Using the Psalms
In folk magic traditions across North Carolina, Psalms are recited to ward off illness, protect against evil, to cure illness, and as many other uses as there are psalms. This is a tradition present both in Appalachian and African-American traditions, and it's one of the few folk magic practices that we have a good idea of how it came to be.
The practice of reciting psalms for protection from disease, evil, or injury derives from Medieval Jewish tradition. Much of Jewish folk magic is focused on the power of words and speaking, and by the Fourteenth century assigning specific psalms to specific troubles was common in the wold of Yiddish-speaking Europe. Manuscript lists of which psalm was to be recited for what reason were widely circulated across Europe, and one of these lists was committed to print, in Hebrew, in Sabbioneta in Northern Italy in 1551 as the Sefer Shimmush Tehillim — The Book of the Uses of Psalms.
The early days of printing saw a mad rush of demand, so much that it in some ways outpaced what had so far been written in any given language, so it was also a golden age of translation. Like any other publishing rush, some genres were more popular than others. In the Early modern period, there was also a huge demand for books on "Natural Philosophy", a category which embraced not only philosophy, but what we would nw call both magic and science.
The European Jewish community as uniquely positioned as a source for material in this rush. Literacy was a religious obligation for Jewish men, and manuscript texts of the sort of books which were now in high demand in the larger culture, like the Sefer Shimmush Tehillim, were readily available. A substantial portion of the community would also have been multilingual, speaking not only Hebrew and Yiddish, but also the vernacular language of wherever they resided. Books of Jewish mysticism and folk magic in translation begin to be printed and to circulate around Europe.
Using Psalms magically strikes a particular chord in Germany, where the lists of Psalms and their uses was translated, Christianized, and widely circulated to the point where, by the 18th Century, it's a deeply embedded part of German folk magic traditions. German settlers bring this tradition to America. Paths of German immigration into North Carolina bring this tradition into the state from the Palatinate settlements in Eastern North Carolina, and into the West from down along the Appalachians from Pennsylvania. Soon, English-language versions of when to recite each Psalm are circulating across the state and across the country, sometimes accompanied by additional prayers or actions to be done to give the magic an extra boost.
The list below is adapted from several of these sources.
For the protection of pregnant women from premature delivery or dangerous confinement.
For protection from a storm at sea.
To cure severe headaches and backaches.
To cure bad luck.
To gain favor with magistrates or princes.
To cure diseases of the eye.
To protect against evil persons conspiring against you.
To secure good will in business transactions.
To cure male children in bad health when no medicines are available.
To rid yourself of evil spirits.
To protect yourself from persecution.
To protect yourself from unnatural death or injury.
Also to protect yourself from unnatural death or injury.
To protect yourself from slander.
To protect yourself from insanity or melancholy.
To uncover the name of a thief, and to transform sorrow into joy.
To protect yourself from evil throughout the day.
To protect yourself from robbers.
To protect yourself during childbirth.
To gain favor in a court of law.
To calm a storm at sea.
To protect yourself from misfortune when traveling.
Recite this Psalm to receive enlightenment about a decision or problem in the form of a dream.
To protect yourself from floods.
Also effective against floods.
To protect yourself against imminent danger, and to avoid imprisonment.
To be accepted kindly in a strange city.
To be reconciled with an enemy.
To cast out evil spirits.
To protect yourself from evil occurrences.
To escape slander and evil tongues.
To receive grace, love and mercy.
To protect against the death of children at birth.
To gain favor from someone in authourity.
To be successful in a lawsuit.
To protect against libel.
To cure drunkenness, recite this psalm over a pitcher of water and pour it on the head of the afflicted.
To protect against false arrest. Said with Psalm 39
Also to protect against false arrest, when said with Psalm 38.
Recite daily to free yourself from an evil spirit.
If you lose income or are deprived of credit, say this Psalm along with Psalms 42 and 43, three times a day for three consecutive days..
To be safe from your enemies.
To make peace between a man and wife. Said with Psalm 46.
To make peace between a man and wife. Said with Psalm 45.
To be loved and respected
If you have many enemies without cause, recite this Psalm frequently to be free of them.
If someone in your family has an incurable fever, write this Psalm along with the first six verses of Palm 50 on parchment and hang it around their neck..
To relieve a guilty conscience.
Recite this Psalm daily if you are the victim of frequent slander.
Said to protect yourself from enemies who have harmed you, used along with the next two Psalms.
Said with Plasm 53 to protect yourself from enemies and to get revenge upon them.
Said with Psalms 53 an 54 to protect yourself from enemies, gain revenge on them, and get back at them with evil for evil.
To free yourself from bonds of passion and sensuality.
Recite this Psalm daily if you are the victim of frequent slander.
To protect yourself from attack from a vicious dog
Pray daily for three days in a row to stop yourself from wanting to do evil.
To be said for protection by a soldier about to go into battle.
To bring good fortune when moving into a new home.
To be pardoned for sinning.
To be said if you suspect your business partners are taking advantage of you.
Recite this Psalm for a calm and prosperous sea voyage.
To bring success and good fortune.
Write this Psalm on parchment and hang it around the neck of someone who is possessed by an evil spirit.
To be recited in case of a severe fever or imprisonment.
To curse someone possessed of an evil spirt, recite this Psalm over a vessel of water on which the sun has never shone and then bathe them completely with that water. See also Psalm 101.
For libertines and others enslaved to sensuality, recite this Psalm every morning over water and then drink it.
Recite this to conquer your enemies.
Recite this Psalm seven times daily to be released from prison.
Wear this Psalm around your neck to gain favor from a powerful person.
For protection while traveling in a foreign land.
To defeat your enemies and brig them to terrible ends.
For forgiveness of sins.
For protection against fire and water.
For protection against poverty.
To gain the favor of those in high positions.
Pray this Psalm often to bring down your enemies.
When said with Psalm 81, this Psalm protects you from losing faith.
When said with Psalm 80, this Psalm protects you from losing faith.
To be prosperous in business.
Wear this Psalm around your neck to be safe during battle.
Recite this Psalm to cure yourself of offensive body odors.
To regain a lost friendship.
Recite this Psalm frequently, along with the next two, to protect your health and drive away evil, and for the general well-being of the community.
To be said for an ill relative or for someone in prison
To protect yourself from wild beasts, ghosts, and evil spirits.
To repel evil spirits, demons, and protect yourself from all kinds of distress and suffering. This is considered one of the most powerful of the Psalms for protection against evil.
To achieve high honor.
To be said for victory in a lawsuit.
To gain victory over an inflexible enemy
To be said for unbelieving friends and family.
Recite this Psalm and Psalm 97 three times a day to bring joy and contentment.
Recite this Psalm to bring peace and harmony within a family.
Recite this Psalm frequently to become pious.
Pray this Psalm several times a day to overcome your enemies.
Wear this Psalm along with Psalm 68 around your neck for protection from evil spirits and malicious people.
Along with Psalm 103, this Psalm can help with conception.
To destroy a demon or evil spirit.
To cure a three-day fever.
To cure a four-day fever.
To cure a recurring fever.
Write this Psalm on a clean parchment and conceal it behind the door of your house to bless your comings and goings.
For a vicious enemy, pray this Psalm for three days over an open jug of wine and then pour the wine at your enemy's doorstep, being very careful not to spill any on yourself.
Pray this Psalm to make your enemies bow before you.
Pray this Psalm to win new friends.
Recite this Psalm to increase your power.
Pray this Psalm to prevent heresy and infidelity.
Write this Psalm on parchment and carry it with you to gain fortune in business.
Pray this Psalm before religious debates.
Pray this Psalm frequently to avoid violent death.
Recite this Psalm if you have broken a promise.
Pray this Psalm to protect yourself from being led astray.
The longest of the Psalms, the verses are broken down to address specific ailments:
- Verses 1 - 8: Pray this over a man whose limbs tremble.
- Verses 9 - 16: Pray this to improve the memory and aid learning.
- Verses 17 - 24: Pray this over the wounded eye of a friend.
- Verses 25 - 32: Pray this over an injured left eye, or recite eight times for success in a lawsuit or when troubled by a move or change of occupation. Recite ten times for success in any undertaking.
- Verses 33 - 40: To break a bad habit, write out these verses eight times and wear them over your heart.
- Verses 41 - 48: Recite these verses to cure a drunken employee.
- Verses 49 - 56: To cure depression in a friend.
- Verses 57 - 64: For someone who has pain the upper part of the body, recite these verses seven times over wine and give it to them to drink.
- Verses 65 - 72: Say these verses eight time to treat diseases of the kidneys, liver, and lips.
- Verses 73 - 80: Say thee verses in the morning to find favor with God and man.
- Verses 81 - 88: Say these verses ten times to treat someone with a sore or swelling on their nose.
- Verses 89 - 96: Say these verses before appearing before a judge.
- Verses 97 - 104: Say these verses seven times for pain or paralysis in the right arm.
- Verses 105 - 112: Say these verses every morning while on a journey to ensure safe travels.
- Verses 113 - 120: Recite these verses before asking for a favor.
- Verses 121 - 128: Recite these verses to cure pain in the left arm.
- Verses 129 - 136: These verses will cure a boil on the left side of the nose.
- Verses 137 - 144: Pray these verses when serving on a jury or giving judgement so that your decisions will be just.
- Verses 145 - 152: These verses cure pain and injury in the left leg.
- Verses 153 - 160: These verses will cure a painful boil on the right ear.
- Verses 161 - 169: These verses will cure a headache.
- Verses 169 - 176: Recite these verses to cure a boil on the left ear.
Pray this Psalm to gain favor when appearing in court.
Recite this Psalm seven times before setting out on a journey alone at night.
Recite this Psalm thirteen times before meting with someone in a high position to gain favor.
If your servant leaves the house, write this Psalm, along with his name, on a strip of lead to have him return.
Recite this Psalm before crossing a swollen stream or when entering a boat for a journey.
If you have to enter the territory of your enemies, fill your hands with salt and scatter it to the four corners of the Earth while reciting this Psalm.
If you have previously lost children during infancy, during your next pregnancy write this Psalm four times, each time on a separate amulet, and hide them in the four corners of your house.
Hang this Psalm around the neck of a newborn baby to protect them from evil.
Write this Psalm on a clean parchment and hang it around the neck of a pregnant woman to protect her and the baby from harm.
Recite this Psalm every morning to become pious and devout
If you happen to find yourself in a besieged city, pray this Psalm four times, to each of the four quarters of the Earth, and a heavy slepp will overtake the sentries and allow you to escape.
Pray this Psalm three times daily if you are troubled by a demon or evil spirit.
If you have neglected a duty you were sworn to do, recite tis Psalm to avoid doing so again.
Pray this Psalm daily to receive love and affection from friends.
Say this Psalm before studying or entering school.
Say this Psalm daily to repent for sins.
Say this Psalm to repent and ask forgiveness for grievous sins.
Recite this Psalm to banish hatred from your heart.
Recite this Palm to invite friendship and love.
Recite this Psalm to increase and preserve love between married couples.
Pray this Psalm to relieve growing hatred in marriage.
Pray tis Psalm to rid yourself of unreasonable fears.
This Psalm should be recited to relieve pain n the thighs.
This Psalm should be recited to relieve pain n the arms.
recite this Psalm to aid with the healing of a broken arm. When said in conjunction with Psalm 145, it also banishes ghosts.
Say this Psalm along with Psalm 144 if you are troubled by ghosts.
If you've been wounded by a knife or other deadly weapon, pray this Psalm every da while it is helping to ensure recovery.
Like Psalm 146, this Psalm will aid in the recovery from an injury from a weapon, with the additional benefits of being good for recovery from bee stings, snakes bites, and other injuries from poisonous insects and reptiles.
Say this Psalm along with Psalm 149 for protection against fire.
Recite this Psalm with gratitude after escaping grave danger.