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In this issue of Glencairn Museum News we explore our current exhibition open through October 29,which features artifacts, documents and photographs illustrating a wide range of expression within the ritual tradition of over three centuries of Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture. Combining a diverse array of Christian prayers, gestures, and the use of everyday objects, these rituals are used for healing the body, protection from physical and spiritual harm, and ensuring good outcomes in everyday affairs.

The exhibition features items from the Heilman Collection of Patrick J. He is working on a book about powwowing, scheduled for publication in the summer of Religious orders across the globe, transcending lines of creed and ethnicity, engage in ritual as an active part of spirituality in practice, prayer, worship, and gathering.

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While the particular aesthetics and functions of ritual process are often unique to each faith experience, the use of ritual is also a unifying element in human experience, serving as an effective means to create and define meaningful interactions, spaces, and outcomes. Ritual is by no means unique to the religious setting, as ritual practices interpenetrate all fields and levels of society, shaping and integrating Grannies Allentown Pennsylvania male ass domestic, political, occupational, agricultural, and countless other social realms into a coherent whole.

At the very same time that ritual is universal and ubiquitous, the performance of ritual within a specific context can serve to both delineate and reinforce a distinct sense of ethnic, cultural, national, or religious identity, revealing and emphasizing as many differences and divisions within humanity as there are similarities. Rituals can therefore serve to both divide and unify, to dissolve and to reconcile, to harm and to heal. Combining a diverse assortment of verbal benedictions, prayers, gestures, and the use of everyday objects, as well as celestial and calendar observances, these rituals are used not only for healing of the body, but also for protection from physical and spiritual harm, assistance in times of need, and ensuring good outcomes in everyday affairs.

The majority of these rituals are overlain with Christian symbols in their pattern and content, comprising a veritable wellspring of folk-religious expression that is at once symbolic, poetic, and imbued with meaning worthy of serious attention and exploration. Thomas R. Brendle Museum Historic Schaefferstown.

A chair used specifically for powwowing, upon which patients were seated.

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Although appearing to be a normal chair in all respects, the following symbolism is attributed to it: The red paint symbolized the blood of Christ; the two arches in the cresting rail—the two tablets of the law given to Moses; the two large vertical stiles—the pillars of the church; the three vertical spindles—the apostle Paul, Jesus and Peter, the Rock; the front lower stretcher—the Judas the betrayer upon which the patient should rest her right foot in disdain ; the three rings on the legs—the Holy Trinity; and the low construction of the chair was to humble the patient to receive healing.

In this traditional world view, warts can be cured with a potato and an invocation to the Holy Trinity by the light of the waxing moon. Verses of scripture are employed to stop bleeding from serious injuries. Burns are treated by blowing three times between cycles of religious invocations to dispel the heat from the body. A smooth stone from the barnyard can heal illnesses that prevent draft horses from working, and written inscriptions are fed to cattle to prevent parasites.

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The proper placement of a broom by the front door will protect from malicious people and spirits, and a pinch of dust from the four corners of the house when stirred into coffee will prevent homesickness. Farm and garden tools greased with the fat from frying Fasnacht cakes will ensure a prosperous growing season, and the ash from the woodstove sprinkled over the livestock on Ash Wednesday will prevent lice.

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Wild salad greens eaten on Maundy Thursday prevent illness and ensure vitality. Eggs laid on Good Friday are concealed in the attic for protection of the house and farm, and are especially good for removal of illness. All of these ritual procedures are classic expressions of the powwow tradition once commonly practiced in Pennsylvania Dutch communities.

These examples can either challenge or appeal to our notions of what is considered acceptable behavior for religious people, presenting a wide range of experiences that may overlap at times with formally-accepted, officially-sanctioned religious practice and those elements that may be relegated to a vernacular, or folk expression of religion.


Although methods and procedures have varied considerably over three centuries of ritual practice within the Pennsylvania Dutch cultural region, the outcomes and experiences surrounding this tradition have woven a rich tapestry of cultural narratives that highlight the integration of ritual Grannies Allentown Pennsylvania male ass all aspects of life, as well as provide insight into the challenges, conflicts, growth, and development of a distinct Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture.

Figure 2: Removing warts by the light of the waxing moon with a potato is one of the most common powwow experiences in southeastern Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Patrick J. Of all the powwow rituals that have been practiced in Pennsylvania up to the present day to restore health and healing, the most common of these are for the removal of warts. Ranging from trifling annoyance to painful excrescence, a wart is one of the most stubborn conditions encountered by the majority of people at least once over the course of a lifetime.

Modern conventional medicine can also struggle to permanently prevent the return of warts, even after repeated treatments, some of which are painful or invasive to the patient. The non-invasive rituals used to treat warts among the Pennsylvania Dutch are some of the least complicated of all powwowing procedures in structure.

These rituals combine poetic blessings, the use of a common everyday object such as a potato or a penny, and are scheduled according to the phase of the moon. Despite their simplicity, these rituals are perhaps some of the most integrated into aspects of everyday life, with far-reaching implications that overlap domestic, agricultural, and cosmic beliefs.

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This integration, coupled with a sense of universal accessibility—literally anyone can do it—has ensured the survival of these processes into the present day, despite substantial contrast with conventional biomedicine. Asmy first exposure to these beliefs was through my grandmother, who explained to me that her grandfather had powwowed away a tenacious wart on her hand when she was a young girl, using nothing more than a potato.

His procedure was simple, and she recalled that under the witness of the full moon, he cut the potato in half, and rubbed each half on the wart. Then he put the halves back together and buried them beneath the downspout under the eaves of the farmhouse.

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All the while, he quietly spoke words in Pennsylvania Dutch, a language that my grandmother had never been taught. Within a short while, the wart was completely gone. It may come as a surprise to many that there is nothing particularly unusual about this experience among older Pennsylvanians. Although puzzling to an outsider, these types of common ritual involvements were neither scrutinized nor questioned to any great degree.

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It was not bothersome to my grandmother that she did not understand the words spoken by my great-great-grandfather, because the cure was understood to have been effective. Furthermore, she implicitly understood that as the potato rotted away, so did the wart. Although the wart-cure is one of the simplest ritual applications of powwowing, the basis for how it is perceived to work is far more complex than appearances would suggest.

In fact, this wart-cure provides a glimpse into a system of belief that expresses and embraces a whole worldview. The phase and visibility of the moon are believed to be crucial for this process, as a beacon of cosmic order, and an agent of change, growth, and dispersal. It is no wonder then that this lunar force was believed to Grannies Allentown Pennsylvania male ass in the transference of illness to the potato, which, when cut in half, has a cross-sectional profile that resembles the round, white, textured surface of the full moon.

By working against this commonly held principle and interring the potato in the waxing moon to cure a wart, it was believed that the potato would be more likely to rot away under the dampness of the downspout or below the drip-line of the eaves. This location represented the outermost boundary between the home and the outside world, separating that which is familiar from the unknown—a perfect, liminal place for the illness to be relegated until it is defused. Verbal elements of powwow ritual, consisting of blessings and religious benedictions, are part of a memorized system of oral tradition, typically taught by a woman to a man, or vice versa.

The rich imagery contained within these prayers, derived from scriptural and legendary narratives, is expressed in poetic rounds that are often metered and rhymed as part of their mnemonic function. I learned a different variation of this moon-prayer from a traditional powwower in Berks County just over a decade ago, and since that time I have had many opportunities to use it for friends, relatives, and neighbors. It is one of many aspects of the tradition that was taught to me by word of mouth that I was instructed to never write down, and to only teach it to those who would wish to learn.

I deeply respect these admonitions, and will not be committing any specific aspects of my experiences with the oral tradition to print.

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In a very real sense, at the same time, these prayers are part of a living tradition, and should not be regarded as a mere relic of the past. Just like prayers belonging to officially sanctioned religious activities, powwow prayers and blessings incorporate invocations and supplications to divine forces and saints. However, the objectives in powwow rituals tend to be broader in scope, closely resembling prayers attributed to the comprehensive system of medieval prayers to the saints, used for concerns as varied as safe passage in a storm or finding an object that is lost.

While all prayers are in a basic sense a form of communication and negotiation with divine forces, powwow blessings also serve as the script for a distinctive form of cultural and ceremonial performance, engaging both the patient and practitioner in a ritual context composed of elements that are at once mundane, cosmological, and sacred.

Central to many of these ritual performances is the use of everyday objects. Such materials are incorporated into ritual in a manner that contrasts with ordinary use, but echoes the role that the object plays within a larger context—supporting the notion that an object imparts some measure of the sacredness of life.

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Other forms of the lunar wart-cure involve the use of chicken feet, 8 an onion, or a bone as the vector of illness removal. Similar acts of selecting, using, and replacing a stone are used for other disorders, such as sweeny a form of muscular atrophy or persistent nose-bleeds.

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Includes incantations to remove warts using the moon, stopping blood, soothing burns and other common cures. Also includes the SATOR square palindrome inscription, and instructions to write it on butter bread, and to eat it as a cure for rabies.

Another type of wart-cure ritual involves the use of a penny to rub the wart, which when spent or abandoned at a crossro, would transfer the wart to the next person who possessed it. In these cases, while the moon still plays a central role in the transference, the accompanying words are quite different.

Still other s suggest rituals involving the counting of the warts as a cure, 11 echoing the old belief that warts could be contracted by pointing at the stars and counting them. But again, neither vernacular nor formal religion should be regarded as mere vestiges of the ancient, and instead, parts of a dynamic continuum of active relationships, informed by the past and working in the present. Learning to Powwow. The original word in Pennsylvania Dutch for these ritual practices is Brauchereiwhich literally from its German linguistic origin describes an accumulation of customs, ceremonies, traditions, and rites derived from brauche to use, to need, to administer or employas well as Breiche customs, ways, traditions and Gebrauch ceremony, custom, or ritual.

Any maliciously-intended ritual activity that is used to harm an individual or livestock is called Hexerei literally, malicious witchcraft.

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Despite the variety of nuanced terminology for ritual practitioners, not everyone who powwows would identify him or herself as a practitioner, which inherently implies specialization or vocation on some level. Years ago, when powwow was more common than it is today, a member of the family might powwow for anyone in the Freindschaft an extended notion of the family, including friends and neighborsand still not claim to be a practitioner.

There are those who specialize in powwow as an occupation, but such a thing tends to be controversial, as payment is usually neither specified nor required. Although historically there have been powwow practitioners with highly lucrative practices, this is not common in the present day. Both of my paternal great-grandmothers could powwow, but neither would have considered herself to be a powwower in any formal sense of the word. Instead, both were familiar with common ritual cures that would have been known by many housewives of their generation. One of my great-grandmothers taught me a cure for hiccups when I was .

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The other lived on Hill Street in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, just a few houses down from a well-known powwower of the professional variety by the name of Reppert. In the s and 40s, cars and horse-drawn buggies would line the street on a Sunday afternoon, when patients would come to see him.

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