A few years ago, when I first started putting this site together, I found myself stressing over the best way to present the information. Back in those early days, my information was scattered. I had initially learned the system of Powwowing from a not-so-reliable source; although at the time I wasn't aware of that. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had heard of powwowing but didn't really have an interest in it. I was well aware of the Pennsylvania German culture; having quite a bit of PA German influence on my father's side of the family. So the food, the hex signs, the décor, the art, the speech....all of these things were familiar to me. But Powwowing wasn't so familiar. So when I learned the system from my first teacher, I thought what she taught me was correct.
As time went on, I felt a very strong pull to do more research on my own because what I had been taught of powwowing just didn't ring true with what I knew about the Pennsylvania German culture.. The practice of Powwowing felt right to me, yet I still wasn't able to do it! I wasn't sure why in those early days, but I knew it was the right tradition for me...I just needed to figure out it's "secret". And so I began my research.
Let me just tell you right now that researching a system like Powwowing is much easier said than done. First, I had to wade through the information that was current at the time. And unfortunately, that available information wasn't accurate. And so I prayed about it and let God guide me... and guide me He did.
Years later, I am still researching the system of Powwow. However, I see things in a whole new light now. Studying and practicing PA German Powwow connects me to my roots. It reminds me of my grandparents, and weekends spent exploring the forests on their property. It makes me think of the food I ate growing up. It makes me feel like I'm reconnecting with the world of my childhood. Through my studies of powwowing, I have learned more about my own ancestry, and how my great great grandparents came to Pennsylvania from Austria because they were seeking a better life. They lived in a time when religious freedom was unheard of, but Pennsylvania offered it to them. They knew oppression and poverty, but also the value of hard work and perseverance. Traveling so far to begin a new life and set down roots so their own descendants could have a good life came at a price; the leaving behind of the life they knew. It was crucial for the Pennsylvania Germans to preserve their way of life and their traditions. In the early days, they bonded together to maintain a sense of community and feel like they were home. In modern times, that need still exists. We must preserve the culture as our ancestors knew it. After all, they worked very very hard to establish it, probably harder than we will ever know.
Now, at age 42, I am only sorry it took me so long to find this path. It truly is like coming home. And I mean that literally. I left Pennsylvania briefly back in 2010. I didn't go far, just to Baltimore. But I knew I wasn't home. I was disconnected from my roots, away from home, and in territory that is as alien to me as Mars. When I moved back to PA after just six months, it was like my connection to my roots was re-established and my life started fresh again and I just knew that I would never leave my home state again.
The more I learn about the culture that my ancestors came from and the church they belonged to and the morals and philosophies and beliefs they upheld, the more I am focused on being 'correct' with my powwowing. Anything else, in my mind, is an insult to their memory.
This is the headstone of my great great grandparents, Solomon and Sarah. They are buried in Zion's Stone Church Cemetery near Lehighton, Pennsylvania. My grandparents (pictured below) are buried in the same church yard.
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 a picture of my dad, Robert Owen Whitley. He passed away in 2010.
So the point to this long and winded tale is that I do what I do because it's a piece of my cultural heritage, it's my history, it's my present, it's my family, it's my childhood, it's my home and it's my passion. I have studied and practiced many many different things throughout my life but nothing comes even close to how I experience the actual and historical/cultural practice of PA German Powwowing. This site is a testament to my love for the culture and the tradition.
May God guide you always.
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I've worked hard over the years to gather as much academic, historical, and culturally-accurate powwowing information as possible. There is a lot available that I'm still looking through, and often my research takes me into seemingly unrelated topics in order to gain a proper and more thorough historical perspective. To that end, this site is heavy with links to many of the resources I use. I urge you to follow all links and read all the information presented on those links, if you wish to gain the most workable knowledge about the subject of Powwow. No topic is cut-and-dry or black-and-white, and no proper understanding can take place without a thorough study of the subject in it's historical, cultural, religious, and academic view.
If you would like to assist with my research because you feel I've forgotten to include an important aspect of the tradition or simply because you are nice and want to add to my work, I do have some guidelines that I ask you to follow when contacting me.
1-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.
2-be sure the information is not already presented on this website. I've gotten quite a few emails, especially recently, 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. In those cases, I probably will not be willing to add more information to this site because it is simply out of my realm of expertise and not crucial to the understanding of the system of powwowing.
3-be sure you are not contacting me just to vent your anger at me. This has happened a LOT over the years. There are some who like to believe that powwow is something other than what it really is. This is the fault of the new age/neopagan movement and that group's tendency toward poor scholarship. The fact is, I know this topic better than I know how to care for my car.... I know powwowing better than I know the names of the 50 states.... And I certainly know powwowing better than I know most dinner recipes. You can trust that the information I'm providing here is well-researched. That's why I include so many links, and why I insist on academia. If you have suspicions or questions about what I'm posting, follow the links and see for yourself. If you really feel I'm doing a bad job of presenting powwowing, then simply provide links to your academic sources and I'll check into it. I'm always open to learning new elements and am not threatened by new ways of looking at things. What I do NOT like, however, is historical revisionism and the modern new age idea that people can call on whatever they want, or do whatever they want. Those ideas are the death of culture, which makes piecing together actual history that much more difficult. And also please keep in mind that I was born, raised, and still live in Pennsylvania. I am very much a part of the PA Dutch culture. I do know what I'm talking about... IF YOU WRITE TO ME TO COMPLAIN, YOU WILL NOT GET A RESPONSE, SO DONT BOTHER.
4-be sure you are not contacting me just to tell me I'm a bad Christian and I'm going to hell for practicing magic. Your time spent typing and sending the message will be wasted time; time you can better spend walking your dog or catching up on the laundry.
Please send all research information/requests to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
If you are interested in learning more about The Society of the Phoenix, a project I am beginning for those who wish to study and discuss (and practice) magic using an academic and historical approach, please contact me via email and put "Phoenix" in the subject box so that I will be sure to respond.
Over the years, I have had countless individuals come into my home for various powwowing needs. This has largely been a positive experience. However, as every person is unique and carries their own unique energies, occasionally the experience was not pleasant. And for anyone who has ever offered their services to those in need, you will no doubt know that sometimes the residual energy from a bad visit can really mess up the energy of your home and family. Because of this, I am no longer willing to see clients in my home. My family has grown over the past few years and their safety and comfort is my primary concern.
However, this does not mean I have ceased my powwowing activities. Certainly I still try for those in need. However, since face-to-face sessions are rather limited, the best I can offer you is distance work. If your situation demands immediate attention, then please go to a doctor or hospital. Powwowing should never, ever replace a properly trained medical professional. In this day and age of urgent care centers and emergency departments of hospitals, there is very little reason why someone should choose to wait for an appointment with a powwow before getting treatment. However, I also know from experience that not all situations are medical in nature. As a powwow, one of my specialties is protection and removal of witchcraft. You won't get that service at a local clinic. Therefore, please email your situation to me and I will do the work as the situation dictates. That may require me to meet with you in person, it may not. But I will make that decision and let you know.
About 5 years ago I started doing public seminars and workshops on the topic of Pennsylvania Dutch Powwowing. These have all been fun experiences and have allowed me an opportunity to travel around to places I normally would not have gone, and meet people I otherwise would not have gotten a chance to meet. Some venues are more fun than others. For example, shop seminars are fun because you get a wide array of students with various occult/magical/religious experiences. University lectures give the subject a more academic slant and are a great way to get that historical information into the minds of young scholars. Private workshops and classes are also fun but present more of a challenge because, generally speaking, these class participants have an interest in actually becoming practitioners, so my work is doubled.
If you represent a shop that would like to host a workshop for the public, please contact me. The rule of thumb is that the workshop is for informational purposes only. I do not provide any type of healing work at these workshops because it is a place of business, and my powwowing is not for hire. However, a general overview of the system and it's history, as well as a practical set of examples of how powwowing works, is a fun way to introduce your customers to the practice and give them a good foundation to build upon on their own.
This picture was taken in November 2010 at a seminar at a new age shop in Northeast Pennsylvania. This was definitely a 'hands-on' workshop where I had all participants demonstrating various powwowing techniques on each other.
For academic venues, like a school or university, my lecture would be far more historically and culturally geared and there would be little practical demonstration. I have found that school settings are primarily interested in adding some cultural education to their student's history or religious studies classes, as opposed to giving the individuals an education in magical practice or theory.
This picture was taken as I set up for my lecture at Indiana University. This was a lot more formal and geared toward teaching culture and history as opposed to magical application. I actually preferred this to my shop seminar experiences, but all have their own type of fun.
At this time I am not teaching private classes on powwowing.