POW

Pow-wow (folk magic)

Pow-wow is a system of American folk religion and magic associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch. Its name comes from the book Pow-wows, or, The Long Lost Friend, written by John George Hohman and first published in German as Der Lange Verborgene Freund in 1820. Despite the Native name, taken from an Algonquian word for a gathering of medicine men, the collection is actually a very traditional collection of European magic spells, recipes, and folk remedies, of a type familiar to students of folklore. They mix prayers, magic words, and simple rituals to cure simple domestic ailments and rural troubles.

The tradition is also called hex or hex work, or Speilwerk in Pennsylvania Dutch; its adepts are hexenmeisters. The tradition of Hex signs painted on Pennsylvania barns in some areas originally relates to this tradition, as the symbols were pentagrams thought to have talismanic properties; though many current hex signs are made simply for decoration.

Also important to the pow-wow practitioner were the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, books brought to the United States from Germany, containing cabalistic magic, claiming to be the magical arts by which Moses obtained his powers and commanded spirits. Actually, the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses were apparently compiled by Johann Scheible in nineteenth century Germany.

Another characteristic practice of pow-wow magic is the Himmelsbrief or "heaven's letter" and Teufelsbrief, a "devil's letter," which presumably is meant to bestow a curse. Significantly, the Long Lost Friend assures its owner that:

Whoever carries this book with him, is safe from all his enemies, visible or invisible; and whoever has this book with him cannot die without the holy corpse of Jesus Christ, nor drowned in any water, nor burn up in any fire, nor can any unjust sentence be passed upon him. So help me.

Quotations

CURE FOR THE HEADACHE

Tame thou flesh and bone, like Christ in Paradise; and you who will assist thee, this I tell thee (name) for your repentance sake. + + + This you must say three times, each time lasting for three minutes, and your headache will soon cease. But if your headache is caused by strong drink, or otherwise will not leave you soon, then you must repeat these words every minute. This, however, is not necessary in regard to headache.

TO REMOVE BRUISES AND PAINS

Bruise, thou shalt not heat;
Bruise, thou shalt not sweat;
Bruise, thou shalt not run,
No more than Virgin Mary shall bring forth another son. + + +

See also

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