As a lover of stories, legends, and lore, I was happy to stumble on a few renditions about Spanish moss that add nicely to its mysteriousness.
There are actually five different versions of the legend of Spanish moss. Three deal with love, one with lust, and the other with wickedness. All five tales are similar in that each involve entanglement of hair in the branches of hardwood trees in the south, and death. Except one, there could be a debate over whether or not it ended in death.
I will make an attempt to quickly cover each one, giving them my own personal flare.
Let’s dig in!
Gorez Goz and the Runaway Bride
This is perhaps the most told story. I found it in several locations; the Beaufort County Library, at the site of Voice of North Carolina, and in an article written by Miss Cellania. Some of these sources call the man, Gorez Goz, while others don’t even give him a name.
Here is the gist of the tale …
Apparently a big, burly, bearded fellow named Gorez Goz had set his eyes on a lovely Indian maiden. He bought her for some rope and a bar of soap. When she set eyes on him she wanted no part of him and ran for the woods. Of course Goz chased her, after all he spent his hard earned rope and soap for her. The Indian maiden outsmarted him, though, by climbing a large oak tree. She knew that his big, burly body and long, bushy beard would entangle in the tree’s branches and slow him down.
It did more than slow down ole Gorez Goz. His beard became so entangled in the branches that he was unable to free himself. Goz died right where he got stuck. As the story goes, his beard not only continued to grow, but spread to other trees as well.
But Daddy, I love him!
This version is told several times, as well. I found it in the Voice of North Carolina, in an article by Mike Miller, and the Beaufort County Library. Many times the story of Goz and this one were told together.
Evidently, a bearded Spaniard fell in love with an Indian chief’s daughter. A huge no, no. Once the chief caught wind of their love he was furious. The chief gave the love-struck gent an ultimatum: leave my daughter alone or be tied to an oak tree until you either die or denounce your love. The gent chose the tree and of course, as the ending goes, he never did denounce his love. Instead, before taking his last breath he vowed that his love would never die. Apparently he was right because even after his death his beard continued to grow…and still does. It too spread from tree to tree.
I happened to stumble on this legend of Spanish moss by accident. I found it in Mike Miller’s article. It’s an interesting, yet sad tale.
This story is about a young couple who were murdered on their wedding day. Never even had the chance to consummate the marriage. Instead, as they were on their way to a special love nest the groom had prepared earlier, they were ambushed by an enemy.
Both struck down. Both dead. A lot of people mourned. So a custom went that the hair of the bride must be cut and placed, with love, in a hardwood tree. It happened that the hair of this bride had a mind of its own. Eventually, over the years, the hair turned grey and began to grow and spread from tree to tree.
A Grieving Lover
Shortly after finding the tale of the newlyweds I came across another rendition by Vicki Blackwell (The Legend of Spanish Moss PDF).
A love-struck man was grieving over the loss of his beloved. Heartbroken and in despair he cut her hair before he laid her in her final resting place. He placed her hair on a branch of an old oak tree near her gravesite. As I am sure you know by now how the story goes, the hair eventually turned grey and spread from tree to tree.
A Wicked Man Plants a Wicked Surprise
This is by far the most interesting story of the origins of the chigger; the parasite that calls Spanish moss home. This little red bugger will attach itself to your skin and call you home! They bite and are absolutely unpleasant little things. They remind me too much of spiders and ticks. Ick!
I found this one at the site of The Moonlit Road.
The story goes that there was a nasty, wicked man. The kind of wickedness who knocks down old ladies, kicks puppies, and steals candy from a babies.
This guy was so wicked the Devil was at his wits to get to him, make him his right-hand man. Of course the wicked man wanted nothing to do with the Devil so he outsmarted him. He told the Devil he wanted to keep being wicked on Earth for as long as he could. Once he had had his due time on this planet the Devil could come collect him. Just one thing the man asked the Devil to do: make noise, give the man a sign the Devil was present.
Little did the Devil know, the wicked man was going deaf and blind! That wicked ole man wouldn’t be able to hear or see a thing the Devil did.
So the story goes that the Devil did finally come to collect the wicked man. He made all sorts of commotion, but the wicked man took no notice. The Devil tried and he tried to grab that man’s attention and all for nothing. Eventually the Devil gave up.
Meanwhile, that wicked old man went on roaming the Earth, mainly the southern United States. He seemed to roam for years and as he did his hair would catch in the hardwood trees. In the hair left behind he placed a little surprise for those foolish enough to pick it. There are whispers that his hair continues to grow to this day, spreading from tree to tree, and spreading something else as well.
No one really knows what happened to the wicked man. Some say he just disappeared. Others are not so quick to believe. They still see him around. Feel his presence. His wickedness. They say it’s in the Spanish moss; the remnants of a wicked man’s hair. They are small, little red things that bite and make you itch. He left Chiggers! Be wary!
Everyone loves a good story and there are five that go with Spanish moss. If you have stumbled across other versions, please feel free to share them!
Although I say I have uncovered the mystery of Spanish moss, no one has yet to solve its mystery.