Pennsylvania Dutch Powwowing

Faith Healing and Folk Magic
of the Pennsylvania Germans

Powwow blog

These blog posts represent my personal take on the system of PA Dutch PowWow, which tends to follow a more traditional view of the system as it was originally practiced in the culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch.  While there are several modern translations of the system, I personally prefer to adhere to a more traditional view and application; remaining more true to it's roots and more in tune with the culture from which it comes.  So therefore my blogs and teachings reflect my personal view and experience which may or may not be the same as the more modern translations.  It is my best advice that you explore all options of Braucherei and find the system that speaks the best to you.  :)

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Nelson Rehmeyer

Posted by Rob Chapman on November 1, 2014 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (1)


As a Powwow in the tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch, November turns my thoughts to Nelson Rehmeyer.  In 1928, long before my time, a local Powwow Doctor was murdered by three misinformed young men who were allegedly led astray through the malicious intent of a local witch--a woman by the name of Nellie Noll.  As a Powwow Doctor, Nelson provided healing services to his community.  However, a few local young men who seemed to have nothing but bad luck needed answers.  As the story goes, a local witch, and quite possibly a rival of Rehmeyer's, led the men to believe Nelson was the cause of their misfortune--and only by collecting a lock of his hair and Nelson's copy of The Long Lost Friend, a Powwow manual, could the curse be lifted.  The men, gullible and most likely mentally ill by today's standards, visited Rehmeyer on the night of November 27, 1928.  By the end of the night, Rehmeyer was dead and the men felt vindicated, despite being unsuccessful in obtaining Rehmeyer's copy of Long Lost Friend. 


The home of Nelson Rehmeyer, now maintained by his descendant Rick Ebaugh.


Shank's Tavern in Marietta, Pennsylvania, is reported to be the former home of the Witch of Marietta, Nellie Noll.


Photograph of the investigation at Nelson Rehmeyer's home, 1928.


Nearly 90 years later, Nelson Rehmeyer is an example to us of the dangers faced by the practitioner of Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow and a reminder that our enemies are just as real today as they were almost a century ago.  Witchcraft is still very much alive and well in the Commonwealth, and is no less dangerous when embraced by those with personal agendas or malevolent intentions.  There are some who claim to practice a peaceful form of witchcraft, which disregards the historical witch and embraces a completely modern usage of the word.  However, in Nelson's time, there were no such "good witches", as his murder can attest to.


Nelson Rehmeyer is remembered by those of us who embrace the historical, cultural, and religious practice of Powwow and is mourned as a lost role model for the Powwowing community.  It is impossible to say if Nelson passed on his learning before he died but his murder serves as a frightening reminder of the malevolent intentions of the historical witch in Pennsylvania and an inspiration for us to carry on the service that Nelson provided to his community.


Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:14-16


The grave of Nelson Rehmeyer and his wife.

Conception Billet: the power of the written word

Posted by Rob Chapman on August 24, 2014 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the common identifying traits within Powwowing is the use of himmelsbriefs, or Letters from Heaven.  Dating back hundreds of years, himmelsbriefs were believed to be penned by God, Himself, and given to humanity to use for protection against all sorts of misfortune; poverty, illness, accidents, witchcraft, and even Satan.  Hand-written notes of protection date way back to ancient Egypt.


During the 15th and 16th centuries, Letters from Heaven, known then as Conception Billets, were a product of the clergy.  Monks would create and sell Conception Billets to those who could afford them-often made as gifts for nobles.  Later, Cunning Men would create Conception Billets for the common folks in their communities.  And, in more recent centuries, himmelsbriefs are created by the Powwow for the same reasons.


The style of Conception Billets has varied through the centuries, but the common points shared with all of them is that they are created on paper, contain prayers and petitions to God, and promise to protect the bearer against specific incidents.  From the extremely artistic and elaborate to the simple handwriting on a sheet of paper by a barely-literate farmer, Letters from Heaven have been a piece of the magical and religious community for hundreds if not thousands of years.


This Conception Billet, copied from The Cunning Man's Handbook (Avalonia, 2014) can be carried by an individual or buried at the edge of a property.


"I conjure thee, paper, thou which servest the needs of humanity, servest as the depository of God's wonderful deeds and holy laws, as also according to divine command the marriage contract between Tobias and Sarah was written upon thee, the Scriptures saying: They took paper and signed their marriage covenant.  Through thee, O paper, hath also the devil been conquered by the angel.  I adjure thee by God, the Lord of the Universe (sign of the cross), the Son (sign of the cross), and the Holy Ghost (sign of the cross), who spreads out the heavens as a parchment on which he describes; as with divine characters, his magnificence.  Bless (sign of the cross), O God, sanctify (sign of the cross) this paper that so it may frustrate the work of the Devil! "Ye who upon his person carries this paper written with holy words, or affixes it to a house, shall be freed from the visitations of Satan through him who cometh to judge the quick and dead."

"Let us pray, Mighty and resistless God, the God of vengeance, God of our fathers, who hast revealed through Moses and the prophets the books of they ancient covenant and many secrets of they kindness, and didst cause the Gospel of thy Son to be written by the evangelists and apostles, bless (sign of the cross) and sanctify (sign of the cross) this paper that thy mercy may be made known unto whatsoever soul shall bear with him this sacred thing and these holy letters; and that all persecutions against him from the devil and by the storms of satanic witchcraft may be frustrated through Christ our Lord.  Amen." 


The paper is to be sprinkled with Holy Water.


Hex Hollow Documentary - the story of Nelson Rehmeyer

Posted by Rob Chapman on July 19, 2014 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)


In the Spring of 2013, I was asked to be one of many individuals interviewed for the Hex Hollow Documentary film, put together by filmmaker Shane Free.  This documentary was to tell the real and complete story of powwower Nelson Rehmeyer, who was brutally murdered in the 1920's near York, Pennsylvania.  His assailants were told by a local witch that Nelson had placed a curse on them, and so they took matters into their own hands. 


The filming began in the summer of 2013 and my piece was filmed at my home in mid July.  This was a very cool experience,  unlike anything I had ever been asked to do before. 


My good friend, Chris Bilardi (author of The Red Church) was also there that day for his interview.  We really did not know what to expect in our interviews, so instead we sat in front of the camera and just answered questions as they were presented to us. 


Over the past year, I have heard from the filmmaker periodically about the progress of the documentary.  I never realized what a huge undertaking it could be to put together a story utilizing over 20 different people's input.  My piece was only a tiny fraction of the story.  But combined with all of the other folks who were interviewed for the movie, we are telling the story of Nelson Rehmeyer, his reputation in the community, his practice of Powwowing, and the events leading up to (and including) his murder.  It's an important story to tell, and never before has it been told by so many people who covered many aspects and angles of the incident.


One year after the initial filming, the movie crew returned to Pennsylvania to get more footage.  This time I wasn't interviewed, but rather asked to perform various powwow-related techniques for the camera, and film what is known in the movie industry as "B Roll"...  It was another exciting experience and I can't wait to see the finished product.


According to the filmmaker, the movie will hopefully be released by the Fall of 2015, which means one more year.  But a project this important can't be rushed, and I can wait patiently. 


As I get more information, I will update this website accordingly.  In the meantime," target="_blank" rel="nofollow">there is a facebook page for the movie. 






Coffee: liquid magic!

Posted by Rob Chapman on June 29, 2014 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who drink coffee, and those who are missing out.  If you are a coffee drinker, such as myself, then you undoubtedly understand the bliss of that first sip of coffee in the morning....there is just nothing else like it in the world!  People have mixed feelings about coffee, they either love it or they hate it.  They may like the smell of it but not the taste, or they may be so adverse to it that they run screaming from the room at the site of it, like a vampire seeing a crucifix (I may be exaggerating slightly here, but maybe not...).


I personally love coffee with lots of sugar and flavored creamer.  I like my coffee to be rich and sweet and scalding hot, with just a hint of vanilla flavor to it.  I grind my own beans, so I am guaranteed a fresh pot every morning.


In addition to the glorious blissful experience of just tasting this magnificent cup of love, coffee has actual health benefits that non-coffee drinkers are simply refusing to bless themselves with.  When you are finished feeling sorry for them, read on!


Antioxidants.  Did you know that coffee offers more antioxidants than most fruits or veggies?  It's true!  We need antioxidants to fight off all the stray radicals that bombard us everyday that make us sick, tired, give us bad skin, etc.


It helps keep our liver healthy!  That's right!  If you like to drink alcohol (like I do), then coffee is your best defense against liver damage.  People who drink coffee are 20% less likely to develop liver disease.  Just so you know....


It makes you happy!!!!  Because of all the antioxidants in coffee, research has proven that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from depression than non-coffee drinkers. 


Stress-relief!  I'm sure I don't need to explain this one.  Just savor the aroma of your coffee tomorrow morning.  The worries and cares melt away and a smile forms on your lips....ahhhhhhhh, the blissful and stress-reducing smell of power and love.....sigh..........


It helps fight diabetes!  By as much as 50% according to some research.  So drink up!


It makes you smarter!  I don't know how because I don't understand neuroscience, but I can tell you from experience that I am far more intelligent than many of my non-coffee drinking friends.  Hey, if it's true it's true... just sayin'.... 


There are more benefits but my mind is moving too fast to type anymore so I need to go and run around the block a few times.  Have a great day, and check out these links for more research!


Why Easter is the most important Christian holiday

Posted by Rob Chapman on April 20, 2014 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (2)


To begin, this is not a discussion of the origins of the folk customs of Easter that include the Easter Bunny, baskets of candy, or colored eggs.  Those are nothing more than cultural folk customs that have no relevance to the deeper spiritual Mystery that is celebrated on this holiday.  Rather, this is my take on the purpose of the Easter celebration that commemorates the most important element (ie. very foundation) of the Christian faith; the Resurrection of Jesus.


Accounts of the Resurrection can be found in all four Gospels of the New Testament.  And while the details vary, which is no surprise considering the four Gospels we have are just four of many accounts written by different people over the span of about 200 years following the life of Jesus, we are able to piece together a relatively straightforward narrative:  Jesus was crucified, his lifeless body was placed within a tomb, and two days later the body was gone and Jesus was observed by various individuals walking around, speaking, and generally going about his business in seemingly good health.


In the year 2014, such a story seems unlikely and borders on silly.  Yet 2000 years ago, not only was the story believed, it became the very foundation of what would eventually become known as the Christian faith. 


In order to understand the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we must first understand the ancient tradition from which the resurrection parallels; that of Passover.


In Exodus we learn that the Hebrews, after having been slaves to the Egyptians for over 400 years, are about to be freed from their bondage by God, who is working through the agent of Moses.  God instructs his people to be ready for a quick departure.  And as part of their preparation, they are to mark their doorways in lamb's blood.  That night, He promises, the angel of Death will visit Egypt and strike down the first born of every family, and only those who are in homes marked by lamb's blood will be spared.  Imagine the terror the Hebrews must have felt, huddled in their homes while the angel of Death passed over.  Imagine also the anguish of those who were not spared the wrath of God and awoke to find their firstborns dead.  This was the final sign to Pharaoh that God wasn't playing around and really really wanted him to free the Hebrews.  (for the full account, read Exodus)  So anyway, the Hebrews left Egypt to strike out on their own (but not without some drama, such as the whole Red Sea ordeal, the manna, the golden calf, and other such worries as outlined in Exodus).


So jumping ahead to the early 1st Century, we have the Jewish tradition of Pascha, or Passover, which commemorates the freeing of the Israelites through the intervention of God.  Many traditions sprang up to honor this holy time for the Jewish people; such as dietary restrictions, temple observances, sacrifices, and so forth.  But the underlying theme was that by the blood of the sacrifice, the Hebrews were marked to be saved by God.


Enter Jesus.  Jesus was seen as something of a trouble-maker by the establishment of the times.  He offered hope to the oppressed Jewish people; who were at that time under the tyrannical rule of Rome.  The people were hoping for salvation again, but this time they wanted someone to lead them in battle against their oppressors.  Along came Jesus with his speeches of salvation, but these involved mostly peace.  The salvation he offered was one of the spirit, not the body.  For many people, this struck a chord and they followed him all over the place, listening to what he was saying and literally changing their lives to follow this new way of thinking that involved spiritual rather than physical reward.  Jesus was the 'messiah' by virtue of the message he was preaching. 


For the Romans who occupied the Judaic lands, Jesus was a potential threat.  They saw the people rallying around him and felt that they were seeing the beginnings of a Jewish uprising.  To the Jewish Temple leaders, Jesus posed a threat in the sense that he spoke out against the hypocrisy of the Temple.  Where the temple leaders insisted on rigid adherence to rules and regulations, Jesus spoke of finding God within.  Where the temple leaders relied on public displays of their own faith to guide the people, Jesus encouraged private communication with God.  Where the temple leaders insisted on payment for sacrifice, Jesus taught that it was more important to give freely to those in need. And for many of the regular people, Jesus wasn't quite the warrior they were hoping for.  You can imagine the tension of the climate.


And so we come to Jerusalem, around the year 33 AD, during the celebration of Passover.  You have an already volatile situation with Roman-occupied Jerusalem and the most important Jewish holy day of the year.  Enter Jesus, a trouble maker on all sides, and things were bound to turn ugly for someone.


When Jesus was arrested and convicted to crucifixion, his followers did not view him as the 'sacrificial lamb'.  They did not see this as a symbolic death which removed sin from the world.  In truth, it was a major blow to their movement.  They were in fear for their own lives.  So with the public spectacle of Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples and followers scattered.  By the time Sunday rolls around and the tomb was supposedly found to be empty, the followers of Jesus were already in hiding.  Some believed the story about Jesus walking out of the tomb, some did not.  Some witnessed Jesus for themselves, others saw him but did not recognize him.  Some witnessed him performing amazing feats such as walking through solid doors, others saw him literally appear or disappear, as the situation warranted.  Accounts vary wildly about these days after the resurrection. But these accounts spread and the tales were carried to many different places, and the early Christian movement, although an underground one, began.... 


But did this event really happen?  It's hard to say.  The easiest answer is to say no, it's impossible, there's no way it happened.  And science would probably verify this conclusion. 


However, I think it's fair to say that something occurred, otherwise we probably would not have heard of this man named Jesus.  And 2000 years after the events outline in the New Testament, we would not even be having this discussion.


Therefore, the safest and best assumption is that something occurred to cause the stories of Jesus to spread and grow and catch hold with people and become the foundation for one of the largest religious movements of the world.  Easter is the holiday commemorating these events.


The parallels to Passover are impossible to ignore.  The crucifixion was retroactively seen as the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial lamb.  That blood is the salvation for those who believe.  In other words, the acceptance of Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent resurrection is the same as the marking of the doorways in lamb's blood so that the ancient Hebrews were spared the wrath of God.  The reward for belief in Jesus' resurrection is supposedly eternal life of some sort.  The bible falls short with its explanation of this as almost all accounts of death are worded as "falling asleep". 


Easter is important because it offers Christians an idea that life continues after we die.  Many of the world's religions have a belief in some sort of life after death.  This is no different in Christian belief.  The story of the crucifixion is not based on any type of agricultural event, as with some belief systems, nor is it based on a mythological saga, as with some belief systems.  Rather, the foundation of Christian belief is based on events that are assumed to have actually occurred in recorded history.  In other words, the majority of Christians believe these events to be factual and historical.  And while the resurrection may seem far-fetched and amazing, that is the very reason why it has become the basis for such a wide-spread belief system.  In other words, the religion didn't create the event.  It was the event that created the religion. 


Did the resurrection truly occur?  I don't know.  Does it really matter?  I don't think so.  Even without the resurrection piece of the story, the life and teachings of Jesus that we know of can still function as a model by which we can live our lives.  The message of helping others, showing unconditional love, caring for those in need, and living with wisdom, are messages that can work for anyone.  What comes after death is still the Great Mystery that is has always been.  It is that Great Mystery that inspires countless religious and spiritual beliefs all over the world.  None of us really has the answer to that Great Mystery, and Easter is just one more piece of the story.  If one man can overcome death by belief in God, then I suppose we all can.  And that's really the true meaning of this holiday.



How to research folk magic traditions

Posted by Rob Chapman on January 17, 2014 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

One of the largest hurdles that those of us who study and practice folk magic traditions faces is the lousy research and misinformation that is perpetuated in modern 'magical' literature.  Thanks to the new age boom in the 1990's, the shelves of the bookstores are weighed down by poor academia, historical revisionism, and just plain old bad writing.  And sadly, it is this information that has been used as the foundation for magical practice for the past 20 years.  When I was first introduced to the actual practice of powwowing, it was through the lens of a neopagan organization founded and run by an author famous for her poor scholarship.  But in those days I was young (in my mid 20's) and extremely impressionable, and so I didn't realize that the history she was teaching was actually a lie.  When I branched out on my own and set my pre-conceived notions and desires aside, I was able to study actual history and academia, and that's when my powwowing work really began.


Piecing together the history of folk magic traditions isn't easy.  You have to first dig through the misinformation that is out there.  That information is easy to spot.  In addition to almost any title with a crescent moon on the cover, most of these publications are categorized under the headings of "new age" or "wicca" or something similar.  But it's important to remember that actual folk magic traditions are a part of our history.  And, within that history, they are pieces of actual and established cultures.  In other words, the best way to learn about folk magic is by learning about the people who are associated with that folk magic.


The study of Pennsylvania German powwowing, with the intent of establishing yourself as a practitioner and authority on the subject, requires several approaches, which I've outlined here for you to consider.  And keep in mind that these are the steps (more or less) that I adhered to in order to piece together a proper history and understanding of the tradition.


1.- Skip the New Age/Occult/Wicca section of the bookstore.  Don't even go in that direction, it won't help you.  Those books are generally written with one thing in mind.....fame.  Those authors want to have that book under their belt so they can give themselves some type of credentials within the neopagan world.  And, indeed, that's all it really takes in that community.  Unfortunately, academia and scholarship are often left at the door with many of those works.  So skip that section, it's not a proper approach.


2.-Go to the library.  In that library, seek out the history of the culture you are interested in.  In the case of Pennsylvania German culture, there is a wealth of information out there.  You have to first ask yourself who are the people that make up this culture?  Start there and learn about those people.  Since we're talking about folk magic, you also have to research the beliefs of those people.  What were the prevailing religions?  What were those religions like prior to the immigration of those people?  If you are looking at an American folk magic tradition, find out the history of the churches for those people.  And, of equal importance, learn the history of the areas where those people settled here.  That's where you'll find the creation of the folk magic traditions.  Remember to ask yourself: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and To What Extent.  All of these things can be asked in regards to the people and culture and beliefs and location of the folks you are studying.


3.-Remain neutral.  Don't study with an agenda of proving something.  Study with an agenda of LEARNING about those people.  When it comes to our American folk magic traditions, keep in mind that these people are our cultural ancestors.  It does them an injustice to superimpose our romanticized ideals onto them.  It insults their memories.  In my case, my ancestors weren't particularly "magical".  However, they were members of the Reformed church in Austria and it was a tremendous leap of faith for them to leave their lives behind and come here to Pennsylvania to establish themselves.  Had they not made that sacrifice and brave move, I wouldn't be here.  It would be a dishonor for me to pretend they were something other than what they were.  History is amazing, and the more truth you learn about your family's history, the more power there will be in your practice of their folk magic. 


4.-Take it for what it is.  If you learn that the culture was responsible for horrors beyond imagining, take it for what it is.  It's still history.  It's still a part of the culture that created the folk tradition you are studying.  Take that information and understand it for what it really is: a piece of history.  A necessary piece that helped to mold things into what they are today.


5.-Don't speculate.  Putting assumptions onto the actions of our ancestors is not real history and it certainly isn't scholarly.  Saying things like "My great great grandfather painted this star hex sign to protect his barn.  I'm sure he understood this symbol to represent the three-fold Mother Goddess...".  No.  He probably didn't.  But unless you found his diary explaining his reasoning, all you really know is that he painted a star.  What is the historical and cultural significance of those stars?  That's more likely your answer.  Don't get crazy, stick to real history and facts.


6.-Don't assume that because the ancients of a country did something, that means your ancestry did it too.  Just because my ancestors (some of them, at any rate) came from Austria, it does not mean they were Heathens.  It does not mean they were even very good Christians.  All I really know of them is that they were members of the Reformed church and remained members when they came to Pennsylvania.  There is no evidence to suggest they kept any type of heathen beliefs alive.  What we know from history is that much of Austria was Catholic in the 1800's.  The Reformed Germans were something of a minority.  There is no evidence of pagan beliefs active at the time.  And, since I can't trace my family back any further, that's all I really know. 


7.-Don't assume that because your last name means something, that this is an indication of your connection to a pagan past.  My last name means "Merchant".  It's English in origin.  However, to trace the line of my last name is nearly impossible.  It isn't a straight line, as anyone who studies family history will know.  And when you take on the study of your family, you can't go back very far, trust me.  Your last name is your connection to a great big long list of people, with various beliefs and lifestyles and origins.  You can't make narrow assumptions.  Your last name may very well be an accident.  In my case, Chapman isn't even the name I was given at birth.  So there are many things to consider.  Don't assume you know all there is to know about your lineage by your last name.  It's so much more complex than that.


8.-ALWAYS CITE YOUR SOURCES.  Remember that the more historical and academic your sources are, the more correct your information will be, and the more seriously you will be taken.  In order to be a student of a folk magic tradition, you literally need to become an academic and a scholar.  Always cite your sources.  If you are presenting information online, link to your resources.   Personal gnosis doesn't count as academia.  Also, try not to link to your own work, unless you are doing so as a reference, not a resource.  Also remember to be prepared to have your work challenged.  If you are making claims, prepare to back up those claims with actual academia.  In this day and age of misinformation, it is crucial to the preservation of culture that you are doing things properly.  That means that when you are challenged, you can confidentaly prove that what you say is true. 


9,- Ask questions of people who know.  There are many learned individuals out there.  Ask them questions.  Track down the real authorities.  Let them know your interest in preserving a piece of culture.


10.-Immerse yourself in the culture.  Live it.  That's how you'll learn it.  That's how you'll understand it.  Without an understanding of how that culture formed and lived, you won't have a proper understanding of it's folk magic.  If you don't have that personal connection, you are essentially playing a game of pretend.


11. Stick to it.  Don't give up.  The information is out there, but you have to be persistent.  Go to local Historical Societies, go to the library, ask the older folks who may remember, just keep going.  Don't ever think you know all there is to know, because there is always more.


12.-Be true to the history and culture of the people.  Your study of a specific folk magic tradition is also an effort to preserve that bit of culture.  Be true to it.  Don't make it something it is not.  Be faithful to the people who lived it.  Keep it alive to preserve culture and history and honor those who made up that culture. 

der Belsnickel

Posted by Rob Chapman on December 26, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Before our much Americanized, and commercialized, version of St. Nick, kids growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch homes were taught the Belsnickel story, said Zach Langley, director of education at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University.

Really, the Belsnickel was the ultimate judge of whether kids were being good or bad, Langley said.

Europeans who immigrated to America from the Alps brought with them the legend and tradition of the Belsnickel, Langley said.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas in rural Pennsylvania, a man from the town would dress in dirty clothing to take on the character of Belsnickel, Langley said. In many cases, he'd ask kids to recite a Bible verse or some other question to gauge their disposition, he said.

Children were rewarded with nuts, fruit or some other small trinket. But the kids who erred would get a rap on the knuckles, or worse.

"The classic Pennsylvania German image is a fur-covered guy walking around with a switch," Langley said.

By the early 20th century, Pennsylvania German families began to assimilate into American customs and the Belsnickel fell out of fashion.

And around that time, the familiar version of Santa Claus that we've come to know and love was developing. His image, Langley said, is due in no small part to advertising and the popular media of the day.

Nowadays, the Belsnickel makes appearances during depictions of early Pennsylvania German life at museums and historical societies, Langley said.

That's not a bad way for the Belsnickel to be remembered.


This story originally appeared in The Reading Eagle, December 30, 2010.

Read the original article HERE.

Cold and flu season

Posted by Rob Chapman on December 17, 2013 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

It seems like every winter my body is just on the verge of being sick.  It's like there is a constant shadow of a cold hanging over my head, and most mornings I wake up with a scratchy throat, some sinus pressure, and other unpleasantness.  But then as the day progresses it seems to go away.  Just yesterday I developed one of the worst sore throats I've had in years, and today there is barely a trace of it.  What the heck?!?!


Cold and flu season can be a pain; especially if you are like me and seem to pick up every single germ and bug that passes back and forth between us humans. 


Powwowing is really focused on helping issues after the fact.  But sometimes you just can't get to your local powwow or, more likely, you don't even have a local powwow!  It really is a waste of time and money to go to the emergency department for the common cold.  I wouldn't want to discourage you from seeing a physician if you feel you need it, but there is a reason they call it the "common" cold.  It's common.  Everyone gets one.  Don't panic.  Instead, try some of these tried and true methods for relieving your symptoms.  If you really and truly feel that you need proper medical attention, then by all means go.  But you can still do some of the following:


Tea.  Lots of it.  There are all sorts of herbal infusions (ie. teas) available these days, and some even do what they claim to do.  A few of my favorites are chamomile, for it's calming and relaxing effect, and lemon, because it basically soothes everything...  Small warning, chamomile tea tends to feel 'dry' in my throat and therefore doesn't do much good when my throat is sore or I have a dry cough.  I might also recommend echinacea tea (add some sweetener to it...lots of people like honey---I do not---but sweeten it with whatever you like).  Mint tea.  There are lots of teas of the mint variety and all of them are good for relieving stuffiness and can even soothe an upset stomach.


Chicken soup.  It's true, homemade chicken soup really does make you feel better.  Since it's the winter season, you may even have some baked turkey in your fridge.  A nice hot and hardy soup made with fresh veggies and turkey and rice and potatoes can really do wonders for even the worst of colds.  And the added benefit of the turkey is the triptophan, which may even help you fall asleep!


Mustard plasters.  I know, it's REALLY old-fashioned, but don't discount it.  Chest rubs and plasters can have a tremendous effect on relieving chest and head congestion.  I'm sure your grandmother has a favorite recipe, just ask her.


Vapo-rub.  Do it.  You won't smell nice, but it works.


Cough suppressants.  You can make your own with a little time and effort.  Here's how.  You will need:


Spearmint extract (they sell these in the baking section of the grocery store)

Orange extract

3/4 cups water

3/4 cups clear corn syrup

3 cups sugar (hey, no one promised they were sugar free)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons food coloring, if you like

1 baking dish lined in aluminum foil


Boil the water and sugar and corn syrup together until the sugar is dissolved.  You will also need a thermometer to make sure the water temperature reaches 300 degrees.  Once it does, remove from heat, add a teaspoon of each extract and add the food coloring.  Mix until it's all blended.  Then add the baking soda and watch it get all fizzy.  Pour into the foil-lined baking dish.  Let it cool.  If you did it properly, it will solidify.  Once it does, remove the foil and hardened mixture and put in a plastic bag.  Smash it up with a hammer.  Eat as needed.  And yes, this is a modified recipe of Coal Candy, another Pennsylvania-born tradition!!!!!!


Salt water.  You can gargle with salt water to relieve a sore throat or you can boil salt water on the stove and put your head over it, and cover your head with a towel to keep the steam in.  You can also add a few drops of spearmint extract (leftover from the above recipe) to the water to breathe that in. 


Sleep.  Turn off Netflix, put down the Kindle, turn off the lights, and go to sleep.  Sleep is our greatest weapon against illness as our body repairs itself while we sleep.  You will get better faster with plenty of sleep.


If you still feel lousy and need some powwowing, write to me.  If it's even worse than that, like the flu (ugh) then go see a doctor. 

Weather Lore

Posted by Rob Chapman on October 28, 2013 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (1)

Ask any old Pennsylvania Dutch farmer about the weather and they will undoubtedly tell you about their own methods for predicting the weather.  These methods appear, on the surface, to be directly descended from superstition and local folklore; lacking any real scientific foundation.  Yet, for many of us, these localized predictions have proven to be reliable and trustworthy, especially for the farming community of the Pennsylvania Germans.

Some of the more common weather predictive techniques are listed here.  If you have any more, please send them my way!

For snow:  Predicting frost and snow is a very big deal in Pennsylvania; especially if you're a farmer or gardener.  Once October comes, we are on the lookout for the first snow fall. 

Our pets give us our first clues: if your dog howls at the moon, expect the first snow fall soon!  If your cat sits with her back to the fire, snow is on it's way!


Frost is a little trickier and requires a bit of calendar work.  Once the katydids start singing, count 90 days.  That's when the first frost hits!  And if you're feeling really adventurous, count the number of mornings in August when fog covers the ground.  That's how many snowfalls we will have come winter!

Keep your eye on the first 12 days of the year.  Each of those days represents the weather of each corresponding month. 

When the smoke stops rising up the chimney and instead fills up the house, snow is on it's way!  It might also be an indicator that you need to sweep the chimney!

A ring around the moon usually indicates snow in the next three days.  Two rings and it means snow is coming in 24 hours!  Look out!

For rain:  When the cows lay down in the fields during the day, rain is coming. 

When your cat lays on it's head, rain will follow. 

When your dog starts eating grass, it means rain is in the air.  It might also mean he has a belly ache!


When the leaves show their backsides, a storm is approaching. 

Northern winds signify cold and windy days.

Eastern winds signify powerful storms; even tornadoes.

Southern winds can mean lots of rain, but sometimes can be warm and pleasant.

Western winds are most favorable!

In the evening when the sky is red, the next day will be fair.  In the morning, a red sky indicates storms. (Interesting note: believe it or not, this comes from the Bible.  Jesus spoke about this method of prediction in Matthew)

The Moon: many of the old farmers believe the phase or appearance of the moon gives an indication of the weather to come.

Horns pointing up, rain within three days.

Horns pointing down signifies a dry spell.

If a woman goes out onto the fields during the waning of the moon, rain will spoil the crops.  (Note: this is not so much a weather forecast as it is a type of hex).

A full moon obscured by clouds brings sunshine and dry weather.

And, of course, we can't forget the tried and true method of weather-prediction..... arthritis pain!  "The rain's gonna make down, it pains me so!"

In Pennsylvania, weather patterns move from West to East.  Here in South-Central Pennsylvania, we are often spared the harsher weather that our more northerly and western PA neighbors get.  We are often referred to as the "snow hole" in the winter; meaning when everyone else in the state is shoveling out their cars, we are enjoying mild clear weather, with nary a flurry to be seen! 



Long-Distance PowWow

Posted by Rob Chapman on April 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the most common distance charms in the PowWow tradition is the recitation of Ezekiel 16:6 "Then I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, and I said unto thee, 'Live'." (paraphrased).  This particular passage is really about how God picked up the nation of Israel and nurtured it and made it into something beautiful.  If you read through the rest of Ezekiel 16, it is almost as if the author is speaking about a woman, but it's really a metaphorical chapter about God's love for Israel.  This is a tried and proven all purpose charm within the PowWow tradition, and it is known to work especially well for distance healing.

When someone asks me for healing work, I do one (or more) of several things...

For starters, their name is put into my Bible.  Generally I write their name on a slip of paper and place it in the pages of my Bible.  I then say a silent prayer for their recovery.

Then, on Monday evenings when I do my distance PowWow for all of the requests I get throughout the week, I work through the Ezekiel charm for each individual separately.  There are a few other charms that I use for long-distance work in place of Ezekiel, depending on the circumstances.

The Lord's Prayer.  This can be said over the name of a sick individual. 

Our Father, who art in Heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

and forgive us our sins,

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory

forever and ever.  Amen.

The all-purpose charm that I typically use for headaches:

Tame thou flesh and bone, like Christ in Paradise, and who will assist thee, this I tell thee (NN) for your repentance sake.  In the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  Amen.  Amen.

If they have a long-term condition, I then place the paper with their name in my private charms book.  There is a page exclusively dedicated to distance charms that contains a symbol and private writings designated for this purpose.

(copy of page from my personal charm book)

If you want to work distance healing for others, simply let others know that you do this work.  Then you can follow along with what I do, or you can come up with your own methods.  Remember to read through the rest of this website, as well as the recommended reading list, for more ideas.


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Current Moon Phase

The Pennsylvania Dutch know the value of being aware of the Moon's phases.  Keep track here for all of your planting/harvesting needs!



Featured Hex


The Lancaster County Hex.  It doesn't have any mystical meaning, it's purely a decorative advertisement piece. :)

Another variation of the Double Distlefink, meaning double good luck.


Known as the "Daddy of all Hexes", this combination of color and symbology provides good luck all year round. The twelve petals around the circle symbolize the twelve months of the year.



The Distlefink is my favorite hex sign image.  The double Distlefink is a sign of Double Good Luck.


To view or purchase hex signs, go to ZOOKS DUTCH NOVELTIES!

Books You Should Read






This Week's Pow-wow Tip!

To insure safety from an angry dog

Dog, hold thy nose to the ground;

God has made me and thee, hound.


To cure a person of worms

You are a little worm, not entirely grown.

You plague me in marrow and bone.

You may be white, black, or red,

In a quarter of an hour you will be dead.


A Charm for Personal Safety

Cross of Christ and Crown of Christ and Jesus Christ; red blood, be to me at all times and all hours good.  god the Father is before me.  God the Son is at my side.  God the Holy Ghost is behind me.  Who now is stronger than these three persons may come to seize me.

+   +   +  then follow up with three Paternosters.


To Compel a dog, horse, or other animal to follow you

Casper guide thee, Balthasar bind thee, Melchior keep thee

Three times, utter these words into the animal's right ear.

For Wounds and Stopping of Blood

Blessed is the day on which Jesus Christ was born; blessed is the day on which Jesus Christ died; blessed is the day on which Jesus Christ arose from the dead.  These are the three holy hours; by these N.N., I stop thy blood.  Thy sores shall neither swell nor fester; no more shall that happen, than that the Virgin Mary will bear another son.

+   +   +

Protection from Sorcery

Take elm wood on Good Friday, cut the same while calling the holiest names.  Cut chips of this wood from one to two inches in length.  Carve on them, in the three holiest names, three crosses.  Wherever such a slip is placed, all sorcery will be banished.

To Stop Blood

There stood three roses upon our Saviour's grave.  The first is mild, the other is good, the third shall stop the blood.


+ + +

A Protective Talisman

To be hung in the home, hidden in a secret place, or carried with you.

A charm to make a thief return stolen goods

Write upon two pieces of paper the following words, and attach one to the top of the door, and the other under the threshold, and the thief will return on the third day and bring back the stolen articles:


Abraham bound it †

Isaac redeemed and found it †

Jacob carried it home †

it is bound as tightly as steel and iron, chains and fetters. † † †


To Remove Skin Infections

Many of the old charms refer to a skin infection known as "wildfire".  This referred to a very specific skin condition called erysipelas.  I use the term to refer to any skin condition.  Feel free to change it to something else that might work better for you if you choose not to use the term "wildfire".

With a red string, pull it tight between your two hands.  First touch the top of the individual's head then sweep the string down the front of the body and away from the person three times while you repeat the following three times:


fly, fly, fly

The red string chase you

away, away, away

Then speak the baptismal name of the individual then seal with the words:

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


To Stop Blood

On a slip of white paper, write the following:


Place this paper over the wound to stop the blood.


Charm to cure burns

For mild burns on the skin (don't try to treat serious burns, get medical attention immediately):

At the end of each spoken line, gently blow on the burned area (GENTLY!!!)

Fire of God (gentle breath)

Lose thy heat (gentle breath)

As Judas lost his color (gentle breath)

When he betrayed our Lord (gentle breath)

In the garden of olives (gentle breath)

Amen, Amen, Amen (gentle breath)

Repeat for a total of three times, seal the working.

To Guard your home against thieves and witches

Take a glass of water and repeat over it 77 times:

Adonai, Elohim, the LORD my God

Pour the water around the perimeter of your home.  This is believed to prevent witches and thieves from infiltrating your property.  Made more powerful if done on a Holy Day or after taking sacrament at church.


Interesting charm and it's language variations

This was shared by a member of my church as she learned it as a child growing up in PA Dutch country:


"Heile, heile, Hinkeldreck! Marifree ischt olles weg."

or, another variation,

"Heile, heile, Hinkeldreck! Marifree ischt olles recht."

in German,

"Heiliger, heiliger, Huhnerdreck! Morgen fruh ist alles weg (recht)."

and, in English,

"Holy, holy chicken dirt.  Early morning it is gone/away/right."

and, made to rhyme, we get the familiar charm as demonstrated below,

"Holy, holy chicken dirt.  Tomorrow morning it won't hurt!"


It is said that to spit on the area of pain helps seal the magic.


To Keep Witches Away from your Property

In the Amish community, there is an old belief that if a bundle of St. John's Wort was hung over the door of the house or barn, no witch could enter and no witchcraft could effect the people or animals within.  In these days of the prevalence of hexerei, why take chances?


Sealing a Powwow working

When a charm calls for sealing the working with the sign of the cross, this is done with the right hand, made into a fist, and the thumb straight out (like a 'thumbs up' position).  The cross is 'drawn' over the affected area with the ball of the hand just below the thumb; typically three times; spoken in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


For Easing Pains

Hold hand over painful area and recite three times:

Holy, Holy chicken dirt

Tomorrow morning, it won't hurt

Blow on area three times, then seal with the sign of the cross.

To Banish Fevers

Suspend, upon a Friday, a letter containing the names set forth below, between the hours of eight and nine, upon the patient's neck, in the following manner:

Fold together, and tie it in grayish red cloth, which must be unbleached, and pierce through the cloth and the letter, three holes. Draw red thread through them, while calling the three holiest names. Suspend the same around the neck of the patient, and let it remain eleven days. After taking it off, burn it before the lapse of one hour:














Against Evil Spirits and all manner of Witchcraft.


N. I. R.


 Sanctus.   Spiritus.


N. I. R.


All this be guarded, here in time, and there in eternity. Amen.

You must write all the above on a piece of white paper, and carry it about you. The characters or letters above, signify: "God bless me here in time, and there eternally."


To Protect your home from all manner of evils

In chalk or white stone, just outside your doorstep, mark on the ground three crosses spaced equal distance apart while saying:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David as he said through his holy prophets long ago, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

To Soothe Aches and Pains

Place hands gently on the afflicted area.

Repeat the following for a total of three times:

I will exalt you, O Lord,

for you lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

O Lord my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.

O Lord, you brought me up from the grave;

you spared me from going down into the pit.

(Excerpt from Psalm 30, spoken with devotion.)

To Stop a Wound from Bleeding

Say three times over the wound:

Mary goes throughout the land

She has two pitchers in her hand;

In one is blood, in one is water;

Blood stay; water go.

Make three signs of the cross over the wound.

To Determine if you have been Bewitched

Rub a raw egg from the top of your head down the length of your body to your feet three times.  Break the egg into a dish or fireplace.  If there is blood in the egg, it is a sign that negative witchery has been cast on you.

To Remove Negative Witchery and Return it to the Witch

Boil a piece of beef and while it is cooking, keep sticking it with a needle.  The one who bewitched you will have the same pains and the spell upon you will be broken.

To Prevent Weak or Malicious Persons from doing you an injury

On a piece of paper write the following:

Dullix, ix, ux. Yea, you can't come over Pontio;

Pontio is above Pilato. + + +

Hang this above the main entrance to your house and it will certainly protect you from malicious persons!

To Protect The Home

Go to each window and door individually.  In the air make the sign of the cross or protective star while saying:

Three angels with three swords stand before the house of God.

The first is courage,

the second is strength,

the third strikes down all enemies.

In the name of the Holy Trinity!

Weather Charm

Hold a red knife in the air, blade facing oncoming storm, and say three times:

"Three angels ride the winds

to lands both far and near

Go west, go east, go south, go north

but do not linger here!"

Stick the knife into the ground.

To Stop Blood

Place a red knife gently over the affected area.

Three ladies came from Jordan's land

Each with a bloody knife in her hand

Stand blood, stand, in the name of God stand

Bloody wound, in God's name mend!

Repeat three times.

For Justice in Court

Carry a bit of Pot Marigold (Calendula) on the day of your court appearance and, prior to leaving your home, recite Psalm 20 three times.

The SATOR charm can be copied onto a slip of paper then taped to the inside of your front door to protect your home from thieves and intruders.