Pennsylvania German Powwow

Faith healing and folk magic of the Pennsylvania Germans


Death of a teacher.

Posted by Rob Phoenix on July 3, 2018 at 6:15 PM

I received an email late last night to inform me that one of my powwow teachers had passed away. I didn't read the email until this afternoon and I have some surprising feelings about it. 

My teacher was an interesting woman. Because I promised her that I would not share her name with the public, I will only share with you my feelings about her.

She was abrupt to the point of seeming rude. She was unconcerned with anyone's (including mine) impression about her because she just didn't care. She kept a messy home and made no apologies for it. When I first met her, she made me wait on her front porch almost a half an hour before she let me in, and she never once explained herself. She was a believer in Christ, but the type that chain smoked and drank beer, and that was ok. She was irritated with me when I told her I was researching Powwow to share information with the public. She had a very low opinion of the idea of writing about Powwow. 

But she taught me two charms. She recited a charm to me and said "there you go" and that was it. I committed it to memory and wrote it down only later when I got back into my car. The second charm was a slip of paper she handed to me with the words and instructions scribbled on it, barely legible. I looked at her as if ready to ask what it meant and her look told me that she wanted no further discussion about it. She said "keep it to yourself and don't share it with anyone". 

And that was that. That was literally my entire relationship with her. I never spoke to her again. She didn't reach out to me. I left her alone. That was about 8 years ago...

So when I read that she had passed away, I immediately wondered if she had shared her knowledge with anyone else, and how could I find out? My only connection to her was someone who had emailed me years ago that said "I should introduce you to the lady down the street...." and that's how it happened. I am grateful to her for the introduction, and grateful to her for letting me know she passed.

Tonight I will say a prayer for her and maybe she will hear me. Maybe now she will be able to watch over me. Maybe she will be a stern spirit, lurking around making sure I keep my promise. Who knows? I can't imagine what sort of afterlife she will have because she shared nothing about herself with me. But what I gained from her in our brief meeting is immeasurable. I learned one charm that I use often and another that I hope I never have to use. She didn't teach me how to Powwow, she just taught me how she does it. But I'll always remember her. 

In honor of her, I will raise my glass tonight and thank her for allowing me to cross paths with her. It was a brief but life-changing experience for me. I imagine when I left her home she may have spared a moment to watch me walk to my car, probably shaking her head at my foolishness, then going about her day; never giving me a second thought. But that's ok.

Thank you teacher. I will be forever grateful. Enjoy eternity in Paradise and don't annoy the angels too much.

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