Folk Religion of the Pennsylvania Dutch

Witchcraft, Faith Healing and Related Practices


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About the Book

For almost three centuries, the “Pennsylvania Dutch”—descended from German immigrants—have practiced white magic, known in their dialect as Braucherei (from the German “brauchen,” to use) or Powwowing. The tradition was brought by immigrants from the Rhineland and Switzerland in the 17th and 18th centuries, when they settled in Pennsylvania and in other areas of what is now the eastern United States and Canada. Practitioners draw on folklore and tradition dating to the turn of the 19th century, when healers like Mountain Mary—canonized as a saint for her powers—arrived in the New World. The author, a member of the Pennsylvania Dutch community, describes in detail the practices, culture and history of faith healers and witches.

About the Author(s)

Richard L.T. Orth is interim director of the American Folklife Institute. He has published several books and more than 200 articles. His lifelong study of Pennsylvania Dutch culture includes curating museum collections, field research and writing. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont.

Bibliographic Details

Richard L.T. Orth
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 269
Bibliographic Info: 88 photos, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7226-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3074-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
A Hexerei Vocabulary 3

Part I: White and Black Magic of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country
1. Hexerei: An Introduction 6
2. Braucherei: Its Counter (Powwow and Hex Doctors) 17
3. Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow Carvings and the Occult 27
4. Abracadabra: An (Antediluvian) Amulet of Protection 32
5. Rural Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country 37
6. Secrets of a Pennsylvania Dutch Witch in the Oley Hills 39
7. Hexerei: Application and Folk Tales 45

Part II: The Mysterious and Unexplained
8. John Ross and the Supernatural 54
9. ESP + 1750 Mansion = Historical Insight 57
10. A Colonial Lobachsville Homestead in America and Ties to the Occult 71
11. Cross My Heart and Hope to Die! 84
12. X Does More Than Mark the Spot 89
13. 18th-Century Yoder Ghost of Oley Valley 94

Part III: Faith Healing of the Dutch Country
14. Frontier Faith Healing in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country 100
15. Mountain Mary: Berks County’s Most Beloved Faith Healer 114
16. John George Hohman, Berks County’s Christian Wizard 159
17. Catholic Church Holidays Kept Alive by Pennsylvania Dutch Pioneers 164
18. Famous Stahl Pottery Works Fired “Ferhext” Redware Pie Plate 168

Part IV: Folklore Derived from 18th–and 19th-Century Beliefs
19. Pennsylvania Dutch Weather Lore of the Early 20th Century 174
20. Goose-Bone Prophets of the Dutch Country 186
21. Appalachian Powwowing among the Pennsylvania Dutch 191
22. Historic Kutztown University: Its Interaction with the Occult and Its ­German-Speaking Community 195
23. The ­World-Famous Hex Sign Folk Art … Myth! 202

Part V: Amulets and the Lord’s Protection from Evil
24. “Deivel’s Dreck” and Other Rural Devices to Ward Off Evil 212
25. Pennsylvania Dutch Traditions of the ­All-Seeing Eye (of Jesus Christ) 225
26. Folk Legend of the Pennsylvania Dutch “Himmelsbriefs” (Letters from Heaven) 232
27. Contemporary Holy Letters Still Carried Today 246

Chapter Notes 249
Bibliography 251
Index 253