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Pow-wow is a system of American folk religion and magic associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Contents

Origin of the name and practices

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 appropriation of "pow-wow", 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. The formulas mix prayers, magic words, and simple rituals to cure simple domestic ailments and rural troubles.

Hexwork

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 which contain cabalistic ceremonial magic supposedly known by Moses and used by him to obtain magical powers and command over spirits. Actually, Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses were apparently compiled by Johann Scheible in 19th 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.

A 1988 film, "Apprentice to Murder," stars Donald Sutherland as "Pow-Wow" doctor John Reese, and Chad Lowe as his young apprentice Lucas Haas. Reese practices the folk magic rituals in a small Pennsylvanian town which the residents believe has fallen under a curse. The film makes use of the "Pow Wows or the Long Lost Friend" cited above.

Quotations

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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

External links


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