I love hearing about and experiencing people’s family traditions and folk magick. I don’t mean it in the ritualistic or religious sense, just the small, everyday things. I think it’s largely because, growing up, I didn’t really have any at home– there were no family traditions with magickal underpinnings, the words “I’m not superstitious but” were never spoken. When I was in my mother’s house, nearly everything was “You need to read the Bible more” instead.
It’s particularly sad for me because I love genealogy. I’m a pastiche of people from literally every corner of the world, and the idea that all of their folk magick has been either lost or smothered under “Just read the Bible more” is a little heartbreaking for me. How many traditions ended up lost?
I’m lucky that not every family is like mine, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting some awesome people and experiencing some awesome things despite that kind of upbringing. I vividly remember shawl dancing at pow-wows when I was little more than a toddler, and how we used sage before entering the circle and sweetgrass on the tables of goods we sold. (And, when I went home at the end of the weekend and talked to my mom, I learned to keep things to myself after she called my dad and ranted and raved about him “doing weird Indian crap” to me.)
I even still miss my ex’s family from when I lived in California. They lived in a beautiful old farmhouse that’s been in the family for generations, overlooking a pomegranate orchard, olive trees, persimmons, and figs. My ex gave me a large piece of obsidian, his mom told me about keeping it near the door for protection. She also told me about visiting her grandchildren in the nursery, piece of red coral in hand, and explaining to the nurse that “It’s an Italian thing.”
I also remember staying with a host family in Sweden when my grandparents paid for me to be part of my middle school’s student exchange program. The day before I left, the mother of the family gave me a button made of smoothly-polished Baltic amber. “You sew it into the inside of your jacket,” she explained, “to keep you safe when you travel.”
Like many others like me, I have a pretty solid background in the workings of ritual magick and everyday practice. I’ve also built up a pretty considerable store of the kind of knowledge magickal books and guides can’t tell you, just from working with things. Herbal baths, anointing candles, carrying the right stones or herbs are all things I know. Even if my magickal “education” is sufficient, there are some lacks that it can’t make up for. Over time, I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted bits of folk magick– an obsidian stone here, an amber button there– that have helped fill in what has always felt like a little hole in my heart since childhood.
Do you have any family traditions like these? Have you ever experienced them from another family as an outsider?