I wanted to share with you a small gem of a publication that I picked up at a recent event at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center. They were holding a day conference dealing with powwowing and other forms of folk healing, featuring scholarly presentations, a lunch (do not get between Pennsylvania Germans and their chicken pot pie!), and this booklet. The mini-conference was associated with an exhibition of written works and artifacts associated with powwow. For $20 plus gas, it was a bargain. I somehow convinced three of my friends to go down with me.
Even if you weren’t able to make it, the conference booklet, Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Healing, Cosmology, & Tradition in the Dutch Country, is a real treat. Written by Patrick Donmoyer, the editor of Hohman’s The Friend in Need (review) and author of Hex Signs (review), the book discusses the evidence of powwowing – whether oral, written, or in artefact form – and the ideology that underlies it. The text is both readable and has an extensive number of footnotes, so it will be a good guide to the topic written by an expert steeped in the topic.
What really catches one’s attention, though, are the large number of photographs in the book. The cover, which you’ll see to the left, is one of the few pieces of photographic evidence of a historic powwowing ritual being performed. I’ve attached more examples below of the many illustrations in the book, including printed and handwritten manuscripts, hand-composed charms, and material culture related to powwowing. Most of it comes from regional or private collections, so you’ll be seeing items that you probably won’t be seeing unless you make a trek to rural Pennsylvania.
Finally, there’s the matter of price. It’s a 40-page book with great information and amazing illustrations that you can only get by calling the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center and paying them $10, plus $3 shipping and handling (plus the rates for either of the Donmoyer books I mention above, which are definitely also worth the price). For a little extra effort, you’ll get a book that is both informative and sure to be a collector’s item. If you’re interested in powwowing or folk magic, it’s definitely worth it.