The incredibly tough and resilient people who first settled the Appalachian Mountains crested the Blue Ridge with a Bible in one hand and rifle in the other. The dark and virgin forests of what would become western Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, were mysterious, deadly and filled with things that would remain unexplainable for generations to come.
Bringing with them many myths from the Old World, it should come as no surprise that the hill folk of Appalachia quickly established a culture steeped in a blend of superstitious witchcraft combined with elements of Christianity and Old Testament theology: The result is a unique faith that is complete with its own set of customs and beliefs that have been passed down for multiple generations.
Of all the many homogenous elements of Appalachian superstition and custom is the belief in a mysterious “Blood Verse” from the Old Testament of the King James Version Bible.
To the average reader, Ezekiel 16.6 is believed to be the words of God to the abominable people of Jerusalem, in which He calls out the depravity of their sin:
And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. — Ezekiel 16:6
However, for centuries in the hills of Appalachia as well as in the Ozark Mountains, this one verse has been so much more — it’s not seen simply as a Bible verse, but viewed almost like a magical spell that is believed to stop hemorrhaging on animals and humans alike, the moment it is recited out loud three times, followed by the patient’s name.
According to commonly held superstition, once the verse has been recited three times and the person’s name is mentioned, the blood is immediately stopped; regardless of the person reciting the verse.
The belief has been well documented both online and in decades of books.
One woman recalled the practice in Vance Randolph’s 1947 history, Ozark Magic & Folklore, stating, “My daddy always kept that chapter at hand so he could find it right quick. He would read it if we cut ourselves dangerous and the great God of Israel would stop the bleeding. There is no ‘charm’ about this stopping blood, it is God’s own words.”
Interestingly, few religious topics are as controversial in Appalachia, as this one, with legions of folks lining up on both sides. Scores of people say they thoroughly believe in the Bible verse’s power to stop blood, with many even giving an account of having seen it successfully performed decades prior.
On the other hand, opponents argue that the context of the Scripture is solely limited to God criticizing His faithless bride, Jerusalem, which was redeemed by Him and entered into a covenant with Him, but sadly broke this covenant. “Nowhere in the text,” they say, “is the intention to heal nosebleeds ever mentioned, nor any formula for invoking said healing given.” Some even say that to do so reduces God to a genie in a bottle and this Holy Scripture to a demonic witch spell.
Though long forgotten by many, it seems this controversial verse still has the power to evoke strong feelings in the mountains of Appalachia. Regardless of your feelings concerning this verse’s intention or power, it remains an important part of Appalachian folklore and practice.
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