Pennsylvania German Powwow

Faith healing and folk magic of the Pennsylvania Germans


Even though this entire website is technically my "blog", this page will hold my extra articles that don't really fit in well on the other pages, or maybe there will just be ideas that jumped into my head that I wanted to share here. Some of the older blog entries are helpful and so I recommend you scroll down and look through the entries from 4 or 5 years ago. 

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folk magic vs ceremonial magic

Posted by Rob Phoenix on November 18, 2017 at 4:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes people are surprised to find out I have a few ceremonial ritualistic elements to my powwowing. The surprise is understandable because powwowing is fairly simplistic no-frills sort of folk magic. So what's the difference between folk magic and ceremonial magic? And how can the two work together?

Folk magic is, for our purposes, the simple day-to-day magics of the powwow. These would include the removal of warts using a potato or apple or penny, the soothing of a burn from the s...

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basic tools of powwowing

Posted by Rob Phoenix on September 3, 2017 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Powwowing is a no frills tradition. It requires little more than your faith in the Holy Trinity and knowledge of a few tried and proven charms. You could spend your entire life powwowing with nothing more than your hands and your trusty dusty old family bible. 

But there are a few bits and bobbles that have found their way into the practice of powwowing that you may want to experiment with. The list I've created...

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A world away. In memory of my grandparents, Arthur and June Whitley.

Posted by Rob Phoenix on August 20, 2017 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

As is often the case when my mind is focused on research into powwowing, I find my thoughts drifting to my grandparents. Born of immigrants from both Austria and Wales, my grandparents, Arthur "Red" Whitley and June Betty Whitley (formerly Bankes)  built their home with their own hands in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. My grandfather worked at Atlas Power Co. his entire life while my grandmother worked as a clerk in Mitchell's Furniture Store in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. They were members...

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Playing Card divination

Posted by Rob Phoenix on August 13, 2017 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

About twenty years ago, I visited a local powwow who offered card readings. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, as she was very much a no-nonsense kind of woman. She wasted no time on pleasantries and literally didn't ask me a single question. She just started tossing playing cards on the table in front of her while reciting prayers and incantations to God, interspersing advice and predictions while doing so. She spoke non-stop for several minutes. When she stop...

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December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day

Posted by Rob Phoenix on December 4, 2015 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (6)

For those of us with European ancestry, which is many of us I imagine, Saint Nicholas need not be forgotten in December in favor of good old reliable Santa Claus.  What many don't realize is that Santa Claus is a relatively modern mis-pronunciation of the name Saint Nicholas.  I believe we can thank the Dutch for this, but don't quote me on it...


Saint Nicholas was an actual, real life person that lived about 300 ...

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November 28th, Nelson Rehmeyer Day

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



As a powwow doctor in south central Pennsylvania, November turns my thoughts to Nelson Rehmeyer.  In 1928, long before my time, a local Powwow Doctor was murdered by three men who believed Nelson had placed a curse on them.  As a Powwow, Nelson provide...

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Conception Billet: the power of the written word

Posted by Rob Phoenix 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 Heav...

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Hex Hollow Documentary - the story of Nelson Rehmeyer

Posted by Rob Phoenix 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 comple...

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How to research folk magic traditions

Posted by Rob Phoenix 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. 

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der Belsnickel

Posted by Rob Phoenix 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...

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