Catfish, Man of the Woods: A study of a West Virginian folk healer

John Eilertsen, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation attempts to understand how Clarence Frederick Gray, better known as Catfish Man of the Woods, became a folk healer and how he sustains his folk healing beliefs. The study involved fieldwork involving healer/patient observation and discussion, including audio-taped interviews with Catfish, as well as an examination of available scholarly literature on folk medical and religious beliefs that places Catfish's beliefs within an historical context. The study demonstrates that Catfish became a folk healer and sustains his role as a folk healer by integrating secular stores of knowledge, religious beliefs and medical beliefs into a folk medical system that is directly related to North American folk religion and folk medicine. Further, this folk medical system is integrated with additional stores of knowledge, the totality of which allows Catfish to interact with and even define his world.

Subject Area

Folklore|Biographies|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Eilertsen, John, "Catfish, Man of the Woods: A study of a West Virginian folk healer" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9308563.