San Diego, CA
Fabulous Spanish Moss
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© Christine Till
Much has been written about Spanish Moss and its' interactions with various tales and superstitions. Spanish Moss is one of the "ingredients" used in making those spooky voodoo dolls. Many DO consider Spanish Moss to be spooky. Native Americans called it "Itla-okla" (tree hair), the French mockingly called it "Barbe Espagnol" (Spanish hair), and the Spanish countered with "Cabello Frances" (French hair).
One of the folklore tales regarding Spanish Moss involves a Cuban who came to the Charleston area with his Spanish fiancee in the 1700s to start a plantation. The most striking feature of the bride-to-be was her beautiful, flowing raven hair. As the couple was walking through the forest to reach the location of their future plantation, they were attacked and killed by Cherokee Indians, who were not happy to have these strangers on their land. As a warning for other intruders, the Cherokees cut off the long, dark hair of the bride-to-be and threw it up into an oak tree. As they came back day after day, week after week, they noticed that the hair had shriveled and turned gray but spread throughout the tree. Wherever the Cherokees went, this "hair" followed them, eventually chasing them from their homeland of South Carolina. The tale goes, that even today when one stands under a live oak tree, one can hear the moaning of a woman and will see the "hair" moss jump from tree to tree, defending itself with a large army of beetles.
I love to watch Spanish Moss sway in the breeze. The cardinals and wrens love to play in it, hang from it and flitter through the trees that are full of it. And when one of those famous Florida hurricanes roars through an area, you can be sure there will 20 or 30 trash cans full of Spanish Moss that has blown out of the trees on every property. That's nature's way of "cleaning house" (or "trees") as the case may be.
May 19th, 2013
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