Southern Witch: Exploring Pagan Beliefs and Practices in the Rural South

I’m a lifelong southerner. I’m also a witch. I assure you that it’s possible to be both. Paganism is alive and growing here in the land itself and in our folk traditions that have been passed down for generations. This blog explores the unique joys and challenges of being a witch and priestess of the Goddess in the Deep South, a place where the crossroads meet.

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Peas, Collards, and Prosperity Magic

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

All across the South on New Year’s Day, people from all walks of life and all faiths will dine on collard greens and black-eyed peas to bring them luck in the coming year. How can such simple fare be equated with fortune? I was always told that the greens represent currency, and the peas represent coins. Serve it up with some cornbread, and you’ve got some gold represented on your plate, too. 

This traditional New Year’s meal goes back far enough that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when and why it started. All we really know for sure is that eating black-eyed peas with rice is African in origin and spread throughout the South from the Carolinas. How peas and collards became equated with abundance may forever be a mystery. 

I remember my maternal grandmother telling me that if I didn’t eat my greens on New Year’s Day, I wouldn’t be wealthy. She said it with a wink and a nod, of course, but she was also the witchiest woman in my family. If she was keeping a tradition, she had good reasons.  

It was a tough culinary choice for me, because I wasn’t too fond of greens as as child. I’m still not that crazy about collards, to be honest, but I think it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute kale, chard, or any leafy green. I don’t think it matters whether you cook them all day or just have a salad, either. Some restaurants in the South have elevated this meal to gourmet status with all kinds of variations, but most folks just keep it simple. After the rich food and drink of the holidays, it’s a reset button for the system as much as an invitation to luck.    

Looking at this tradition through a witch’s eyes, I see a form of sympathetic magic. It’s based on the Law of Similarity, which states that “like produces like” or effect resembles cause. By working with objects that represent what we desire, we attract what we want. So with this New Year’s meal of peas, collards, and cornbread, we are literally taking in our prosperity and claiming our abundance. We can even add some extra oomph with incantations while we’re cooking. Here’s one I came up with on the fly: 

As I stir my black-eyed peas,
My life is filled with joy and ease.   

I’m not saying that we won’t have to keep visualizing our dreams and working for them, and it’s certainly no guarantee that we’ll win the lottery or come into an inheritance. This kind of magic opens a door, however, because it’s a way of saying, “I’m ready” and “I’m worthy.” What we believe in our hearts ignites change in our lives. I think whoever started this New Year’s tradition knew something about that, and maybe that’s why it continues today.  

If you want to try your hand at this meal, here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Classic Southern Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas

Collard Greens with Black-Eyed Peas - Vegetarian 

Peace, Blessings, and Prosperity to you in the coming year! 

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Jen is a pagan blogger, poet, Reiki practitioner, and aspiring massage therapist. Her passion is exploring and celebrating the Divine Feminine through art, shamanic ritual, and intuitive readings.


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