Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is a Rootworker (aka Granny Witch)?

A Rootworker is one who practices a form of American Folk Magic. It is a mystical art founded in botanical knowledge passed on through the family, but it may also be practiced by solitaries. The goal of rootwork is to allow people access to spiritual forces to influence their daily lives. Rootwork is an informal system that draws its influences from Appalachian, traditional African (former slave) practices (depending of geographical location), Native American folklore, and some elements of Christian, Jewish and European (Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and German) folk practices. It is not a religion and it is not to be confused with Voodoo. Other names used include Granny Woman, Granny Witch, Granny, Auntie, Uncle, Witch Doctor, Two-Headed Doctor, Two-Headed Conjurer. 

The practice of Appalachian Granny Magic, or Rootwork, while very old, dating back to the first settlers of the Appalachian Mountains who brought their practices from the Old World and then incorporated aspects learned from the Natives, has only recently become more known. Mainly due to the internet and those who grew up learning this tradition began sharing with others outside their close knit community.

The Rootworker is a wise woman/man, water witch, healer, midwife, herbalist, naturist, family historian, folklore and traditions archive. S/he was a wealth of knowledge of both the esoteric and the mundane.

During the 18th century European immigrants brought their traditions with them from their native lands, which then were blended over time with those of the Tsalagi (Cherokee) Indians. The combined traditions formed a complete earth-based system that was passed on from generation to generation. The main belief of this system is that Nature is sacred. The Rootworker or Granny respects and reveres Nature, however they do not worship it. Mother Nature is relied upon for the fertility of the crops to harvest, the livestock to procreate, and the families and community to prosper. Mother Nature, Jack Frost, Father Winter, Faeries, and Leprechauns, among other deities are still believed in. The Rootworker observes the solstices and equinoxes, seeing the changing seasons as part of a whole, and may observe the Sabbats.

Working with and calling upon spirits is also a common place practice. "Haints" are feared because they are troublesome spirits, not like the ancestral spirits. A common practice to keep haints away, and out of the home, is to paint the porch roof "haint blue". 

Forms of divination such as reading cards, tea leaves, and coffee grounds, scrying the dirt, sand, and water, among others, may also be a common practice. There are many who also read Tarot or do Bone Throw Readings.

The Rootworker is a very down-to-earth, eclectic, and informal solitary practitioner. The tools used and the rituals performed are simple and to the point. Nothing fancy. Why would it be? They're a simple people who live simply. Nature is simple beauty, we can do nothing to enhance it only work within it to bring about that which we need and want.

While I was not born into a family of Rootworkers, I knew the term "Granny Witch" when I was a kid and wanted to be one. Something about it drew me in. It felt familiar. I just didn't know how to go about it. As I got older I began my Path consciously, only to find out that much of what I'd already been doing most of my life was already headed in that direction. So, I am now fully on my life's Path and I strive to learn more and more everyday.


  1. Thanks for the article - learning a lot!

    1. :) Thank you, I'm very glad to hear it. If we don't have sources to learn from, then we flounder along. And while I am fully in support in learning by oneself and instinctively (as I had to), there is much to be said in having a network from which to draw and learn from.

  2. What does it mean when candle wax is standing while burning down. Red candle

  3. Red candles are fast-action candles, good for works to bring something to you fast that is needed fast, such as money to pay a bill. But red candles are NOT good for anything involving love or long-term relationships.

    The standing wax is an indicator of obstacles in the way, which doesn't surprise me in relation to a red candle. You're asking for something quickly that should go at a much slower pace - thus the obstacles; meaning, 'slow down' and 'back off'. If you don't, eventually (if not already) there will be a wall there and you will be stopped completely.

  4. Granny Thackett, will you email me please