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Cover for the book Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch

Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch

A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World David W. Kriebel
“Making the subject even more fascinating is Kriebel’s contention that some modern powwow activists have reinvigorated the ancient practice as a ‘new age’ phenomenon. Altogether, a fascinating exploration of a novel subject.”
“Due to his decision to write a qualitative study of powwowing, Kriebel has crafted a well-written and wonderfully enjoyable book. Part of the volume’s appeal stems from Kriebel’s integration of case studies and appendices that allow powwowers and their clients to speak for themselves.”
“For the general reader, it is an engaging introduction to the practice, and for the academic, it is a serious source for the study of a field to which there has been paid far too little attention.”

Known in Pennsylvania Dutch as brauche or braucherei, the folk-healing practice of powwowing was thought to draw upon the power of God to heal all manner of physical and spiritual ills. Yet some people believed, and still believe today, that this power to heal came not from God, but from the devil. Controversy over powwowing came to a climax in 1929 with the York Hex Murder Trial, in which one powwower from York County, Pennsylvania, killed another powwower (who, he believed, had placed a hex on him).

In Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, David Kriebel examines the practice of powwowing in a scholarly light and shows that, contrary to popular belief, the practice of powwowing is still active today. Because powwowing lacks extensive scholarly documentation, David Kriebel’s research is both a groundbreaking inquiry and a necessity for the scholar of Pennsylvania German history and culture.

The fact that powwowing is still practiced may come as a surprise to some readers, but included in this book are the interviews Kriebel had with living powwowers during his seven years of fieldwork in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. Along with these interviews, Kriebel includes biographical sketches of seven living powwowers; descriptions of powwowing as it was practiced in years past, compared with the practice today; a discussion of the belief of powwowing as healing; and a discussion of the future, if any, of powwowing, and what it will take for powwowing to continue to survive.

David W. Kriebel is an anthropologist and writer specializing in religion and medicine. He has published articles on powwowing in The Journal of the Center for Pennsylvania German Studies, The Pennsylvania German Review, and Esoterica.



1. On the Trail of a Lost Art

2. A Powwow Primer

3. Powwow Ritual: Structure and Performance

4. Powwowing, Medicine, and the Act of Healing

5. Powwowing in Pennsylvania

6. Some Contemporary Powwowers

7. A Pennsylvania Dutch Model of Powwowing

8. The Persistence of Powwowing


1. Theoretical Background

2. Glossary of Illnesses

3. An Excerpt from Albertus Magnus: Egyptian Secrets

4. Life Dates of Twentieth-Century Powwowers in This Study

5. Characteristics of Twentieth-Century Powwowers in This Study

6. Data on Twentieth-Century Ritual Practice

7. Additional Powwow Cases



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