There is a difference between a Pow Wow and Pow Wowing.

Traditionally, a Pow Wow was a meeting of the elders of a tribe to determine the future of a tribe. It has since come to be used to describe any gathering of Native Americans of any tribe.

Pow Wowing has its roots in the Dutch/German culture and is a modality of healing.

WhiteBear is currently working on additional information about Pow Wows and Pow Wowing.

Pow Wowing

Since ancient times, Germanic tribes from the Palatine valley relied on faith healers, brauchers, when health problems developed. Several hundred years ago, brauchers immigrated to the New World with various Germanic religious sects. Cooperative, instructional meetings, or pow wows, between Native American medicine men and newly immigrated brauchers allowed the newcomers to learn about herbs and remedies indigenous to North America. The brauchers, now known as pow powers, practice within Pennsylvania Dutch communities across the country, especially in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania region.

Pennsylvania Dutch Hexcraft or “Pow-wow”

In Pennsylvania, German settlers began arriving the late 17th century, the bulk of them immigrating in the first half of the 18th century. The term Pennsylvania “Dutch” is a corruption of the German word “Deutch” meaning German. Silver RavenWolf lives in Pennsylvania and describes this magical tradition in HexCraft. She has Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors, as I also do.

Two distinct groups of German immigrants came to Pennsylvania. The Fancy Germans, or Lutherans, brought their elaborate folk history with them, including the ornate customs of Christmas and Easter, the Yule tree and log, colorful decorations, baskets, and pictures of bunnies. The other German group was the Plain or Pietist Germans. They included members of the Mennonite, Amish, Dunker, and Brethern denominations. The Plain Germans wore distinctive clothing and tried to live a simple rural life-style guided by their interpretation of the Bible. Some of the pow-wowers Silver RavenWolf interviewed were Brethren, Mennonites, and Dunkers.

South central Pennsylvania was fertile and not physically isolated, as were the southern Appalachians. Hexcraft, or pow-wow, as it is locally called, survived because of the tendency of both Fancy and Plain Germans to live in tightly knit communities, where they preserved their customs and language into the 20th century.

Native Americans were present, at least initially, when the Germans arrived and the term pow-wow was possibly derived from the early settlers’ observations of Indian pow wows. Silver RavenWolf thinks the word pow-wow may also be a derivative of the word power or may come from the Native American pow wow definition meaning “he who dreams.”

Pow-wowing includes some charms and incantations dating from the Middle Ages plus elements borrowed from the Jewish Qabala and Christian Bible. Pow-wowing generally focuses on healing minor health problems, the protection of livestock, success in love, and the casting or removing of hexes. For over 200 years, pow-wowers have considered themselves to be staunch Christians endowed with supernatural powers to both heal and harm.

Hex signs are the most widely recognized symbols associated with pow-wow magic. The word hex means a spell or bewitchment and comes from the German word hexe for witch. Hex signs are round magical signs and symbols used primarily to protect against hexerie (witchcraft). They were used by the Fancy Dutch but not the Amish and strict Mennonites.

Some hex symbols and designs originate in the Bronze Age. Ancient Celtic and Germanic tribes put emphasis on the energy patterns of the divine Source rather than its representation as a human archetype. The Source was depicted in universal designs that assisted in focusing power either toward or away from the design. The basic pattern found in the original hex signs is the double rosette, which is found at many ancient European holy sites.

Most of the charms used in pow-wow magic were originally described in two books. The first book, Long Lost Friend, was written in 1820 by John George Hohman. He was a German Catholic immigrant who documented various charms and herbal remedies that had been preserved orally for centuries. The second book is the anonymous Seventh Book of Moses, also called the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. This book contains a mixture of wisdom derived from the Talmud, Qabala, and Old Testament. Silver RavenWolf says these two books were once found in almost all Pennsylvania Dutch households.

Pow-wow tools include common items such as spools of red and black thread, a ball of red yarn, several lengths of red and black ribbons, small hand-made ceramic bowls, a seam ripper, a creek stone (divinity stone) and a container of holy water. Red and white are the basic colors used in pow-wow.

Pow-wowing was still common in the early 20th century. Gradually over time, several local murders were attributed to pow-wowers. One belief held by some pow-wowers was that a curse could be broken by killing the person who placed it. Pow-wowing rapidly declined in the 1920s when the news media portrayed it as an embarrassing example of backward and superstitious Pennsylvania Dutch behavior. While researching her book, Silver RavenWolf found only elderly pow-wow practitioners, who often lived in local nursing homes.

An old story related to pow-wowing:

No One Will Ever Make a Grade A American of You

When Allen was a child he was very sickly.  His parents took him to every doctor in the region but no one could cure the strange sickness.  All they got was the same grim assessment – Allen was very sick and he would probably die very young.  With no help from modern medicine Allen’s parents turned to a Pow-wower.  Pow-wowing has always been a part of the Pennsylvania German heritage and practitioners claim to have a special knowledge of cures and home remedies.  The Pow-wower applied a hot mustard paste to Allen’s back and then wrapped his torso in bandages like a mummy.  Whatever the concoction was, it cured Allen of his mysterious sickness and he lived to be 92, spry and active until the end even though he had been told that “no one can ever make a grade A American out of you.” – As told by Allen Goglen