The following interview is an excerpt from the book, by Hunter M. Yoder, Heiden Hexology, Essays and Interviews, 2012
As I sit here now at the HEX FACTORY sipping a inexpensive California Cabernet Sauvignon and nibbling on some Cortes Chocolate from Puerto Rico I thought I would ask a very good friend of mine, Orva Gaile Clubb some tough questions because of her well known knowledge in 'folk magic' Orva who now lives in Key West Florida originates from rural Southern Maryland and was raised in the old ways Johnny Ott calls the Jinks or Hexerie, the high German name is Hexerei. I met Orva in a Yahoo group called Hexenkunst, it became very clear immediately that she was the 'real McCoy' and had been raised on the farm as myself. Her experience in Rural Maryland mirrored my own in Berks County near Virginville. Direct childhood experiences of this kind trump any other forms of knowledge most especially those derived from the internet.
1. Hey Orva, tell us the where and when of your childhood upbringings.
Hi Hunter… Thank you for inviting me for this interview. I think I will start with where I was born and go from there! I was born in Washington DC on July 24, 1949 on Capitol Hill. I was raised with my Mother’s parents because my Mother took a job working with the State Department typing classified material from WWII and was sent to Paris, France shortly after I was born. My father was drafted and sent to Korea.
My grandparents along with myself moved out of DC to Southern Maryland when I was quite young, I think around 2 years old or so. We lived in a little one room house my Grandfather Pap built, and lived there without electricity or indoor plumbing or running water until I was in the second grade when we added onto it. It was a very rural setting, and we were surrounded by woods and nature and we raised a few farm animals. Both of my Mother’s parents were from Pennsylvania and our family clan was based in Bedford/ Blair Counties located up on the Ridges. Prior to that, many of my folk migrated from Berks/ York and Lancaster counties by way of the “Ridges”. Ever since I could remember as a child, we would travel back to that area in the Ridges to visit with family and attend gatherings. After arriving one of the most important things that we did was to visit our dearly departed. So, I went along and trudged to every family cemetery in both counties and was told stories about each and every one who resided there, and believe me there were plenty to go around. Of course each had their own story to tell alive and dead. That is how I learned a lot of our family oral history… for instance that my Grandmother’s Great Uncle Frank had three sets of teeth. He was born with a set of teeth already in place, when he lost them he got his milk teeth or baby teeth and finally his adult teeth. He was a huge man in statute and quite famous for his ability to grow teeth!!! Every time we would stand by his grave site those words would be summoned up as a memorial to him, and the words still ring in my ears to this very day.
Every year we would go back “UP HOME” to Pennsylvania, which was how my Grandparents would refer to our visits. There is where both sides of their families lived and we would have large family gatherings. One such large gathering we attended was referred to as the “Corn Boil” or harvest feast held on August 1st of every year. That is where and when all the “old timers” family and extended family would get together at my grandmother’s sisters home. Here is where the men folk would smoke or chew tobacco and tell their “stories” while the women would do the cooking and tell their own stories. There was always food cooking and lots to eat, of course corn was the main focus. We had all the traditional dishes and then we would all make homemade peach ice-cream out of fresh milk from the local cows. I was mostly sent to sit with the men, which was quite unusual for the time… First because I was a child and second because I was a girl child. I was, however, under the protection of my grandfather, so I was accepted as long as I was good and didn’t talk. My grandfather’s given name was Orva and his family nickname from birth was Jinx. I was named Orva after him, and my maiden name was Price/ Welsh Pryce. My father came from old Welsh family blood who were some of the first families of Virginia; however, after I was named in honor of my grandfather, Pap, I also ended up with his nickname, mine as Jinxie or Little Jinx. And from what I am told we both well-earned our nicknames.
I was well loved as a child and learned things at an early age, however, some of the things I was taught most adults, much less children my age, were not introduced to. These things were different and outsiders would not understand what they were, much less what they meant, or what or how they were used. So I was taught to never talk of these things outside of our family.
I learned to read and write before I went to school, but differently from the rest of the kids. I learned to write in cursive script like how they wrote at the turn of the century and I learned to read from the Newspaper. Consequently, when it came to “Run Spot Run”, I was at a complete loss. To print the alphabet was like Chinese to me. I had to learn all these things all over again as a first grader in a mainstream Elementary School in 1955. Also, some activities that we practiced at home would have become somewhat difficult to explain, as I was raised with the mindset of adults who were born at the turn of the century, so what we did at home, stayed at home.
Some of my earliest memories were the Holidays. We had a Yule log and a pine tree we would cut and put up in the house and decorate with homemade ornaments made of pine cones and such, but there was never a Nativity scene ever present. At Easter we celebrated the fullness of new growth and fertility, but the crucifixion of the passion of Christ was never a part of our family tradition. We would hunt for Easter Eggs and find our Easter baskets and then Pap would usually give me a new baby bunny and or live peep peeps so I could care for as pets. The rest of the livestock was off limits and reserved for food. Killing and butchering, skinning and rendering were a normal natural thing and process in my childhood household. Nothing was wasted; lard was used for cooking and also turned into soap and salves. Rabbit hides were stretched and cured and made into soft winter wear or turned into rabbit hide glue. Taking off warts using a potato was common place. Finding water in underground sources is something my Pap could do. He was taught that process on the ridges, so when we moved to Maryland he could walk the land and find underground springs and then mark the place to dig a well. He did use a rod, mostly in a Y shape or something that looked like a very large turkey wish bone. I would walk the ground over and pace it off with him and he would show me the spot as to where it was good to dig.
My life had a different beat and rhythm to it. Things we practiced that were common place were not ever found outside of our home, so some things I figured were just best left at home quiet like. The Ozzie and Harriett households of the world back then just wouldn’t “Get It”
My Grandmother (Mom) was brought up as a Dunkard and many of our folks on her side were Brethren, Mennonite. My Grandmother was a great believer in Sunday school. Every Sunday I attended the Free Methodist Church with Sister Fredrick and Sister Kelly leading the flock to salvation complete with hells fire and damnation written in brimstone. I loved hearing that ole time preaching and going to Sunday school and singing the old hymns. Mom gave me a quarter to put into the offering plate * big money at that time*, and I would dutifully place the quarter into the plate and make change and take out a dime and a nickel. My Pap would drive me to Sunday school in our ’36 Plymouth (with run boards on the sides) to make sure I got there on time. But I was left to walk home afterward in case I wanted to stay after tor cookies and cool aide. Knowing me, of course, when the service was over I ran across the street to the local Country Store where slot machines and pin ball machines were set up. The rule was if you could reach the handle of the slot machine you were old enough to play… But you could always find a coco cola box or two to stand on in case you ran a little short. So I had a nickel to play the slots and one to play pin ball and enough left over to buy some penny candy. When I came home Mom was always at the old Hoosier cabinet wearing her apron, dusted full of flour, and had the radio dial set to gospel music and would be just a singing “Rock of Ages” at the top of her voice as she rolled out pot pie egg noodles.
When I finally meandered back home, she would ask me how Sunday school went so I told her about the hymns we sang, and how Sister Frederick and Sister Kelly would shake rattle and roll come sermon time. She asked me if I put my quarter in the plate and I said “Yes Momma” and that was that. She was happy and LIFE WAS GOOD complete with baked chicken Pot Pie and biscuits for supper, fresh out of the old cook stove.
Mom often would make her own sauerkraut and homemade ale. I remember hearing her tell that once when she put the crocks of cabbage under the porch to ferment, they actually blew some of the boards loose from their nails. She once made some homemade ginger ale and capped it and stored it under our bed (back then I often shared a bed with my cousin) we got to jumping on the bed one day and next thing we knew, pop pop pop, all the caps started to popping off the bottles. Mom was mad as a wet hen and I remember getting a real licking with a switch for being so “rambunchous”. The ale was a real mess to clean up, it was smelly and sticky and it went everywhere, but it was fun jumping on the bed just the same, even knowing that such activity was not allowed. The licking wasn’t so bad, but I can remember others that were more severe. She could draw whelps over my legs if she got really worked up enough steam using thin stitches she would cut from a tree sapling. I usually tried to seek Pap’s protection, but sometimes he would be at work and I had to take it standing up. I never cried and that made her even madder. As soon as I was let loose I high tailed it to the woods to lick my wounds. There I found peace and comfort. When I came home a nice hot meal was waiting for me and my grandmother was there with open arms. She didn’t understand my nature as a kid like my Pap and Aunt Elda did, sometimes I vexed her to the point that she was at a loss as to what to do with me. She used to say I acted like a “wild Injun” which she was not too far off the mark because I have Native American blood on my father’s side. I was head strong and punishment didn’t seem to work, so after a while I was just left to do things my way. I was a pretty good kid growing up; I had a lot of imagination and was very inquisitive. Now of days they call it thinking out of the box. I hated school and found the creek much more educational so when I got the chance I would head down to the woods and follow the creek and go exploring. My Pap said what made me so smart was I could think both frontwards and backwards at the same time.
The stories that I was brought up on were amazing to me and I was fascinated by the deeds my elder folks did and how they lived and how they were connected to me. As I grew older it all began to come together and I was able to weave it all into a unique family tapestry to pass down to my children and grandchildren. Later in life as an adult I became the manager to my husband’s family cemetery in Maryland were we have 6 generations of his people laid to rest. I guess family history has always been important to me and I had a knack for it so becoming an Archivist and Historian and a Professional Genealogist came naturally to me. I was employed by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for 10 years as a Senior Staff Genealogist and was a spoke person for then at National Genealogical Conferences and also helped write and teach a DAR training course to help new genealogists interpret records and find their family trees. But my heart is still in the Ridges and with those long gone kinfolk who taught me my first lessons of life.
My Grandparents: My Pap and Mom
2 .I know your Pap was a big influence what can you share with us about him?
My Pap was born in 1894 on the Ridges of Blair Co., Pa. He was a WWI Veteran and spent 3 years on the front line fighting in the trenches in France, armed with mustard gas masks and a gun and bayonet. He lived those 3 years in a “Pup” tent and ate “hard tack”. When he left his home he had a full head of dark hair, but when he returned and married my Grandmother, his hair had turned completely White. He was a very brave and a remarkable man and one that has left an ever lasting imprint on me that help mold me into who I am today.
He was born one of a set of twins. Before I was born he knew I was going to be a girl, he could predict the sex of babies before they were born,( one of the many gifts that has been passed to me.) He had what they now call “the sight” but he could tell things ahead of time what was going to happen, he knew that he and my grandmother would raise me. As a child I bonded with my Pap right away and was sort of his “side kick”. We would do projects together in his workshop, I remember one of the first projects was making a Yule Log… we had great fun putting it all together and then crowning it with a deer stag on top. By the time I was done I had swollen fingers from hitting them with a hammer trying to drive horseshoe nails into the wood to hold down the greenery, and I was covered from head to toe with shellac… needless to say, my grandmother was not happy with either of us. I was scrubbed with turpentine till I thought I wouldn’t have any skin left.
Once we were in his work shop and he was using a power saw that ran off of gasoline. He came too close and cut off the end of his thumb. I saw all the blood and his left over finger lying on the saw. He calmly asked me to get him a clean shop rag from the bin and he then wiped off his thumb the best he could and then stuck it down inside a can of axel grease and wrapped it with black electoral tape. After his doctoring was done he went inside and set on his rocking chair and took out some tobacco and had a good smoke. His thumb healed up fine, later he dressed it with bear grease and tape and would chew tobacco and spit unto wound before he dressed it. We had different greases for different medical uses; they were all mixed at home by Pap. Some had sulfur in them that turned them yellow, some were green??? Your guess is as good as mine. All of our cuts and scrapes they were usually tended to with a smearing of grease and a Band-Aid or wrapping. He would recommend eating a raw onion for good measure, along with a good measure of horseradish and Black Strap molasses (not all at the same time) to keep the blood up to fight off infection.
In the Spring on May 15th, I was allowed to shed my winter undershirt and go barefooted. In preparation to this monumental event a good healthy dose of Black Strap molasses was administered. In the Wintertime I was administered Creosote Emulsion at the first sign of a cough.
I cut my baby teeth on bacon rind and had whiskey rubbed on my gums to ease the pain. When my baby teeth got loose I was sent out to him in his work shop where he would get out his needle nosed pair of plyers and pull it out. No tooth fairy ever came to my house, but my teeth were kept hidden away in a cup in the cupboard. I found them all after my grandmother died. Hair and teeth had magical powers so they were treated with special care. I was sent to bed with a clove packing and a piece of rock candy on a string that came from a bottle of Rock and Rye.
I often got things stuck in my hair that had to have it cut out, so I sported a lopsided Dutch Boy hair cut most of the time until I was old enough to wear long curls, (something the Devil must have invented for girls to endure). But at the time of my bob haircut, my knees and shins were mostly covered with scabs and bruises due to my total dedication and insistence that I could fly. !!! I would leap off of the porch roof at home and out of trees and anything that I thought would give me a good “lift”, even mounting the rafters in the house only to find myself spread out on the wooden floor with a fine loud thump. I was persistent until finally I gave up that notion after 2 years of failed attempts at the age of 7. My Pap tended to me and would splint my broken fingers with Popsicle sticks and encouraged me that one day I would meet my calling but flying freestyle was not amongst it.
He tended to all my wounds from torn extracting things from my feet and stone bruises from going barefooted in the woods to splinters that festered. He knew all the remedies and could “fix” them when I needed them cured. Hs had salves for soothing and salves to draw out poison. He always seemed to know just what needed to be done and how to do it. His knowledge was valuable and limitless.
Now of days Parents would be locked up and kids put into protective services by the standards we kids of the ‘50’s were raised. After moving to Maryland I can remember that there were 2 cloths lines that where strung between the Oaks. One was for the family needs, and the other was for ME. I had a nice little softly padded harness strapped around me and then hooked onto the close line so I could run and play outdoors without straying off into the wild world beyond. I remember right after I escaped the cloths line that we had a little goat that was brought into our fold… soon there afterwards the goat ate all the cloths off of the cloths line Mom had just hung out… the goat didn’t last long after that, I’m not sure what happened to it… (Don’t ask/ don’t tell) but all I know is both us KIDS were set free. No more cloths lines for us.
Me, having Pennsylvania German along with some Welsh blood with a touch of “Injun” running through my veins, I found after my harness days were put aside, they erected and put me into a 6 foot enclosed fence thinking that would keep me out of trouble, it didn’t take me long to figured out how to scale it and escape enabling me to go about MY OWN business, which was mostly playing in the mud or trying to give the cat a bath (not one of my better ideas) and going down to the creek to catch tad poles. I found out what poison ivy was real quick. Another lesson in torture, the cure was worse than the cause. I was stripped naked and had cooled boiled milkweed poured all over me from head to toe. I must have made 50 laps around the picnic table before the fire finally faded from my skin. After 3 days of treatment it was all gone and I remembered thereafter to walk a wide circle around the stuff.
Mom would tolerate my doings most of the time, but she drew a line when I came home smelling like I had fallen down inside the outhouse, (which I did accidently one time when my cousin thought it would be fun to lock me in with the spiders) so on those occasions she would strip me down first then hose me off and scrub me good with Packard’s Black Tar Soap till I was raw and squeaky clean. In the summer we were bathed outside in a big wash tub. Since I was the littlest I got in first, then my cousin and finally the dog. It was a grand time for us because we all got wet and ran around naked and laughed till we all got silly. Pap would draw the water from the well and Mom would heat it over the coal burning wood cook stove. Afterwards we would wait up at night and catch lightening bugs and put them in a ball jar for a night light. This was a special treat, because we only had coal oil burning lamps that were put out at night with only the light from the stars as night lights.
However, the real lessons I was being taught was by my Pap you would not find in any book or school. He taught me about Dreams and how to interpret them and read them. At the same time he was teaching me the meanings of shapes and colors in dreams, he also showed me the “backdoor” out of a dream in case I needed to escape. I continued to apply the same principal my entire life, and use it even to this day. I always have an alternative plan working somewhere in my background where there is “My Backdoor.” My escape hatch and safe place.
He taught me about fire and how to read events or happenings in the flames. He would tell me to look into the Blue, the Blue runs True. He carried much wisdom about animals and why those that were pets were different than those that were to be slaughtered and eaten, their habits, why some hibernated and why some didn’t, and each their own magical significance. He carried so much wisdom about so many things it is difficult to relay the true lesson by just writing it down, I had to feel them as well as learn them. He taught me how to make remedies and administer them, most importantly; he introduced me to the world of Pennsylvania Folk Magic and how our people survived living on the Ridges.
My Pap’s twin sister was named Elda. Elda was a lot like my Pap; she was a strong outspoken woman and quick minded and straight to the point. She did not mince her words when she had something to say. I spent a lot of time with her when we went to Pa. She knew the old ways and also the ways and things that women were taught to women only by women. She was somewhat of a Mid-wife and had knowledge in that area. She was good at burns and cuts and could heal them rapidly without infection setting in. She could stop blood during childbirth which saved many women’s and babies lives at the time. She knew how to turn a baby without getting the cord all tangled up or how to grab its feet to free it from its mother’s womb. To bring a baby on she would use mustard seed plasters, to stop the blood she had many ways, one was to use Fire and Ice. Hot and Cold. My Aunt Elda did not see me as a little girl who was full of mischief and hard headed, but saw something in me that was unique and treated me not as a child but as an equal. We were kindred spirits; she was the other side and duel part of my Pap.
Trouble always seemed to gravitate towards me, but my Pap and my Aunt Elda were there for me and understood me as no one else was able to. They were whole and real. Elda was also richly steeped in the folk ways and culture that was passed down to her from many generations; Wisdom as well as Insight with the natural ability of Knowing.
3. We have discussed 'walking the ridge' what is that?
“The Ridges” were very special, but not withholding from danger. My people found them as passage ways going back and forth across land instead of up and down from North to South and back again. Since the first one of my Pennsylvania ancestors set foot onto this new land they instinctively sought out the Ridges, walking them from East to West and back again from West to East. There are many places that, for lack of a better definition, held magic in certain areas. There were unusual sightings of unworldly creatures that lived on the ridges and children and babies had to be protected from them for fear of being stolen or exchanged for one of their kind. Quite often a stag would be brought down from off the Ridges and kept to be slaughtered later. I remember seeing such stags being fed and held, hidden away in barns or sheds, to be kept and slaughtered on special occasions. The reason for this runs deep in our tradition and was never spoken about. The ridges were a place where men went to earn their lively hood as woodsmen (lumberjacks). My grandmother’s father was such a man and stories were told of his experiences of the magical places and creatures he would encounter. Charms were put around babies cribs such as iron and under their mattresses to ward off evil spirits that also dwelled on the Ridges. Whispered lullaby’s (chants) were often used and little pieces of paper tied or pinned to underclothing as prayers would be offered to counteract any ill doing to avoid the Evil Eye. I wore a belly band around my navel with a silver dollar sewn into that included a prayer for safety, to ward off childhood diseases and other such horrors of the day. The belly button or navel was considered a direct network to your soul in children and until it healed it needed to be covered and protected; especially from something that came off the Ridges. When my children were born they also wore belly bands!! Old habits die hard and folk lore and some folk medicine even harder. In Spite of all the lore that I heard about the Ridges they held a very important role in my ancestors lives. The Ridges are magical and wondrous and beautiful and my people made their livelihood from them as well as a passageway to travel from place to place. The Ridges hold secrets like singing rocks and ice caves and fresh water that bubbles up from deep within the earth, some hot and come cold. The Ridges were the heart and soul of my ancestors; they walked them and made their homes in them, and stored within them their stories, history and lore. Our deep rooted heritage and culture lays imbedded within every rock and stream and tree within their terrain.
4 .Give us your views on the plants, I know you have an aversion for parsley, and that tobacco was something you were brought up with and used magically.
In my childhood home as well my current home as an adult, Parsley was and still is considered a taboo. We did not grow it or use it in cooking or any other way. It was considered to be the funeral flower and it was never ever grown or used. Our meals were strictly Pa. Dutch traditional cooking. I was a grown woman before I ever tasted spaghetti. Any food that was not of our Pa. Dutch culture was considered foreign food and only foreigners ate it. Needless to say anyone who was not of Pa. Dutch heritage was considered outsiders. We were very clannish and kept to ourselves at a polite distance.
Tobacco: Southern Maryland was very rural. We did not live far from where Dr. Mudd lived (he fixed John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg and was sent to prison for it; and Mary Surratt’s tavern. She was the first woman to be hung by the federal government for the crime of conspiring to kill Lincoln) Farming and Plantations in the early days of Maryland’s history were common place. One of the main crops that were grown there was Tobacco.
My Pap learned to chew and smoke tobacco as a child by his mother who lived on the Ridges in Pa. Tobacco was a very important substance to them for various reasons, and one of the most important ones was for healing and for folk magic. Living in So. Md. It was very easy to come by good grade tobacco for chewing and smoking and it was plentiful. We grew tobacco in our home gardens for good luck and as a pesticide. A hand of dried tobacco hung from the rafters in the home would keep us safe from any form of petulance.
As a child I had sore throats a lot as well as severe ear aches. I was given horehound to suck on and some watered down rock and rye to sip on. When I got feverous my Pap would tie a red wool string *yarn* around my neck with a knot and then sing a lullaby over me. He called his singing “diddies”, but they were actually chants to draw out the ill humors. He would gather me into his lap and rock me on the same rocking chair he was rocked in when he was a child. After a while he would take a smoke (hand rolled cigarette) and blow smoke into my infected ear. Then he would take a chaw of tobacco and chew it then spit it in the coal bucket beside the cook stove, and gently lift me to bed after I became restful and had fallen to sleep in his arms. The ear ache finally went away within a few days, my fever broke and I was up and at it again. However, as a side line he taught me how to roll my own smokes by hand and by the time I was 5, I was chewing small chaws of tobacco to spit in the coal bucket. But that use only happened on special occasions.
During those times of illness I can remember him holding me on his lap, my head against his chest while he sang to me and blew smoke in my ear and rocked me. I still remember his strong arms around me and the smell of him. He smelled so very good to me; it was a mixture of wool and clean soap and his strength: A Man’s smell that I later learned in life, when I married my husband, He had the same smell about him; Clean and very manly; The smell of mature Manhood just below the surface and of well-earned sweat that had a sweet aroma that lingered like musk. As an adult it was extremely intoxicating to me. As a child it was my security.
In my home we also employed the use of “Diddy Bags” known as Asafceitida or Asafetidy . They were little pouches made of this foul smelling herb that was worn under you underclothing. Many a day I went to school smelling like dung pile due to this herb to keep all forms of EVIL away. I had little prayers or Himmelbrief’s pinned to my undershirt or tucked inside my “diddy” bag to make sure I was kept safe from the creatures who walked by day and night or the “Communists”… in the 1950’s we believed they were EVERYWHERE !!!!
5. Snakes and salt, I know you fear the one and use the other, what can you share with us about that?
I hate snakes… the only good snake is a dead one! I know now of days snakes are considered to be helpful and some even eco- friendly. They were important symbols in ancient times. However, that is not my mindset. Growing up in my childhood home and throughout my whole life into adulthood, I still adhere to what was taught to me as a kid. I grew up in the woods and we always kept an ax beside the door so if they would get in the house, which they often sometimes did, they were swiftly delivered with a good whack. My grandmother could smell out a snake in a heartbeat and wheel that ax like greased lightning. I keep an ax by my door just in case one comes a calling, and am not afraid to use it. Now that I live on an Island outside of Key West, I keep an ax and a machete next to my door. Living here is like living in Jurassic Park !! At night we can hear the herd of 6 foot long iguana’s running across the roof, which is just one of an assortment of other critters that find the tropics suitable to make their home.
Now about the Salt: During the first of May (breeding season for snakes so I was told) my Pap would “ring the house with salt” to keep the snakes away. Snakes don’t like salt and will stop dead in their tracks if they come up against it when put down right. To lay it down right you need a chant (I use the one out of the Book of Psalms) and then walk completely around the house putting it down around the foundation. Also extra salt was put at each threshold and entrance of the house to keep dis-ease and other unwanted invasive maladies to enter. Hag riding would also fall into this category… but you need metal for that too. But that is a whole different topic all in its self….
6.You are an expert in programming crystals, What exactly are we talking about here?
I would not consider myself an expert…. But I have been working with them and understand them for some time now. Crystals vibrate at different frequencies. When we lived without electricity our radio was an old crystal set that broadcasted over the airways. Many magical places also hold this quality and are magical due to their mineral content and vibration. Because crystals vibrate at a higher rate they can be programed to transmit waves of signals that can be used for various purposes such as Magic. They need to be cleared and “awakened” first, I use salt water from the ocean to do that and then gently drop them onto the sand… this awakens them and they are ready for the intent you chose to use them for, usually they are used for transmitting healing or acts to reinforce a desired effect. I have a friend who programed her crystals to aid in weight loss and was very successful.
Salt can be programed…They are tiny crystals…. that’s one of the reasons why I use it to keep snakes away. Plus my Pap always did it so I do it just the way I was taught. When he read the Psalms, he was actually programing the crystals in the salt!!
Graduate of Boarding School
7.You are the product of your rural upbringings in Maryland and your Mother's cosmopolitan consciousness based on her life in France, these very contrasting influences have had what effect upon your life?
As a little kid I didn’t know my Mother. She was off some place called Europe or France. She would send me little gifts from Germany and Switzerland. But she was not a real person to me until I was much older. I saw pictures of her and when I was 6 yrs old she came to visit the States for a few weeks. We had a family reunion and I had my picture taken with her before she left again for Paris. She was beautiful and still is at the age of 80 and has beautiful red hair. Only in my later life as a teen did it have an impact on me. She felt that living with my Grandparents was to “old fashioned” and I needed some structure and disciple in my lifestyle. My education became a really big thing at the time. By then my Mother was married to my Step-Father and settled in Alexandria, Va. My Mother and Step-father would travel out West a lot and had friends there. I used to spend my summers between Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. I panned for gold and hit it “rich” by finding a few nuggets from time to time. I had friends out there that I hung around with and once in Montana a full blooded Native American boy got smitten by me and the next year I went out he presented me with a full 10 point rack of elk horns. I still have them, but it is hard to find just the right spot to hang them, if you know what I mean… they are HUGE !!!
When I turned 15, I was sent back to Pennsylvania to Pittsburg to an exclusive all girls’ Catholic Prep boarding school which was a part of the Pittsburg Diocese. To make matters worse, it was a school that was connected to a cloistered convent sitting on top of a mountain with NOTHING around it for miles and miles. That became my home until I graduated in the spring of 1967. I went through a bit of culture shock, but all in all it taught me qualities and gave me an inner strength that would I have drawn on throughout the years. Believe me, living with whack-o Nuns hitting you with wooden rulers and rolled up newspapers was not a favorite of mine. AND I was one of the few non Catholic kids there, so I was clueless. None the less, I gave the Nuns a run for their money and had a few kicks and giggles along the way. Survival was the trick, and so I became good at it.
Consequently, I am a combination of my earlier childhood that I still hold dear and close to me, and the Properly Refined Lady as my mother envisioned me to become. My Mother and I are very close now, and I speak with her every day in most cases. We love each other deeply, even if we are from two different worlds.
8.You have told me of a family member who wore the 'veil' what does that mean?
As you know my grandfather also had a twin Sister as I have mentioned earlier, they were born in January 1894. When my grandfather was born he had a “Veil” over his face. The veil was carefully removed then carefully kept and placed in the family Bible. The veil is actually called a Caul. It is believed that when a child is born with a veil over their face they hold special and unique properties, like some may have the “sight” and can tell the future, or they have the ability to heal, but importantly they can tap into their inner energy and use it readily to manifest intent, for example his knowledge and aptitude in the use of hexes and cures, which he was known to do. However, it was known from the beginning that my grandfather’s abilities were something that was inherited naturally and he was guided by instinct. He had amazing insight and abilities that could be considered along the line of supernatural qualities. There were others in the family with special abilities; actually it runs strong on both my Pap’s side and my Grandmother’s side. But my Pap was sort of doubled dipped with it.
9 Explain your attraction for the Deitsch, Do you consider yourself one? What are your opinions of the 'Deitsch' magical community?
I never examined or thought of it in those terms. It didn’t occur to me one way or another. I came from a family whose roots were forever in Pennsylvania and many of them had strange ways which I learned were full of Hexes on both sides. Words like that were never used in my home. We would “Fix” someone or something or Jinx them, but we never used the word HEX. We knew who and what we were and never discussed it. We were a part of a whole big clan of our relatives living in Pennsylvania and I knew I was closely interwoven and connected to them. I guess I knew I was different because my Pap’s nick name was Jinx and my name was a variation of that. His mother knew it when he was born right away because of the veil on his face, and so did the all the old timers. As I mentioned his twin sister my Great Aunt Elda also was gifted. However, I never connected all the dots or defined myself until recently when I became a member of the Hexenkunst yahoo group owned by Patricia Fisher Neidrich. There I met you Hunter, and when I did, then the memories and the rest of the unspoken things came to light for me to understand through adults eyes. It was like the flood gates opened and even to this day I still remember more and more things that have been long forgotten. All the Elders are now gone and the ones as old as I am in my family did not have the same upbringing and exposure or opportunities as I did. I feel very blessed that my Pap and Aunt Elda took me under their wing and nurtured me with kindness and unconditional love. My grandmother was there with her traditional ways of homemaking, keeping me clean and looking after me like a Mother Hen, forgiving me for all my antics and grief I caused her from worry, and to wash and cut out the globs in my hair before I got old enough to comb It and wrap it in rags to form long curls.
I think a lot of people today who are not of the heritage or blood lines are interested in our culture and want to drink from our fountain. They tend to want to know about our folk ways and especially our folk magic, so they seek out books and the internet to learn about these things. They run on other people’s memories and not their own. An example of this is the latest interest in the “old religions” such as Wicca. Much has been written on that subject and many people have embraced it claiming that they are born and raised in that heritage. Largely what they have learned has come straight from books and the internet. Those of us who were brought up around the Pa. Dutch or the Deitsch culture know that our people were very clannish and we were taught things by example and through oral application. For the most part these things that were taught were never written down but handed down. Our traditions can be found in our food and in the way we celebrate holidays. It is represented in our beautiful art and our love of nature. It is ingrained in our consciousness. If you scratch the surface you will find it runs much deeper; a world within itself rich in the tenacity of its people to hold on to their beliefs and customs.
I want to share with you a story about my Aunt Maggie and Uncle Ezra: I think I really began to realize just how strongly my people were connected to the old ways and folk magic was when my oldest daughter was born. My daughter was born with Spina Bifida, or also known as open spine, a severe condition that was virtually untreatable at the time. Experimental work was being done only in specialized hospitals. She was born in Washington D.C. in 1968. Some of the symptoms were an enlarged head caused by water on the brain also known as hydrocephalus, along with the potential to have a severe curvature of the spine or scoliosis. My Pap had died in 1966 so my Grandmother (Mom) was old but still able to get around, she felt it would be good if we made a trip” UP HOME” to see her Aunt Maggie and Uncle Ezra to find out what they could do to help. Aunt Maggie and Uncle Ezra were actually my grandmothers Great Aunt and Uncle. She was 101 years old born in 1868 and Ezra was 103 years old born in 1866. They lived deep up within the Ridges and it took quite a trek to get to their home. We packed up my daughter when she was able to travel and took her to see them. Maggie right away knew there was something very wrong with her, so she put on her apron and began to work on her. She held her close to herself over her shoulder and took her hand and rubbed down her back and spine. She said words that whispered and closed her eyes and prayed and sang that same soft lullaby for what seemed a half hour or so. My daughter was completely relaxed and had fallen asleep in Maggie’s arms. Then Maggie handed her over to Uncle Ezra and be began soothing her and gently began his work on her head. He held her in his arms while she was asleep and rubbed the top and sides of her head and ran his hand in front of her face without touching her and blew in her face. She laid in his arms while he prayed and whispered over her. This went on for some time, and then he said, “Mathew, Mark, Luke and John….. Bless this baby mind and soul”……….Amen. Aunt Maggie lifted my baby out of Uncle Ezra’s arms and handed my sleeping baby back into my arms and then Maggie went into their kitchen and changed her apron. We were invited to all sit down to some cold buttermilk and homemade bread with sweet apple butter to eat before we headed back over the Ridges.
Shortly thereafter, Aunt Maggie and Uncle Ezra died, but they left behind a miracle. To this day my daughters head is average size and she has normal to above normal intelligence. Also her back is as straight as an arrow. She never required any surgery to correct her posture. She is completely independent but chooses to live with my husband and me. She is now 43 and will turn 44 in October and as healthy as an ox. That was what true Pennsylvania Deisch Magic is about; Devout Love, trust and the power that comes through the Will and true Belief in something much Greater; A Devine Power that is present to work miracle’s such as this one. This is only one example of our unique folk faith and magic, and I whole heartily embrace it. It is something that is real and cannot be faked.
I realized I belonged to a very unique and talented family, steeped in old Pa. Dutch folk ways, lore and healing, but what I didn’t know what it was called. So to answer your question, I think I hold many of the old folk ways and culture within me. I often talk with Patricia Neidrich, who is a very dear friend of mine and she has a way of tapping into my resources for me to remember those things that have been long forgotten. Hunter Yoder has also been an inspiration to me and he was the first to recognize just where I fit in and who I was. He has a way of bringing out memories that I have that has been deeply buried within my subconscious from the early years of my childhood.
Orva in Pennsylvania Deitsch Mode
10.The kitchen coal range is something that we both have experienced and is very instrumental in Deitsch sympathetic magic, Can you share with us how it was used in your experience?
As I mentioned earlier the twins who were my Grandfather and Great Aunt were born in the middle of January in 1894.They were both kept alive by keeping them warm nested in a shoebox situated in the bun warmer of the old cook stove. But that stove and the one we had when I was growing up was used for other purposes other than cooking food and heating the house. It was also an instrument to manifest magic. The coal bucket was also important factor.
The very first time I actually saw and participated in magic was when I was 5 years old and struggling with the first grade. My teacher was old an maid who liked to intimate children and keep them tight under her rule. One day she had some forms for me to take home so my “Parents” could fill them out and sign them. I did what I was told and took them home and gave them over to Mom. She signed her name and under it she also signed “legal Guardian”. Well the next day when I turned the papers to her she reviewed them and called me up to her desk in front of the whole class and wanted to know WHY my MOTHER was unable to sign the papers. At this point I did not know that my grandparents were not my birth parents, so this gave me quite a start and much confusion followed. So the teacher sent the papers home again for my MOTHER OR FATHER to sign them. At this point I was confused so I went to my Pap and asked him what she meant. And this is what he said to me: The next time that ole teacher asks you about your Mother or Father you tell her that a crow shit you out on a stump and the sun hatched you.
The next day I returned to school with the same signatures that bore “Legal Guardian” on them. The teacher wanted to know what the meaning of this was, it was a direct order. So, in my defense I recited exactly what my Pap had told me to say. To tell the truth I thought that ole woman was about to lay an egg, she got all red faced and grabbed me by the top of my hair and took me over to the sink and washed my mouth out with green soap. Afterwards she took me into the hall and yelled at me while slamming my head against the concrete block wall. Then she brought me inside the class room and tied me to a chair and sat me in a corner. By this time I was really losing it. I began to cry and then I peed myself till it ran into my bobby socks and into my new shoes. Finally when recess came and she was not watching me, I undid myself and got as far away from that ole school as fast as my legs could carry me. . I was familiar with all the woods around there so I cut my way home the back way.
When my Pap found me I was home sitting on a stack of cinder block outside the coal bin crying. He asked me what was wrong and I told him the story. Next thing I knew my Pap yelled, “Get in the car Martha” so my grandmother responded to the request without haste. She didn’t even have time to take off her apron by the time we went to school. I sat in the hall for a long time while my Pap and Mom was in the Office. Afterwards my Pap put his hat back on and we got back into the ’36Plymouth and headed for home.
Much later that night is when the magic began. It was along about midnight when he called me to him out of bed and told me we were going to “fix” that ole teacher to mind her own business. He gave me a piece of paper bag and he had one too. We wrote the teachers name on the bag and then wrote my name overtop of hers. We folded the paper very carefully until it was a little square and then he stoked up the ole cook stove till it was good and a blaze. He said some words over the papers, ones that I had never heard before and ones that I will never forget. Then we cast our papers into the hot flames. He sat in his rocking chair with me on his lap and we bit off a plug of chewing tobacco and chewed it then spit the tobacco into the coal bucket to set the seal. The next day when I went to school the teacher was nowhere to be found and we got a new teacher to take her place. Years later I found out that she retired and never went back to teaching from that day onward.
Other strange occurrences happened in our neighborhood when a form of abuse went unchecked. Our cat came home one day horribly mutated. Pap nursed him back to health, but his sister cat that lived next door died from the same grave injuries. This was very upsetting and my Pap had a good idea who was behind it because there was a man who lived down the street that raised a flock of pigeons and blamed the cats for getting inside the cages, killing his birds, when it was actually rats. So my Pap once again “fixed” the situation. A few weeks later when the old man was not at home, his house burned to the ground including his pigeon coop. No one was surprised and there was no remorse in the neighborhood. All the pet cats and animals were safe from the hands of evil doings.
The Fire Department came out and investigated the fire to find its cause. It was noted that the fire was caused by combustion from all the piles of pigeon poop and noted that no signs of arson was evident.
My Grandparents always were great supporters of the Fire Department due to the amount of trees and underbrush around our homes living in the woods. Things could burn out of hand very quickly and the Fire Company was always on alert. So my Grandparents always bought tickets for their annual Spaghetti Dinner, but we never went to them because Spaghetti was Italian food and that was considered foreign food and such food was never allowed to grace our table.
Our kitchen wood stove cooked a many of good meals for us and served us well over the years of my youth. It also warmed our clothing in the winter time and the oven was a good place to put our cold feet into after a day of sled riding. It seemed that my early years centered around the old kitchen cook stove and for good reason. It too became a great part of my security and I found much comfort associated with it and the people who tended its fire and banked its coals.
11.Hoodoo magic and Hexerei, part and parcel or one in the same?
NO. . They are two completely different things. They may have similar qualities but their backgrounds come from a different blend of culture and ideology. I believe our German Hexeri has had some influence on Hoodoo in its development as the Native Americans had influence on our German practices when our ancestors came to this wilderness called America. However, our folk ways are very different and its methodology stems from a wide scale European tribal point of view that pre dates Christianity and resonates from prehistoric times.
I think for more in-depth study on the subject of Hoodoo, Catherine Yronwode’s book, Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Material Magica of African-American Conjure, would be an outstanding read.
12. I know you have lived in Florida and Key West for quite some time And we both know Miami.. What are some of your favorite Latin dishes?
My grandmother would do a lot of canning and I learned the art of canning and cooking it at her knee. When I a married, I married into a very old Southern Maryland family. So I had to learn how to cook Southern style. We grew our own food and had fruit trees and grape arbors we made wine from, and also how to get into the Spirit of things. His family had many hidden culinary secrets which I was sworn to secrecy. When our kids came along, they too were raised in the style and mind set of the way we were raised by our grandparents. (My husband was also raised by the old ways by his grandparents who were all from Southern Maryland) However, the way we were both raised was very similar. We both shared peculiar childhoods, often humorous and rich with family folk lore. North meets the South.
So from cooking strictly Pa. Dutch style to cooking Southern and Cajun style I have come a long way. Since moving to the Florida Keys 17 years ago, I learned to cook a lot of Latin Dishes and my family loves them. We have different kinds of vegetables from the Caribbean as well as fresh spices and roots. Flavors here are like the weather and its people, colorful and spicy. A huge variety of seafood is fresh from our beautiful turquoise waters and easily obtained. I like to cook Cuban style quite often, I guess because of the Cuban influence here and the blending of Latin culture has become ingrained in our way of cooking comfort foods.
I love to cook Cuban Roast Pork with black beans and yellow rice w/ rope fried plantains (that grow in my back yard) on the side. I love the spice and taste of real oxtail soup, simmered all day. From Barbados I love how they jerk meat and leaned to cook Marconi Cheese Pie a 4 inch high dish of pure cheese and spice and mixed with macaroni. Seafood is fresh here and I have caught some very strange critters that I have set loose into the Ocean, but I like to use ALL the fish. When I get done cleaning it I save the head and spine and cook it all down to make a wonderful Fish stew. Paella is a gift from the Gods. I cook it from fish head stock and add chicken and pork and seafood into it. I make my own Sofida and add to it with saffron and yellow rice along with tomatoes and chili’s and squid or octopus chopped fine. Of course Key West Lobster and Kew West pink shrimp is for Kings and melts in your mouth.
We have an abundance of good food here from many cultures. Believe me… WE EAT GOOD Here; and LIFE IS SO VERY GOOD. I AM BLESSED.
13. Any thoughts on Sex magic?
I have been having sex magic with my husband for over 42 plus years. We are so bonded emotionally and physically that sex is something that joins us together as one spiritually. Sex never gets old or boring, sex is alive and a necessity in a healthy relationship between two people who love each other deeply and the magic is always a key part of things. From the beginning of time, sex has been the driving force that runs the world and all its creatures. Sex is a part of Divinity that each of us hold. Without sex creation would cease to exist. My views on sex between married couples are a joining of souls. As a single person, sex can and is fun, I have been there and done that and it was just that: FUN and Creative… however, now of days I strongly recommend “safe sex”. None the less even though as a single person in all its excitement, I feel it lacks the sanctity of love and trust and bonding.
I am old fashioned in that to have trust you must make a true commitment to each other and to the Gods, pledging respect and honesty to one another in their presence. With the right partner sex ultimately generates sex magic. It opens up a different world that that only belongs to you and your mate, even after years of marriage… Sex Magic is still ongoing, intimately creative and exciting, full flavored lust that comes only off the top shelf of Life.
Vielen Dunka Hunter.
Lch freue mich, Hunter....Dunka