Appalachia Folklore

Dream Folklore in Appalachia


There were a lot of comments about dreams on last week’s post Lye Soap and Feelings.

I’ve had folks tell me they rarely if ever dream. I’m a big dreamer who comes from a long line of dreamers.

Pap and Granny often spoke of their dreams as does the whole Blind Pig household.

My dreams are so real I can barely crawl out of them to come back to the waking world.

Growing up Granny was always warning us not to tell our dreams before breakfast or they’d come true. I always wondered “but what if I want them to come true?”

A lot of the comments from last week were about foretelling dreams.

Several times over my life I’ve dreamed about someone I haven’t seen nor talked to in ages, maybe someone I used to work with or that I went to school with. I wake up wondering why in the world they showed up in my dream out of nowhere. In the days following the dream I always run into the person or get news about them from someone else. It’s like my brain somehow knows the person is about to show up in my life again.

Pap never said he had a gift of seeing or second sight, but he did share two foretelling dreams he had with us.

The first:

Pap’s father had an extended illness before his death. He wanted to be at home instead of in a hospital. We took turns staying with Papaw doing what we could to comfort him and ease his pain. A couple of times during the months preceding his death we thought his departure was imminent and the whole family gathered to his bedside, but somehow he lasted beyond what we thought were his final minutes.

Papaw died one morning about 10:30. Pap’s sister, one of his brothers, a niece, and I were there, everyone else was at work or school.

Pap’s younger brother worked close by and arrived quickly once we called him.

In those days Pap drove an oil truck. I knew he could be anywhere in our large county and I couldn’t bear thinking that while we were gathered together united in our sorrow he would get the news of his father’s death from someone along his route, however that wasn’t what happened.

A few days after Papaw’s funeral Pap shared his foretelling dream with us.

Several nights before Papaw died, Pap dreamed he could see his father in a gulf of water kind of like there were sides with the water between them.

Papaw was in the water with his arms reached high into the air.

The morning Papaw died, Pap was working in the lower part of our county in Hiawassee Dam. Pap said as he drove across the dam, seeing the water, he realized that was his dream and his father had passed away. When Pap arrived at the next station they confirmed it for him. Pap said even though the events were strange the dream was a comfort to him.

The second:

When my oldest brother and his wife were expecting their first child we were all beyond excited. The child would be Pap and Granny’s first grandchild and would make Paul an uncle and me an aunt for the first time.

Pap dreamed he was on his way home from work one evening. The road we live on winds behind a cattle farm. Pap said as he drove the last stretch before turning into Wilson holler he looked out his truck window and saw a little blond headed boy running through the pasture. Pap stopped the truck and went to see about the little boy. He picked him up in his arms and the boy laughed and hugged his neck.

Pap told us the dream was so real that he wondered if it was a sneak peek at his future grandchild. A few months later my sister n law gave birth to a boy who would soon be a blond headed toddler who was always happy to be held by his Pap.

Folklore I’ve heard about dreams:

If you dream of death you’ll receive a letter
If you sleep in a strange bed whatever you dream will come true
A dream about death means a wedding will soom happen
If you dream about crossing water you’ll soon be sick
Dreams of death means birth, dreams of birth means death

And the one Granny says: never tell your dreams before breakfast or they’ll come true.


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  • Reply
    April 8, 2022 at 8:47 am

    I was thinking about these sayings I grew up around: Dream of a birth and there will be a death; Dream of a wedding and there will be a death; Dream of a deceased loved one and there will be new birth/pregnancy. So often these things proved out true. Some say it’s our sub-conscious at work. I say it’s God who gave us gifts. Whatever you believe these are the sayings that hem our lives in the mountains.
    We had one family member, my Granny’s sister, that had a knack for telling when someone needed to get to a doctor even if they looked perfectly healthy. She just knew. One time she fair dragged one of her friends to the doctor and it turned out that the friend had a tumor that was growing even though there were no signs and the friend said she felt all right. They were able to get the tumor out and the friend recovered.

  • Reply
    Roger Brothers
    December 15, 2020 at 12:05 am

    “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
    That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
    The clouds methought would open, and show riches
    Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
    I cried to dream again.”
    William Shakespeare, The Tempesth

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 9, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I’m so glad you all came to see when I was layed up and all, I never saw so many doctors before in a room before, thank God everyone was friendly. You could tell who was in charge and Dr. Long made was the Best Dr. in the Whole Shebang. He made me feel good. After they got thru with me, they sent me back to Mission hospital where I recovered for several days. I told Tipper about this, I awoke to two of the most Beautiful girls I had ever seen. The prettiest one was named Brook, from Hendersonville, a Head Nurse , and the other one was just under her. I forgot her name.
    Dr. Crumb is a Resident of The Laurels who said “You’re a posture child for a 4-Way Bi-Pass”.

    They fed us three times a day at The Laurels, I kinda Miss that, although I’m not use to eating but one meal a day and that’s Supper, sometimes twice if Jesse ate with me. He could eat more fried taters and White runner Green Beans than anyone I ever seen, along with a lot of Milk to drink. We had cornbread too.



  • Reply
    December 8, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    Tipper, I know you have talked about dreams but I’m asking and gonna tell what happened 2 days ago. I am asking for prayers from all the blind pig please! It seem like so much has happened here lately. (NOT GOOD) our nephew that lived right beside us all he’s life, he’s was 25 and his girlfriend 22, they went to pick up a puppy, blue healer and on their way back home , their car ran under a semi truck and it crushed them to death. All you could see was tires It took 7 hrs to get what was left of them out.
    The puppy lived and the fire dept. People rescued it. They were 5 hrs away from home. Their parents a devastated. They need prayers for both families so bad. Please say extra prayers for them. So young .

  • Reply
    December 8, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    I remember some of my dreams when I wake up but others I just remember bits and pieces. A lot of times they have friends from growing up years and make no sense. I was about 900 miles away when my Mother passed and that night I had a dream where she appeared and said I’m o.k. Once I had a feeling that I would see a person I knew 45 years ago and I did see them at a restaurant. I remember my Mother telling me my Grandmother had second sight. I didn’t ask her to explain it at the time. I thought she meant my Grandmother’s eyes had improved and she didn’t need glasses. I sure should have asked more questions.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Did you ever wonder if we stop dreaming when we wake up? Could it be that our conscious mind masks our dreams so that we can see them only when we are asleep? Could it be that dreams are a portal to another consciousness that is not entirely within our mind or body? Could that other consciousness be our connection to all of creation?

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    December 8, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    My aunt died at the end of September and I felt awful because I had wanted all summer to go visit her; something just kept telling me I needed to go. Naturally I put it off and then school started and I just never got to it. It tore me up when my sister called to tell me the news. Two days later, I dreamed about her. She came and hugged me and said she loved me. But here’s the “strange” part – she was younger than I can remember ever seeing her and her hair was longer than I remember ever seeing it. When her obituary was published, the photo my cousins used was exactly the way she looked in my dream.
    Also, my grandmother’s mother-in-law died just a few months after my grandparents married. Grandma started having a recurring dream about her, and in the dream her mother-in-law was trying to give her a white garment, like a dress or a blouse. Grandma had this dream several times and finally told Granddaddy about it. He said his mama was trying to tell Grandma that she needed to become a Christian. A few months after that, Grandma made a profession of faith. She never had that dream again.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    December 8, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    It has been thirty years since I retired from the Navy and thirty-two years since my last ship yet the Navy and ships loom large in my dreams…

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 8, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    I left home to go to college–had never really been anywhere. It was traumatic in many ways. I have had, for years, a recurring dream about being lost in the college town or on the campus. If I find the dormitory, there is always something wrong with the elevator (there wasn’t one) or my key was lost or I’ve forgotten my room number.

    I also have a recurring apocalypse type dream where we are running & hiding from the bad guys. I could write a new Walking Dead if I could remember the details.

    Also have a recurring dream about a house we have bought that has a secret basement full of weird, scary or beautiful things and I’m always worried about paying for it. On the house theme, I also dream I’m in a highrise apartment and the windows are unstable or I’m in a two story house with holes in the floor.

    One of the most stressful was about my best friend who does not want to be displayed after her death and every once in a while she will tell me she’s counting onme to see that she’s not. One night I dreamed she had passed away & I was searching for her family or the funeral home. Finally I looked around and there she was in a glass coffin in a store window!! I was frantic to get her out–the dream ended there.

  • Reply
    Glenda C. Beall
    December 8, 2020 at 11:50 am

    This is an interesting subject. I don’t always remember my dreams, but lately I have had dreams about going into my house on the farm where I lived 25 years ago and finding it filled with people having a party. I don’t know the people and I’m upset they are in my house, and they won’t leave. Maybe this is a dream about losing control over my life because of the pandemic. I have had this kind of dream several times in the past few months. My mother always said don’t tell a bad dream before breakfast because it will come true. That is one of the few superstitions I adhere to still.

  • Reply
    Liz Hart
    December 8, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I have 2 recurring dreams over and over that apparently mean nothing. First I inherit a large acreage with an old unpainted house but have to live in the house as a condition of the inheritance . Second I dream I am at work at the end of the day and instead of driving home, I get my running shoes from the car and start running home and enjoying it! I am 78 and haven’t run for years!

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    December 8, 2020 at 11:03 am

    My recurring dream is searching up & down streets trying to find my Grandma’s house. It involves different settings and different towns mostly. She passed away some 50+ years ago in Beverly. WV and was buried on my birthday. I have no idea what this dream means, if anything.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2020 at 10:07 am

    I am certain I have mentioned before on here about sometimes something during the day would happen that would give folks a flash back to a dream they had the night before. Back in the day they called this the “end of my dream.” I used to do this often, but not so much anymore. I never hear this anymore, and I wondered if any of the Blind Pig readers may have grown up with that saying. It may be a simple dream about a dog, then the next day a stray dog is running in your yard. We have lost something, and that is that simple things meant a lot to folks and was worthy to mention. Granddaughter insisted I watch Hillbilly Elegy. It bored me with what seemed like over exaggeration and poor acting attempting to portray our wonderful people. Glenn Close did well, except I never met a Grandma that talked like that. Most Grandmas I knew were daily preparing to “meet their maker.” I could not finish it because I like to learn something from anything I watch or do.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      December 8, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Mama would say something was “the end of the dream”.

    • Reply
      Miss Cindy
      December 8, 2020 at 12:39 pm

      I don’t remember most of my dreams but many times in my life I’ve had something flash back to me that seems to be a part of a dream the night before or the answer to a dream from the night before and always referred to it as ‘the end of my dream’ or ‘the completion of my dream’.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    December 8, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I dream in technicolor and some of my dreams cover days and weeks of time. I have learned to control my dreams by following certain actions before I fall asleep that is called Lucid Dreaming. (Google it) A number of years ago, when I first began to research my family genealogy, I had a very graphic dream where I saw a list of handwritten names, and managed to remember one well enough that I suddenly awoke, and wrote the name down on a pad I always kept next to my bed.
    I went straight to Google to search the name, and that led me to a Civil War Confederate soldier who was from North Carolina not far from where I was born in Charlotte. I respect dreaming very much, and always look forward to my next dreaming adventure….

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    December 8, 2020 at 9:28 am

    I’m so glad to read all of these stories of dreamers. I’m usually afraid to tell of my dreams lest someone think I’m crazy. I frequently dream of a place I’ve never been in this lifetime, but sure wish I knew where/what it was. I have had dreams of my daddy (who passed away suddenly at age 62). When I’m talking with him I always say, “…but that’s when you were dead.” We were very, very close. I knew something awful had happened the day he died. Out of nowhere I just got the most horrible sinking feeling of terrible loss. I couldn’t place it, but when I got home from work, I learned daddy had passed. Never discount dreams or feelings.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Mom always said we shouldn’t tell our dreams before breakfast. My ex-husband never dreamed and thought something was wrong with me when I told my dreams. We were visiting my parents when Mom got up before daylight to start breakfast and found my ex sitting in the living room. She asked him if something was wrong and he said that he had a dream. Thinking it was a bad dream, Mon didn’t want to know the details before breakfast. As it turned out, it wasn’t a bad dream, but simply a dream. He had dreamed that someone knocked on the door and when he opened it a man handed him a bouquet of red roses. I would have found a dream like that to be beautiful and can understand why an evil person would find it worrisome and fearful.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 8, 2020 at 8:48 am

    I’m like Margie. Either I only dream just before I wake up or I only remember those. Most of the time my dreans are a confused jumble of people and places that don’t belong together. I dreamed about you all the other morning. My wife and I were at your house and you two were looking at million dollar houses on TV. (I know. Doesn’t sound like either of you.) I was outside by a garden patch and your girls were there to. There was a black and white cat rummaging around in the garden. See what I mean about jumbled?

    I have had one dream that I have dreamed variations of three times though there was a great space of time between each dream. It is about a country church that sits ‘longways’ alongside an unpaved country lane. Behind it a hill rises steeply in a grass field which has a lot of broomsedge in it. About halfway up the hill at the front of the church is a big outcrop of rock, shadowed by a big leaning black oak. Just across the road is first a wire fence then a small creek.

    The first time I dreamed of it, I was on the hill across the creek looking down and across to the church. The tin roof was all rust-streaked. That time it was just a little bit unusual. Then I dreamed about it again. The second time the roof was bright, shiny new tin. that made me wonder, why twice about a place I’d never seen? The third time I dreamed I was climbing up the hill behind the church through the wet broomsedge and was just beginning to be able to look over the ridge to further ridges beyond. I did not turn around to look but I knew just where I was, that the chutch was at the foot of the hikl below me.

    As far as my memory serves, I have never seen that place. I do think it is a real place somewhere in Appalachia. Whether I shall ever see it, I do not have a particular feeling one way or the other. Like Margie, I am a bit perplexed. I would like to see it because I think it has some meaning for me.

    Some years ago now we had the windows in this house replaced. I had a bunch of wooden windows. Over at the farm market there was a lady who painted on windows and they sold them there. I took all the windows over for her to use with the deal that she would paint one for me of the church based on a sketch I made. If I can manage to do it, I will take a picture of her painting and send it to you.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    December 8, 2020 at 7:57 am

    I dream, but not so much the foretelling kind- unless I’m missing the message. my foretellings seem to come while I am awake. If the thought of someone walks across my mind, sure enough, I get a phone call, a letter, run into that person, or sadly, that person passed away.My daughter has and mother had the same sense. Ma would say,” I just thought of the Haineses. I guess they will be visiting soon.” The Haineses or whomever she thought about, always showed up on the doorstep after she thought about them. These thoughts were not purposeful on our part, they just popped into our minds out of nowhere. Most importantly, remember, God speaks to us in dreams.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Boy, some of my dreams could be called nightmares. I worked 38 years as a blue collar machine operator for the same tire company. Since retiring I dream a lot of times about running some of these machines. The problem is they are always running bad and I am getting my rear end kicked in every dream! As I mentioned last week I have had some serious dreams, some about my daddy when he was sick and one about my grandsons. Thank God these dreams turned out to good.

    • Reply
      December 8, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Yes, Randy, I relate! I have always lacked good concentration & coordination, therefore when I went to work at 35 I had a hard time keeping up. My dreams are often of me scrambling to get tasks done on time at work. After 9 years of retirement seems like I’d be over that!

      Like Tipper I sometimes take a second to realize, “it was only a dream!” I’d be glad to tell some sweet dreams of loved ones before breakfast. Never had a for telling one though…

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 8, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Tipper–I dream a lot. Sometimes I remember them; other times I don’t. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that certain of my dreams are recurrent. That is to say, some variation on the same dream happens time and again. Almost all of those go back to childhood or when I was in college. Maybe those are times I remember with great fondness. Anyway, this is a fascinating subject.
    When it comes to second sight, there are plenty of documented instances of folks having it. In fact, a cherished high school friend with whom I’ve stayed in touch had a grandmother who saw things in advance numerous times.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Donna W
    December 8, 2020 at 7:21 am

    I was about 14 years old, spending at week with my grandmother. I had recently gotten my first pair of glasses. I dreamed, one night at Grandma’s, that I broke my glasses, and saw clearly the broken lens on the right side. The next day my cousin and I were sitting on the edge of a sidewalk peeling potatoes. We’d peel a potato and place it in the pan of water sitting between us. I must have been tossing my potatoes pretty hard, because I splashed water all over my glasses. I took off the glasses and laid them right beside me. I don’t recall how it happened, but the glasses got broken in exactly the way my dream had shown. I would have had proof of my dream had I only told Grandma about it that morning, but I was afraid to because of that old saying, “Tell a dream before breakfast and it will come true”.

    • Reply
      sheryl paul
      December 8, 2020 at 8:25 am

      I have had dreams I remember most of my life. The most startling are those when someone calls my name waking me right up. I have had this happen often my mother, my grandma, and grampa have all called out to me. Bothe before and after their deaths

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 8, 2020 at 7:20 am

    I’ve always heard the one about never tell your dream before breakfast or it will come true. So, if it’s one I want to come true, I’ll tell it before breakfast.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    December 8, 2020 at 7:04 am

    This wasn’t a dream but I had this strong feeling I needed to call my friend Bill day before yesterday….I didn’t call him. Yesterday another friend phoned me yesterday that Bill had passed away.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    December 8, 2020 at 6:35 am

    I’ve also been told by my mommy not to tell a dream before breakfast or they won’t come true. It seems to me you’ve got dream foretelling of things to come. I usually dream after 6 in the morning when I tend to sleep my best. I dreamed of my baby many years ago that she was a baby eaglet in a nest over a high rocky cliff. I was to fly and get food as the mother but I was terrified she would fall from the nest. All these years later it’s still clear and I’m still a bit perplexed by that dream.

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