VII 7275

Marriage divination – “Down south of Hot Springs, Arkansas, they tell me that a girl goes out in the woods after a rain and ‘repeats a verse’ meaning a passage from the Bible. Then she reaches behind her without looking and lifts up a flat stone. Under the stone she’ll find a hair, and it will be the same color as that of the man she is destined to marry.” ~Randolph OMF 174

“Read the third verse, second chapter of Hosea, Micah, and Amos for three days and the next day you’ll see your future husband.” ~Parler FBA VII 7161

Fortune telling – “Many hillfolk tell fortunes and predict marriages by means of certain quotations from the Bible. For example, the twenty-first and thirty-first chapters of Proverbs have thirty-one verses each. Chapter 21 is man’s birthday chapter; chapter 31 is woman’s birthday chapter. A boy looks up his proper verse in the man’s chapter, according to the date of his birth. A man born on the twenty-third of any month, for example, reads Proverbs 21:23 the content of this verse is supposed to be especially significant to him.” ~Randolph OMF 184

“If you wish to know if something will happen, pick up the Bible in both hands and let it fall open where it will. If the verse, ‘and it shall come to pass,’ is on the open pages, what you have in mind will happen.” ~Parler FBA V 5968

Telling a child’s future – “There are several methods of predicting what a child’s future life is to be. One of the commonest is to offer a boy baby a bottle, a Bible, and a coin. If he grasps the bottle first, he will be a drunkard; if the Bible, a preacher, or at least a religious man; while if he chooses the coin, he will engage in some mercantile pursuit.” ~Randolph OMF 207

Under pillow for nightmares – “A Bible under the pillow will cure nightmares.” ~Parler FBA IX 8466

To “split” a storm – “If a storm is coming up, you are supposed to ‘split’ the Bible and you split the cloud.” ~Parler FBA XI 9706


Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)