I thought that I’d finish up this week with another essay, this time one that I won’t actually be posting on the New World Witchery site. Instead, I’m going to provide a link to an excellent essay I found on Pow-wow magic, and then some notes I made while reading it.
The essay itself is written by David W. Kriebel, Ph.D. and has a distinctly academic tone. It focuses on the history and practice of braucherei in the Pennsylvania area, as well as examining some modern practitioners (most notably Don Yoder and Silver Ravenwolf (aka Jenine Trayer). It’s an interesting read, I think, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Here’s the essay: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeIV/Powwow.htm
Some of the thoughts I had while reading this were:
- Why is Pow-wow fading from the magical stage so steadily? Many spiritual and magical traditions have received increased attention in the past 30-40 years as the shiny patina of atomic-age wonder has begun to fade, yet Pow-wow still seems to be on the decline.
- Is Pow-wow evolving into something else altogether? Kriebel mentions Ravenwolf’s book, which has had a mixed reception at best in the magical community. But her version of Pow-wow may just be where the practice is headed. Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, period?
- The old books of Pow-wow, such as The Long Lost Friend and the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, get a good bit of attention in this essay. How relevant are they to the current practice of this magical system?
- I love the story about Mountain Mary. It makes me wonder just how many of my local folk heroes might have been magically inclined.
- The three levels of magical ritual (I, II, and III) which Kriebel mentions correspond well to various practices I’ve seen elsewhere (a simple charm from Hohman might be a I or a II, while Chris Bilardi’s complete brauche circuit in The Red Church is more of a III, I think). I wonder if the idea presented here about Pow-wow would hold true for other magical systems, like hoodoo.
- One of the best things I come away with from this essay is in his conclusion, where he notes a 90% effectiveness rating for Pow-wow curing, which is remarkably good for any healing practice. In the end, I think that kind of a result defies any attempts to explain magic as pure superstition, but I may be wrong. What do you think?
That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend, and as always, thanks for reading!
9 thoughts on “Blog Post 37 – Some Weekend Reading”
Hello Cory, thank you for a week of wonderful articles!
My personal opinion of one of the reasons Braucherie isn’t in the forefront regarding growth is because there has to be young people that are interested in learning it in order to pass it down and keep up with other belief systems. So many of today’s youth (and not so young!) are interested in the more glitz and glamor practices. Just as we see Quaker populations dwindling, young people’s interest lies in the more “mysterious” practices that are more rebellious and enticing. The way fundamental Christians raise their youth establishes fear in them of Braucherie as being occult. New agers raise their children to see “the god/dess within”. So the Braucher falls into this in-between category. It isn’t mysterious enough to attract those attracted to the LHP, and it’s too mysterious and borderline to attract the more fundamental Christian. How many young people have we seen this decade that want to work with the Holy Spirit when the Horned One is accessible and popular? My brain rests somewhere in between at this time as I filter through my tangled beliefs. And oh dear, save us from $RW!!!!! She’d find a way to dilute and morph Judaism if given a chance. Be well, Christine
powwow may have to survive the times in altered form. i say this because the volga and pennslyvania germans have adapted just like indigenous americans and other immigrants – linguistically, culturally, and politically – into americans.
naturally, bigoted fear of shamanic and folk practices may form, but also, a synthesis, or accretion of religion and shamanic practice should occur too within enclaves where it is still supported.
for indigenous americans, this is called the ‘pan indian’ movement and is seen as a threat to authentic tribal practices, but these very rites were persecuted and in danger of exstinction and may not have survived without the participation of the entire native community. ‘crying for a vision’, and the pipe ceremony is practiced by peoples who initially never had these rites, and shamans not only cure, but are counselors and christian pastors. christianity in particular is strong and practiced alongside indigenous tradition
so, for indigenous Americans, identity is dual, modern and plastic – other shamanic and folk traditions in america may also have to follow suit, and it may be more urgent as their practices seem to be more isolated, and are now considered ‘occult’ and unchristian within the communities of their origin. the responsibility may lie in the larger shamanic community and especially those few authentic christian folk pracitioners to dispel this misinformation
Hi Christine and Anica!
Thank you both so much for your comments. Christine, I think you’re right about the younger generation of Pennsylvania Germans not taking as much interest in these practices, but I do notice there are lots of non-PA-Germans taking an interest (myself included). I think, as Anica is saying, that in order to survive, the practice will wind up having to do some sort of adaptation.
You also make a great point, Christine, about some of these practices falling into an “in-between” space (which I kind of like, now that I think of it that way, lol…I’m a fan of liminal witchcraft).
And the point you make about the “modern and plastic” shamanism in America is something deeply felt for me, Anica. It breaks my heart to think that so many of these authentic practices are being marginalized by pseudo-shamans charging $9000 for a sweat lodge which then results in people dying from improper ventilation and smears all magical practitioners with a bad brush. I’m all for being on the fringes of society, but it’s sad when we can’t tell the mystical fringe from the lunatic one.
Again, lots of thanks to both of you for posting! Hope you enjoy this week, too!
All the best,
Hi Cory! Just something that I’ve been thinking about after reading Anica’s post.
When we bring in something from another country, adaption is necessary, I do believe that. It’s the only way something is going to “grow” on foreign soil. But how much adaption is too much?
Braucherie has already done its adapting, as shown by Mr Bilardi and then again by Thr3ee Sisters. A belief system is just that–a form of belief, of something inherent and intimate. Changing it turns it into what?
I had a gal ask me “how could you be interested in something that includes the Holy Spirit? Can I just substitute the Goddess for a Holy Spirit?”. I told her she can do anything she wants to do. That’s called freedom. But it would no longer be Braucherie, it would be something else entirely. So why call it what it no longer is? People mix hoodoo, or powwow up and slip in some Reiki and lets throw Odin in while we’re at it–what do we have? Another diluted system that guarantees the loss of the original beauty and power that it stood for at one time, let alone the insult to the true Brauchers when this “new” system hits the great WWW. If I chose to practice something, believe in something? Then I am the one that needs to adapt, not the belief system.
Shamanism is a very good parallel to this. I’m not going to Mongolia or South America to be directly taught (if found worthy) by a true Shaman. All I can hope for is to study these beliefs and call myself “a student of”. Yet here we have an already established practice on American soil called Braucherie, and people want to “adapt” that to fit their needs?
I see “Braucher Wicca” a book of eclectic German Healing being published by the Big LL in our future…..and it does not make my heart happy…. be well, Christine
I really like what you express here, in terms of “how much adaption is too much?” You make a good point that the adaptation within the PA-German magical systems has already been done, at least for the time being, and I think in general I agree with you. I do believe that it will need to adapt again at some point in the future, but it also breaks my heart to think that the only given method of adaptation right now is to be mass-marketed by Llewellyn. Hopefully there will still be some of us out here trying to keep a little bit of history and tradition in play so that when another generation comes looking for roots behind the merchandised metaphysics, there will be something for them to find.
Lol, at least, that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night 🙂
Hi New World Witcheries,
As a Dutch woman it somewhat funny to see that people worry about dilution of the practice. Probably because the word Braucherei means “Practice of using”. (I hope that would be a good translation. I do think in Dutch.) Braucher means “User”.
So me, knowing next to nothing of the magical practice, would probably suspect it came from a person using things magically or being used by a higher power to do thing magically. Why should a higher healing power for example only be a Holy spirit?
But those are my own musings. I know almost next to nothing about the practice, so I’ll be staying tuned to the Podcasts to learn a little bit more.
Thanks for your comments! Are you Dutch as in from the Netherlands or Dutch as in Pennsylvania German? I’ve heard Braucherei called “using” before as well, and also “trying for” someone or something. So I think you might be onto something there, etymologically speaking.
I hope you enjoy the blog/podcasts! We’ll look forward to hearing more from you!
All the best,
HI — just a note. Dr. Don Yoder is not a pow wow practitioner, but is known as “the dean of American folklore studies.” He is professor emeritus of folklore studies at University of PA, author of numerous books and articles, and an amazing fellow!
Thank you for the correction Candace! I looked back over that article and realized I’d misread a line in there which made me think Yoder was a braucher. Very good catch! Thank you for reading so closely!
All the best,
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