Posted tagged ‘Germany’

Podcast 49 – Powwow and Braucherei

February 25, 2013

Summary

Today we’re taking a brief look at the folk magical system of the Pennsylvania German (or “Dutch”) community, known as Powwow or Braucherei. We’ve got an interview with braucher Robert Schreiwer, several readings on the topic, and some charms, spells, and songs, too.

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Download: Episode 49 – Powwow and Braucherei
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-Sources-

Books mentioned within the show

  1. Discovering American Folklife: Essays on Folk Culture & the Pennsylvania Dutch, by Don Yoder
  2. The Long Lost Friend, or The Pow-wow Book, by John George Hohman
  3. American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healers, by Jack Montgomery
  4. The Red Church, or The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei, by Chris Bilardi
  5. Hex and Spellwork, by Karl Herr
  6. Buying the Wind, by Richard Dorson
  7. Strange Experience: The Autobiography of a Hexenmeister, by Lee R. Gandee

Additional Sources

  1. Signs, Cures, & Witchery, by Gerald C. Milne
  2. Ozark Magic & Folklore, by Vance Randolph (section: “Power Doctors”)
  3. Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, David W. Kriebel
  4. Hex Signs: Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols, by Don Yoder
  5. New World Witchery Podcast 29 featured an interview with author Jack Montgomery, who presented some good information on powwowing

Websites

  1. Urglaawe – Braucher Rob Schreiwer’s site on Heathen braucherei
  2. Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts – A place to learn more about braucherei & associated practices
  3. Braucher.webs – Braucher Rob Chapman’s site for powwow and braucherei
  4. New World Witchery posts on Braucherei: Intro Part I, Part II, and Part III (also see our page Resources:  Magical Systems, under the heading “Braucherei, Hexenmeisters, & Pow-wow”)
  5. We have a great written interview with braucher Chris Bilardi here: Part I & Part II
  6. An online essay on Powwow by David W. Kreibel is available here

If you have feedback you’d like to share, email us or leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

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 Promos & Music

Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.

German folk songs came from the site Mamalisa.com. The songs played in this episode were:

  1. Winter, Ade!
  2. Taler, Taler du musst wander
  3. Meine Hande sind verschwunden
  4. Rolle, Rolle, Rolle
  5. Handewaschen
  6. Guten Morgen ruft die Sonne

Incidental music was Johannes Brahams, Symphony No. 4, found at Archive.org

Promo 1- Lamplighter Blues

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Blog Post 58 – Appalachian Mountain Magic, Part I

May 12, 2010

Today, I thought I’d start to tackle in brief a subject which deserves its own book.  Or several books.  Perhaps even a library.  I’d like to do an overview of the loose collection of occult, healing, and divinatory practices practiced by the mountain folk found in the Appalachian range.  This is not going to be a comprehensive post, just a general snapshot of the different components of mountain magic, so if I don’t cover something in detail I will likely be coming back to it again eventually.  First, though, let’s start with a little bit about where this system comes from.

History
When European settlers moved into these mountains, they found that the lore and landscape they suddenly occupied was not entirely different than what they’d left behind in Europe.  Many of the Native American tribes like the Cherokee and Shawnee already associated these ancient mountains with magic and otherworldly power.  There were even beings which very much resembled fairies living in those ridges and valleys, as illustrated in the Cherokee tale of the “Forever Boy”:

“As he looked behind him, there they were, all the Little People. And they were smiling at him and laughing and running to hug him. And they said, ‘Forever Boy you do not have to grow up. You can stay with us forever. You can come and be one of us and you will never have to grow up… Forever Boy thought about it for a long time. But that is what he decided he needed to do, and he went with the Little People” (Native American Lore Index – Legends of the Cherokee).

The presence of fairies in the mountains would have been familiar to groups like the Germans and the Scots-Irish, the latter of whom had their own tradition of “fairy doctoring” which would eventually shape a portion of Appalachian magical practice.

Germans also brought in astrology, particularly astrology associated with things like planting, healing, and weather.  Despite a strongly Christian background (and strongly Protestant and Calvinist at that), most settlers accepted a certain amount of magical living in the mountains.  As George Milnes says in his Signs, Cures, & Witchery:

“Among the early German settlers in West Virginia, religion was thoroughly mixed with not only astrology but also esoteric curing practices tied to cosmic activity.  Folk curing bridged a gap between the religious and the secular mind-set.  And forms of white magic were not disdained; in fact, they were practiced by the early German clergy” (SC&W, p. 31).

The Scots and Scots-Irish who settled in the mountains were often displaced due to land struggles back home.  After long struggles with England for an independence which clearly would never be theirs, clan leaders traveled across the Atlantic and began building new territories.  The mountains running between Georgia and West Virginia were a perfect fit for them, according to Edain McCoy:

“The Scots found the southern Appalachians very remote, like their Highland home, a place where they could resume their former lifestyle and live by their ancient values without interference from the sassenach, or outsiders.  So isolated were they that many of the late medieval speech patterns and terms remained intact in the region until well into [the 20th] century” (In a Graveyard at Midnight, p. 6).

Once these various elements were situated in the mountains together, they began to merge and blend, mixing Native and European sources to create something else.  The introduction of hoodoo elements eventually changed the mixture again, though much later, and there are still old-timers in the hills practicing many of these techniques even now, though it is unlikely the entire system will remain intact for more than a generation or two as many mountain folk are being forced by poverty or circumstance to give up their highland homes.  Still, for the moment, there are lots of people trying to get Appalachian folkways recorded and preserved before they perish from the earth (this blog being one very infinitesimal drop in the bucket as far as that goes).   So for that, at least, we can be thankful.

Okay, I’ll stop here for today.  Tomorrow, I’ll be picking up with a little bit on each of the current components of Appalachian magical practice.  Until then…

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 56 – Walpurgisnacht

April 30, 2010

A caveat before I begin today’s post:  Walpurgisnacht is not terribly “New World.”  Most of it will be related to the British Isles and Europe, though I will include a little bit on New World practices, too.  But I think it’s still relevant to witchery, so I’m going to write about it anyway.  Mostly because, well, I really want to.

This is quite possibly my favorite witchy holiday, with the conditional exception of All Hallows/Halloween.  I do like May Day/Beltane celebrations, of course, but the night before is really what I love.  The association of this night with witchcraft seems to go back a long way.  The name of the holiday comes from a Catholic Saint who died in the year 777 C.E, St. Walburga.  Rosemary Ellen Guiley, in her Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft, says this about the holiday:

“In the Middle Ages, Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night, was believed to be a night of witch revelry throughout Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia.  Witches mounted their brooms and few to the mountaintops, where they carried on with wild feasting, dancing and copulation with demons and the Devil…In Germany, the Brocken, a dominant peak in the Harz Mountains, was the most infamous site of the witch sabbats…[S]o common was the belief in the sabbats that maps of the Harz drawn in the 18th century almost always depicted witches on broomsticks converging upon the Brocken” ( EW&W, p.347)

What shifted the focus from holy martyrdom and sainthood to witch-filled revels?  Well, there’s no single reason why that I’ve found, but the date is directly opposite Halloween in the calendar year, so that might have something to do with it (what, you thought witches would be content with one night of fun a year?).

There are lots of stories about this night.  One from the Isle of Man between Scotland and Ireland tells the story of two witches and their (mis)adventures on Old May Eve.  Dennis Wheatly’s occult novel The Devil Rides Out features a Walpurgisnacht ritual rather prominently, as it does in Goethe’s Faust tragedy.  The scene at the end of the original Fantasia film featuring Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” also makes heavy reference to the revelries of Walpurgisnacht (I think I mentioned this in the Media Episode, too).  There are also many unusual traditions associated with this night.  When I was living in Prague, they had a tradition of building huge bonfires on hilltops on this night, and burning brooms or effigies of witches to keep evil spirits at bay, for example (it was really more of an excuse to drink around the bonfire).  Vance Randolph, in his Ozark Magic & Folklore, describes an Ozark tradition for May Eve:

“On the last night of April, a girl may wet a handkerchief and hang it out in a cornfield. Next morning the May sun dries it, and the wrinkles are supposed to show the initial of the man she is to marry. Or she may hold a bottle of water up to the light on the morning of May 1, just at sunrise, and see apicture of outline of the boy who is to be her husband” (OM&F, p.176)

My personal practice incorporates a storytelling bent, and there’s one story that I turn to every year as part of my Walpurgisnacht ritual.  “The Horned Women,” as recorded by Lady Wilde (in a collection with many tales also recorded by W.B. Yeats which I’ve mentioned before—Fairy & Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry), is not explicitly about this wild night.  Yet certain elements—the assembly of a coven of witches, and the prominent mention of a mountain where they revel, especially—have always called to mind this tale in relation to May Eve.  I glean much in the way of magic from this story, and incorporate things from it into my workings (such as the use of “feet water” to guide all harmful forces away from my home).

Walpurgisnacht doesn’t register on everyone’s radar.  Some are definitely drawn towards the Beltane side of this holiday, and I rather love that celebration, too.  But Walpurgisnacht will always have a special place in my heart.  There’s no night I more earnestly wish I could climb on a broomstick and sail off into a moonlit sky than this one.

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 14 – An Introduction to Pow-wow, Part I

February 16, 2010

“Where is the doctor who has ever cured or banished the panting or palpitation of the heart, and hide-boundness? Where is the doctor who ever banished a wheal? Where is the doctor who ever banished the mother-fits? Where is the doctor that can cure mortification when it once seizes a member of the body? All these cures, and a great many more mysterious and wonderful things are contained in this book; and its author could take an oath at any time upon the fact of his having successfully applied many of the prescriptions contained herein.”  -John George Hohman, from the Introduction to POW-WOWS; OR, THE LONG LOST FRIEND

The mysterious folk magic of the Pennsylvania Dutch and their neighbors goes by many names:  Pow-wow, Braucheri, Hexerei, “trying,” etc.  Depending on who you talk to, it may be an extension of Christian prayer or faith healing, a blend of medieval Cabbala and German folk magic, an inherited family practice, a learned set of techniques, an entirely holy healing tradition, or gray-area almost-diabolical sorcery.  There are a range of individual methods to Pow-wow, including written talismans, spoken charms, herbal remedies, and calculated hand-movements.  And I’m not even going to touch the controversial concept of hex-signs on barns yet.

In this series of posts (which will probably go up over the course of the next few days), I want to provide a little bit of background on this rich and interesting magical system, with a few little charms and techniques to try for yourself.  I won’t be getting into great detail yet, as this is a system which many claim takes a lifetime to fully master, but I will be presenting a bit of the lore associated with Pow-wow and pointing you in the direction of a few really solid resources on the subject.

Where does Pow-wow come from?

Because of the syncretic nature of Pow-wow magic, it’s hard to say definitively that Pow-wow comes from one place and one place only.  Very loosely, it stems from German immigrants, but even that isn’t a clear-cut provenance.  As Chris Bilardi puts it in his braucherei text, The Red Church:

“The ‘Germany’ of that period [late 17th century] was, in fact, ‘the Germanies’ – many German principalities and duchies under the Holy Roman Emperor” (p. 41)

Bilardi goes on to point out that many Old World central and northern European cultures migrated here under the German banner, including those from modern-day Poland, Holland, and Scandinavia.  Still, many of these peoples had certain cultural commonalities.  When they came to America, many of these Germanic immigrants pursued unorthodox religious or spiritual paths.  Bilardi refers to two distinct groups of Pennsylvania Germans, the “Plain Dutch” and the “Church Dutch” (‘Dutch’ here being a corruption of the word deustche, the word for the German language).  There was strong religious diversity in the New World, including groups like the Moravians, the Brethren, the Anabaptists (now the Mennonites and the Amish), the Schwenkfelders, and the Lutherans.

In Gerald C. Milne’s text about PA-Dutch and Appalachian German magic, Signs, Cures, & Witchery, he states that, “By 1776, between 110,000 and 150,000 Germans had come to Pennsylvania, many of whom belonged to nonmainstream sects” (p. 5).  This large influx of mystically minded people resulted in a proliferation of distinctly magical practices.  For example, there were the Eckerlin brothers – white-robed Christian ascetic mystics from the late 18th century.  Milne also points out that many of the Germans arriving in America by the 18th century and beyond were well-versed in astrology, and even planted their crops ‘by the signs.’ (p. 31-33).  Old World magical practices, many inherited from grimoire traditions based on dusty tomes like The Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus also came across the Atlantic.  Home remedies, simple magical charms, and astro-agricultural advice began to be collected in almanacs.  The most famous of these was Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic), which held such saws as “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  Milne notes:

“German-language almanacs were widely distributed on the eighteenth-century frontier.  This held secure a distinct occult-centered cosmology in the minds of early German pioneers that went hand in hand with other occult curing and healing methodologies” (p. 32).

The proliferation of these magical pamphlets and almanacs spread the central ideas of what would become known as Pow-wow around the north-central Atlantic coast, the Appalachian mountains, and inland into the frontier-lands.   One such almanac was the famous Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman, which outlined many of the practices still used today.  I’ll have some of the charms from this book to try out a little later in the series, but for now it’s enough to know that by 1820 (the date of Hohman’s publication), this form of magic had taken on a distinctly American flavor and had become a key part of the Pennsylvania-Dutch cultural landscape.

Okay, that’s it for today.  I’ve got more coming on this topic, so be on the lookout for additional posts this week!

Thanks for reading!

-Cory


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