I met Mark through a mutual friend, Robert Taylor on Facebook. He immediately inquired if I was any relation to a Russell Yoder, and of course I was, he was my long lost brother! Mark put me in contact with Russell who has become something of an international celebrity in Alchemical circles and living in Thailand.more on him elsewhere in this book. Mark was kind enough to ask me to present at his Twentieth Anniversary Meeting of the Institute for Hermetic Studies of which he is the founder and director. Mark Stavish, M.A.,has written over thirty books on a wide ranging number of topics ,including but not limited to Alchemy, Qabala, Astrology, Rosicrucianism, Martinism, Freemasonry and Nyingma Vajrayana. He is an expert on the subject of traditional Western esotericism: His recent books include,
Egregores: The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny
The Magical World of Dr. Joseph Lisiewski
Pow-Wow: Traditional Folk & Grimoire Magic check him out on Amazon.com
You wrote the forward for Bilardi's 20009 "The Red Church" what can you tell us about the role you played in the existence of this book.
REPLY: I was the task master. Chris told me he wanted to write a book on brauche/pow-wow so I told him if he didn’t I would, and encouraged him to do it as I did not have the time. I gave him some of my research, correspondence dating from the late 1980s and early 1990s that I had with practitioners, and notes from interviews and teachings to kick-start the process. He then wrote what many consider to be one of the most comprehensive books on the subject. My job was to keep his nose to the grindstone, and then get him to stop! So maybe my biggest role was telling him, “Chris, it’s a book, not an encyclopedia! Put a fork in it, the turkey is done!” He did a great job and I was proud to write the Introduction.
Do you consider yourself a Braucher? If not what do you consider yourself as?
REPLY: When representing these particular practices and passing them on I refer to myself as a braucher. In my day-to-day reference I just say that I am someone on the Path. I do not like wearing too many hats because then you have to be constantly changing them.
Why is Paracelsus relevant to Pow Wow magic?
REPLY: Not directly, but as part of the Germanic hermetic heritage of Adepts he is one of the transmitters of ancient learning into those streams that pow-wow draws upon and needs to be recognized as such.
What connections if any do you see in the early Colonial Alchemist, George de Benneville and Braucherei/ Pow Wow magic in Pennsylvania?
REPLY: I think your brother covered that very well in his monograph on de Benneville, and if I remember correctly, de Benneville is a distant relative of yours. Benneville is well known for being a physician and early Universalist, but unfortunately, the Unitarian-Universalist movement has degenerated considerably since his days. It is now little more than a political action committee for liberal politics, and I have yet to meet a UU person who knew little more than a passing reference to him, let alone his role as an alchemist! Now alchemy is less important in pow-wow than say basic astrology or even bare bones qabala. So if we are looking to a ‘Saint of Braucherei” we should look towards Conrad Mathias, the last surviving elder of the Wissahickon hermits. He was known to walk around covered in talismans and performing all sorts of psychic wonders. He is also a very good example of the importance of isolation and the periphery when dealing with the liminal, as well as its dangers.
Tell us about your relationship with my mysterious brother, Reverend Russell M. Yoder? How did you two first meet?
REPLY: Well that was all Bilardi’s doing! The two of them were concocting some scheme to try and resurrect the Beissel line, and we exchanges extensive correspondence on this in the early 2000s, until about 2004 maybe. Finally, Russell’s dream has been realized and he has officially established several people as teachers in that tradition, myself among them. It was quite and honor.
You are originally from Wilks-Barre, live nearby in Wyoming, and are firmly grounded in Luzerne County. Give us some background on your family history/ancestry there and why it is so important to you. To have an international annual meeting for the Institute for Hermetic Studies to take place in Wilkes Barre is quite an accomplishment!
REPLY: Much of this has been details in our book Pietism, Pow-Wow, and the Magical Revival(IHS Monograph No. 10). Suffice to say that my great-uncle Edward Tischler was a braucher, his sisters each knew some form of healing or card reading. My maternal grandmother Freda had a blood stained Bible from which she would read the words to staunch blood and a selection of Psalms as well. I have Edwards ritual dagger, made in the fashion of a typical Medieval ritual blade. He often did bibliomancy with it, and was skilled in astrology and geomancy. He also belonged to many of the prominent esoteric orders of the early 20thCentury, and died in 1996 at the age of 96 ½ years of age.
As for the conference, well, we owe its success to the presenters like yourself and the attendees. We look forward to hosting it each year and watching it grow. Again, thank you for the wonderful presentation you gave. Those interested in the conference should subscribe to VOXHERMES at the blog site listed below. All announcements are posted there.
What are your views on differences between Folk Magical traditions and Ceremonial magic?
REPLY: Folk magic is in many ways more direct. Rarely does it have a complex metaphysical view or literature. In braucher the Bible and a copy of Long Lost Friend were all most had. Some more experienced workers like my great-grandfather Augustus Tischler were familiar with The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, and maybe like his teacher, earlier Germanic Hermeticism, Pietism, and Behminist Theosophy, but that is few. Most of the folk practitioners worked on faith alone, little or no visualization as we understand it today, or like one would find in the Indian or Tibetan tantras. It was and still is a very emotional, strangely symbolic practice where voice and rhyme play an important part. There is a lot of what we might think of as resembling Eriksonian hypnosis in some parts of it, as there is a constant referencing to mytho-historical events from the past and invoking them into the present. There is nothing that is found in ceremonial or ‘high’ magic that is not found directly or potentially in folk magic if one knows how to look.
I appreciate you being so kind to me and my total lack of knowledge regarding Hermeticism. What can you tell the Germanic Heathen community about the Institute of Hermetic Studies that would be relevant to them? How eclectic is it really?
REPLY: The heathen community needs to know that with the Institute for Hermetic Studies “they have a friend in Jesus” so to speak. The profound importance of what is called Teutonic Hermeticism is clearly laid out in the works of Paracelsus, Trithemius, Agrippa, and others. This Hermeticism often did not have the same textual supports as its Italian cousin and relied even more heavily on local folklore, custom, and traditions. As I said, Paracelsus was famous for traveling widely and learning from everyone he could. The importance of classical and contemporary Germanic practices, while not emphasized in Hermeticism, are not alien to aspects of it either. Rune studies and the ‘Black Books’ often associated with the ‘Faustian’ tradition in particular, have a place and are worthy of specific and well informed inclusion for discussion and possible practice. Your presentation on hex signs was powerfully and enthusiastically received.
To what do you attribute the continuing popularity of Pennsylvania Dutch culture in particular Braucherei/ Pow Wow magic?
REPLY: There are several reasons. First, there is the revival of folk magic, and with it traditional witchcraft. Practitioners of occultism have learned that there are many variations of magic and not just variations of the rituals of the Golden Dawn. Second, there is a racial element to it. Many people with a genetic connection to those energies see various groups claiming to be “living traditions” while what are European based are often said to simply be modern creations. Braucherei demonstrates that such a statement is false, and that indeed, there are people like myself who have a direct connection and are willing and able to pass it on to others as a living practice. Third, we also see the attempts by neo-pagans to attach themselves to pow-wow, which is wonderful from the point of current practice, but is intellectually dishonest. Pow-wow is essentially a Christian form of magic with a mix of qabala, astrology, and various folks customs –some, but not all of which – will have a connection to pre-Christian faiths. Pow-wow is nearly identical to what is seen in English ‘Cunningman” practices. However, from there, if one likes, one can easily separate their pow-wow (rather than seek to convert it) and ease into classical English witchcraft. Much of what we see in the earliest witchcraft was straight out of the grimoires. This was also the case up to the creation of Wicca. The first witchcraft groups to go public in the post-war era had a great deal in their works from Agrippa and the Solomonic texts.
I also think there is a fourth reason, one we do not like to talk about much, and that is the idealism of rural life. There are many people who would love to retreat into a sort of communal living situations such as was portrayed in the movie TheVillage(2004) by M. Night Shyamalan. For some, braucherei has become a sort of Live Action Role Playing wherein they dress in plain black clothes with a white shirt, no metal, except for a pin across their solar plexus, and wear a straw or black hat. This is quaint, even fun, but it is not essential to braucherei. Faith is the only things that is essential, and everything else is details
I know a Rabbi in Brooklyn who is a good friend of mine and an accomplished Jewish mystic, Kabalah and Hermetic Qabalah, how far have they diverged?
REPLY: Considerably. The rules traditionally reinforced around the study of qabala in a strickly Jewish context are rarely known outside of it, and I have yet to meet anyone who was a non-Jew who followed them. Hermetic qabala has a place for various deities and beings that are outside of the monotheistic limitation of Yahweh or Jehovah. The very notion is unacceptable in Judaism.
Many thanks Mark!