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Aunt Caroline Dye

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Aunt Caroline Dye in her 50s or 60s

Aunt Caroline Dye was a spirit medium, card reader, and root doctor who also performed powerful healing ceremonies. Born sometime between 1844 and 1850, Caroline Tracy Dye knew (possibly from childhood) that she had genuine spiritual gifts, and she began using them to serve the African-American community in which she lived. She had the gift of second sight, and was a skilled card reader. Blues songs written about her in the 1920s say that she made mojo bags; as a Spiritualist, she also called up and described visions of the future for her clients and performed healing ceremonies.

By the time she married, she was well-known throughout the state. She and her husband had no children, but she adopted several orphans, which is how she came to be known as "Aunt" Caroline Dye. In Newport, Arkansas, about 1900, she opened an office in her home, where hundreds of people from Arkansas, Tennessee, and other places came to see her daily. The press of clientele became so great that the local railroad had a dedicated train which ran from Memphis, Tennessee to a location very close to her home, a distance of about 90 miles. Her clients called it “The Caroline Dye Special.” She served people from all races and all walks of life, from local businessmen and prosperous farmers to working-class people. Such a great volume of clients required organization: along with general helpers, she employed two secretaries, a cook, and two waitresses to serve meals in the large dining room, where you could order all you could eat for thirty-five cents.

Her gravestone says she died in 1918, but several of the professional spirit mediums and rootworkers interviewed by the folklorist Reverend Harry Middleton Hyatt during the 1930s spoke of her being alive, working cures, and attending a Spiritualist convention in the 1930s. Perhaps, as was the case with Marie Laveau and Dr. Buzzard, a younger family member or apprentice took her name and continued her tradition after her death. The Caroline Dye Memorial Chapel, a small Spiritualist church in Northern California, is named in her honour.

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