Pennsylvania German Powwow

Faith healing and folk magic of the Pennsylvania Germans

Just a quick message:

Robert Phoenix is NOT a pen name. It is literally my legal name. In 2015 I was married to someone with the last name of Phoenix, so I changed my name from Chapman to Phoenix. There is another Robert Phoenix out there, a professional astrologer. He and I are not associated or related in any way. 

A note from me....

Many people ask me how I came to the tradition of powwowing and what go me started. It's a complex question to answer...  Most of my life I have been fascinated by both magic and religion. I have ALWAYS had a desperate need for God in my life. I can't explain why. As a kid, my family attended the Catholic Church because that was the church of my mother and her Irish-Catholic side of the family. As I got older, I naturally started to rebel against those teachings and discovered subjects like witchcraft and neo-paganism. As a young adult, I fully embraced alternative religions and systems of folk magic, but I always felt that something was missing. As I got into my 20's I started questioning the alternative religious studies I was learning because there was just so much false information out there that I couldn't trust. It was during these years that I started learning about Powwowing. In my late 30's, I had a dream. I was laying in bed and a powerful man's voice woke me up by saying "Get up and read your Bible." This was alarming to me and yet felt so real. I can never fully explain it. But the thing is, I didn't own a Bible at that point. But the dream was so powerful, I knew I had to follow through. So I got a Bible. And it changed my life. 

Since then, I've embraced the religion of my family and my ancestry. This feels absolutely correct to me because I want to honor my ancestry in the best way possible and can think of no better way than to carry on the beliefs that they had.

Powwowing is amazing to me because it works and it is powered by the beliefs of my ancestry. It feels absolutely right for me and I have never experienced anything quite like it.

On a more personal level, I place my family before anything else in life. I am married to a wonderful and caring person who takes very good care of our family. He is a hard worker, extremely loving, and very supportive of my career and Powwowing. Our son is an amazing young boy who has been through many trials and tribulations in life. When we adopted him, we knew he was meant to be extraordinary, and I look forward to seeing what amazing things he will do as he grows up. God has been very good to me and I could never have hoped for a more blessed life.

Piecing together information about a tradition like Powwowing is not always easy. I first had to pick a good place to start so I immersed myself in the study of the history of the Pennsylvania Germans. Once I had a good grasp on who the PA Germans are, I delved into the religious beliefs and folk customs. From there, the larger picture of what Powwow is and what its place is in the culture started to become more clear.

No folk tradition can be separated from the actual culture that gave it birth and still maintain its historical and cultural integrity. This is why I believe it is so difficult for those outside of the PA German community to truly comprehend Powwowing. Its so deeply ingrained into the religious beliefs and lifestyles of the Pennsylvania German culture that it is nearly impossible to fully appreciate if any of the cultural elements (location, religion, dialect of origin, history, etc) are removed or misrepresented.

To that end, I welcome any and all correspondence that may help flesh out the information and resources I have gathered here on this site. This includes links to academic websites that provide helpful information about the PA German culture, book recommendations, historical resources, and so forth.



On the left is my great Aunt, Sarah Steinhert.  In the middle is my grandmother, June Betty Bankes-Whitley.  On the right is my grandfather, Arthur Owen Whitley.



This is my dad, Robert Sr. He passed away in 2010.


Before you email me, please read the following guidelines. 

1-If you are sending historical, religious, and/or cultural information, be sure to include academic links to all of your resources.  There are some resources that are just NOT academic, and some that are.  If you are unsure, submit the links to me and I will make a determination of it's worth based on further research of my own.  I always do my best to investigate all claims, no matter how far-fetched, to uncover whether or not there is truth to them. Also, if you have artifacts or historical items that were used for powwowing, I'd love to see pictures of them! But you would be much better off contacting Patrick Donmoyer at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center. His life's work is preserving Pennsylvania German history and he would know much more about your items than I would. His email is 


2-be sure the information is not already presented on this website.  I've gotten quite a few emails from individuals who felt I left out important points pertaining to the study of powwowing, when in reality the information is most certainly included on this site.  You really have to look through the whole site.  Sometimes the information and links can seem overwhelming, but it is all absolutely essential for a proper education in the subject.  If you've checked and re-checked and definitely cannot find mention of something you feel is crucial, please let me know.  Please also be aware that in some instances I merely mention an aspect of PA German culture (like the various dialects, for example) but do not elaborate on because I am not an expert in that topic.  Instead, I'll offer links to further study for your own education.  


3-if you have questions/comments/etc that involve Native American studies, culture, religion, etc, please understand that I am not the person to contact.  I have almost no knowledge of Native American culture to share with you, nor is PA German Powwowing in any way, shape, or form connected to Native American culture.  I can't tell you how many emails I've received filled with accusations of cultural appropriation.  However, I can tell that the authors of those emails haven't actually read through this website.  If they had, they would understand that this is something very different than Native American religion and culture.  Emails of this nature will simply be deleted and ignored as I have no information to share on this topic. 

4-If you find that one of the links on this site no longer works or doesn't lead to the page that it's supposed to, please let me know.  I try to keep up with all the links on this site by checking them regularly to make sure they are still good, but sometimes I miss a few.  If you should find such a link, or if you know of a site that might be a good one to link to this one, please send me a message.  I appreciate it! :)

Please email me at:  You may also share your personal powwowing stories, I would love to read them!   

Please understand that I cannot always respond to every email.  Between my career and my family and my school work, I'm pretty busy.  However, I do my best.  If you don't get a response, please don't take it personally.  Thanks for understanding!

Requests for genealogical research.

I get FREQUENT requests for information about people's ancestry. I really cannot stress enough that I do NOT have access to this information. Please don't contact me with requests like this. While I would LOVE to learn more about your ancestry, I simply do not have this information. It took me a long time to gather information on my own ancestry. I recommend you go to and start there.

Requests for seminars or lectures

Unfortunately, my career as a public speaker has drawn to a close. I have been dealing with a progressive hearing disorder over the past ten years and recently it has become debilitating. For that reason, I can no longer obligate myself to speaking in public. While I have loved all of my public speaking engagements, my health has simply deteriorated to a point where I can no longer hear properly and therefore public speaking is out of the question.

I am still available to answer any and all questions you might have, as long as you email me.

Thank you for understanding.

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