I vaguely remember my grandmother talking about the art of powwowing during my childhood. There were never any detailed conversations but the topic surfaced every so often and powwow “doctors” were also mentioned.
In my grandparents collection of family photographs was an obscure scrap of paper containing an unusual early writing. At first I thought it was a simple prayer but I soon realized it was actually part of the powwow culture.
There are two remedies on the tattered paper, written by the hand of an unknown author. One is a remedy for the common headache while the other was meant as a way to stop bleeding.
How many people over the years have recited these words?
Cure for headache…
Tame thou flesh and bone like
Christ in Paradise and who
will assist thee, this I tell thee
[name] for your repentance sake
According to the book “Pow-Wows, or Long Lost Friend“, written by John George Hoffman in 1820:
This you must say three times, each time lasting for three minutes, and your headache will soon cease. But if your headache is caused by strong drink, or otherwise will not leave you soon, then you must repeat those words every minute. This, however, is not often necessary in regard to headache.
Is it possible for a few words to offer relief from a headache?
A portion of this remedy has been torn from the original paper, but Hoffman’s book helps us to fill in the missing portion as shown below:
Jesus christ dearest blood
that stoppeth the pain and stoppeth
the blood in this help you [first name]
god the father god the Son
god the Holy ghost amen
The book also tells us…
A certain Remedy to stop Bleeding, which cures, no matter how far a person be away, if only his first name is rightly pronounced while using it.
What intrigues me about this remedy is the numerous times religion is included in the wording. I’m curious if that was a common powwowing practice.
Powwowing: Are you a believer or a skeptic?
There are certainly people who believe in the practice of powwowing while others remain skeptical. There is mention of it in a number of local history books and many elder members of the community have their own knowledge of those who practiced it, whether firsthand or through family lore.
As I’m writing this I’m suffering from a “bug” that’s been affecting many others in the area, including two more members of my own household. What I wouldn’t do for a remedy to relieve a bad cold.
If your family has passed down stories of powwowing in York County, I’d love for you to share them in a comment below.
- My grandparents had a friendly Black Lab with a unique Pennsylvania Dutch name, Schwatz, which translates to Black.