Spanish Moss

Context: This story is meant to be told as part of a performance. Usually children or campers, the group will all collect a piece of Spanish moss. They will then slowly start peeling off the layers of the moss, eventually revealing the red strands mentioned in the story.

T.A. : Okay so going up there’s a lot of Spanish Moss around where I lived and I was always told that story behind Spanish moss. And this is like a campfire story that we would always tell. You would pick up Spanish moss from the ground end and um when youre telling the story, you’re peeling the Spanish moss. You can get to the center of it. And I’ll tell you the secret now. And you peel the Spanish moss, and in the center it looks like a piece of red hair. Like Red hair at the very center of it, and that’s, so you peel back. The stuff and it looks like, uh, a strand of hair. It’s red, it’s like very red. Spanish moss isn’t red, it’s like green. Um, but the story that’s told with it, it’s like this Native American girl who’s, who is the daughter of a chief. And she had this gorgeous, long red hair. It was beautiful, it flew in the wind and she was very much desired. Um, but she was in love with this other man, and she wanted to marry this man in the tribe, but um, all these other guys wanted her and her father was like no, you need to marry this guy, dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, basically, and, um, so then one day when she realized that she, like, would never be able to be with the love of her life, that she was, you know, too beautiful, or her hair was too luxurious. Like, she, she didn’t care what she looked like, she just cared that she loved this man, and was tired of other men being like, ‘no, like you’re mine because of this.’ So, yeah, basically she was tired of being, of people being like ‘no, you have to marry me because you’re so beautiful,’ dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, and all this stuff, and her dad was like ‘you have to marry these guys that want to marry you.’ She just wanted to marry the one that she loved. And so she goes to the edge of this cliff. Um, it’s like a plateau. So there’s like a valley underneath it. And she takes her hair, and takes like a stone or something like that, like a sharp knife—
P.Z. : Something sharp.
T.A. : Yeah, and she grabs her hair and cuts it off. And all of her hair falls into this valley and onto all these trees. Right? And she throws herself off the cliff and kills herself. Um, which is tragic end to the story. But also, but she cuts all her hair off, throws it into this valley, and then at the end of the story, at the end, by this point you see the red strand of hair and it’s now —
P.Z. : Under the moss?
T.A. : Spanish moss. You see all of her beautiful long red hair still in the Spanish moss today.
P.Z. : And it’s like the original story of —
T.A. : Yeah, of like why it’s there.
P.Z. : And you heard this in your hometown?
T.A. : Um, so like whenever, my family’s a big camping family, and like going through summer camps and stuff too, it’s a campfire story people tell. So you’d pick up Spanish moss off the ground, and you’d go oh have you ever heard like the story about Spanish moss? And then you tell it.
P.Z. : And Texas… What part of Texas?
T.A. : I’m from southeast Texas.

Thoughts: This was the first time I encountered a modern myth. It was also one of the only pieces of folklore I collected that included a sort of performance with the story telling. I thought that this was fascinating because it took an everyday item found in the area and transcribed deep value to it based on this creation myth. It also was fascinating that it remains popular for people of all ages to hear and tell this story, as it can be used in any group setting when one is outdoors and encounters this very common flora.