Pennsylvania German Powwow

Faith healing and folk magic of the Pennsylvania Germans

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What you can expect when you visit your local Powwow...

Posted by Rob Phoenix on May 22, 2019 at 5:30 PM

A hundred years ago, a visit to a local Powwow may have gone something like this:


A knock on the door late at night, a tired man, dusty from the fields, beckons you to come on inside. From the looks of things, he has just finished eating a modest dinner. A low fire burns in the fireplace. A walking stick leans against the mantle. Maybe an old knife and some branches lay on the floor next to a wooden chair; he might carve to pass the time.. He points to the chair for you to have a seat and you tell him your trouble. "OK", he says "Calm down. I'll take care of it.".. He rummages around in an old dresser and pulls out some old twine. He grabs his knife from the floor. Then he starts measuring various parts of you; your head, from head to foot, your left arm, etc. All the while cutting the string and making knots at various points. Without warning, the old Powwower spits onto the floor then tosses all the pieces of string into the fire place, where they immediately start to smolder and burn. He then places his hands on top of your head, mumbles a few more words, then suddenly raps you (not gently) on the back of your head. "OK", he says, "Go on home. You'll be fine in the morning". Without another word, he turns toward his supper dishes and you know you are dismissed. By the time you make your way home, you feel a lightening of your soul, a sense that all is right again in the world. You know that the curse placed on you has been lifted.


Today, a visit may be similar, but with modern tweaks..


You show up at a pre-arranged time. The Powwower is a younger man but you know he is experienced in what he does. He welcomes you to his home and directs you to a chair on the back porch. It's a nice day outside, so you don't mind. He asks you a few questions then says "Let's get started". He brings out a small deck of playing cards, worn with age. He begins shuffling them while muttering words you can't properly hear. Then he hands the cards to you and asks you to shuffle them. You do so for a few seconds. "Good enough" he says, and takes the cards from you. He immediately begins tossing them out on a small table nearby while whispering what sounds like prayers. Once all cards are tossed onto the table, he begins telling you the things and forces that are at work against you. You are shocked at how quickly the reading goes, but equally surprised by what he is saying. Just as quickly as it began, the reading is over and the cards are swept away. "Sit tight" he says and goes into the house. A moment later he returns with an old worn bible, a length of string, and a small stone. The bible is handed to you without a word and immediately he begins moving the string over your body as if scraping something off of your aura. All the while he is reciting prayers or incantations, you can't tell. The string is suddenly tossed aside and he places the stone on your head. He closes his eyes and says a prayer then touches various other points on your body. The stone is then tossed on top of the string. "OK, that should do it" he says. "In three days I want you to do the Lesser Banishing Ritual. After you are done, toss this string and this rock into the river. Then you'll be ok." You know the session is over. You pay him for the reading then go on home, remembering to do your part three days later.


Powwow is a no-nonsense affair. If you are looking for bells and whistles and incense and music and costume and ritual, then don't contact your local Powwow. You just won't get that from him. What you will get is the experience of having been tried for by a practitioner of a tradition that is as old as the Pennsylvania Germans themselves. The PA Germans are a people of faith and sensibility. You will experience that when you visit a Powwow.


If you need my services, then please contact me at robertphoenix73@gmail.com. Please don't expect our session to be much more than what I've outlined above, although certainly there will be differences in technique based on your needs. While I am by no means anti-social, I do have a busy life and a family that relies on me. However, while you are here, you will have my full attention.


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