This weekend, I spent some pleasant time visiting Patrick Donmoyer of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center. I had suggested that we visit the Hexenkopf, that infamous hill associated with tales of witches and powwowing.
We headed out early, hoping to beat the promised three to five inches of snow, and followed winding roads through hilly landscape, past old stone churches and barns with hex signs. We eventually met with the land’s owner – I didn’t agree to give his name here – and we headed back toward the Hexenkopf.
A massive windstorm came through years ago, toppling many of the trees in the forest. The area is overgrown with grave vines and thorns, and we were hard pressed to find a path through the undergrowth. We soon realized that the Hexenkopf is not a single rock, but three different ridges that follow each other in succession. We took some pictures and decided to ascend the center one.
Patrick is much more of a climber than I am, so he went out in front as I trailed behind, stepping more gingerly between the rocks. Still, one of them proved to be too much of a stretch, and I heard a ripping sound. Apparently I had managed to tear out the crotch of my jeans. I was wearing a long coat, fortunately, so the tear was not immediately visible. I decided to continue.
We eventually found a way up, winding around the side of the hill, and stood on the top. I can say that any stories about people driving wagons up or having huge revels of witches are unlikely, based upon the limited space available on top. All we found was a small space, with three Yankee Candle Company “Strawberry” and “Mint” candles that someone had left behind. I would discourage people from doing that.
We came back down, and I prevailed upon the property owners to let me put on a spare set of pants. We spent a few hours speaking with the owners about powwowing, charms, and other topics. Afterward, we headed over to the Kutztown Area Historical Society, where I filled in more pieces in my knowledge of The Long-Lost Friend‘s publication history.
It was late, and Patrick and I went out for dinner with some of his friends, and afterward we stayed up late going through his massive collection of Pennsylvania German magical imprints.
In the morning, I found that the Hexenkopf’s curse continued. The gap in my pants had admitted a bloodsucking guest onto my thigh. I got some tweezers and removed the little guy. (I’ve seen no lingering effects.)
We had a quick bagel sandwich and a discussion of “hex signs” in the morning, leading to the conclusion that the case for them being magical devices is even more tenuous than had been previously considered. We finished up the next day with a trip to the Cultural Heritage Center to view more books and charms from the period. Having done so, I said goodbye to Patrick and headed home, head filled with all manner of magical recipes and charms.