Blantz, Brauchers, Goddesses, Magick, and the Land:
Conversations Between Hunter Yoder and Nancy Wisser
"Green Being, painted on a glass water cooler bottle", Nancy Wisser
Nancy Wisser (Lahr) and Hunter Yoder both attended Kutztown Area High School in Berks County, Pennsylvania, an area famous for retaining much of the old Deitsch Folkways. After graduation in 1972 from High School, both went their separate ways and only just recently compared notes via the new internet social medias. Both have distinguished themselves in pursuing alternative views of reality. The following is an exchange of emails over a period of months in 2011
The conversation began with Frank saying hello and commenting that cinquefoil, a picture of which was posted on Nancy's Tumblr blog Geopsych, was among a number of magical plants.
Nancy: They're all magic, in some cases with some people. The human/plant interface is esoteric stuff.
Hunter: Cinquefoil is used in Hoodoo magic for intentions, I grow it in the garden, it has 5 fingers, some say each one corresponds to the 5 human senses. I'm still listening.
Cinquefoil and Valerian at the Zaubereigarten, photo Hunter Yoder
Nancy: Some things I can talk about at great length but that's not one of them.
Hunter: Agreed but I noticed that your pic of it the leaves were very small, mine look identical but much larger. I received it from a friend along with Datura Wrightii, Wormwood, a few other ones in exchange for some cactus I grow. I like to grow plants. They seem to like it too.
Nancy: The one in the top picture is in dry woodland soil, probably a different species from yours. Did you see the other cinquefoil, a few posts down--it has 3 fingers instead of five. A northern plant, only growing as far south as New York because it was at a high altitude.
I'm fascinated with plants that show up in my garden and along roadsides, etc., unbidden. A species of datura showed up along the roads around here this year. Must have come in with seeds farmers put in, because I keep an eye on things and it wasn't here before. A couple of years ago Lobelia inflata, considered an entheogen, turned up in my gardens and now it's a regular.
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium in the Zaubereigarten, photo Hunter Yoder
I've seen wormwood growing wild, but mostly we have a close relative, mugwort, volunteering all over the place. Lots of fascinating plants. And of course I still find four leaf clovers.
Hunter: Mugwort, dream pillows, smudging to cleanse, pick only on a full moon by a maiden standing on her left foot.
The Lobelia inflata is one I don't possess from a rather large collection of those willful Datura ladies. Niger Bilsenkraut and Belladonna round out the edges of the garden. I grow them only and they like to look in the window to see that I'm doing. Watch their flowers at dusk unfold and open, like an umbrella. The Wrightii is the most spectacular, not really native here like the Stramonium. Just got a little something published in this Journal: The Journal of Contemporary Heathen Thought
Datura Stramonium at the Zaubereigarten, photograph Hunter Yoder
Nancy: Where is that publication based? It looks excellent and your article sounds interesting. I know nothing about that. Do you know anything about Kelpius?
I have a couple of long-time internet-type friends who call themselves heathens, European polytheists. Very interesting stuff. One spent some time talking about that henbane you grow. She wrote a book about the nine worlds of seid magic.
Sounds like you have a very interesting garden.
Hunter: Kelpius, the Pietist who settled in Germantown which is the oldest German settlement in the New World. Grimoires from this community traveled at great speed south and west among the German communities. A certain Lee R Gandee from South Carolina speaks of this and other Pennsylvania German influences in his autobiography, Strange Experience. I need to spend more time in the Wissahickon it still is wild and quite the gorge. I am in East Kensington, Phila., another very old and historic area for those of German ancestry.
Yes seiðr or seithr magic, actually there is a workshop on this form of magic this saturday in Downingtown, women only. Let me know if you have an interest in attending, you would meet some that may know almost as much about die Blantz as you do.
The Pa German folk magic is very good, commonly known as Braucherei which is the Christian form and also Hexerei which is the Pagan, prechristian original form. The Christians refer to this as black magic, but like any form of sympathetic magic its all about the intent. Hexology is a form of 'painted prayer'
The garden, actually gardens, I have three forms of mullein this year, the common mullein of course which has folk magic applications, then there is the moth mullein which has an attractive flower and of much smaller size and finally, I have the Olympic mullein which is like the common mullein on steroids, really spectacular candle and flower!
Olympic Mullein in the Zaubereigarten, photo, Hunter Yoder
The Journal is mostly the effort of Chris Plaisance who just moved to Berks County and is published on Amazon.
Nancy: I looked into the Braucherei and Kelpius during research for a humorous book, never published, that I wrote, sort of about the end of the world in 2012. Studied and learned a lot about the German groups who came into Pennsylvania, many of them with connections to the occult and magic. Some sources claim that the braucherei trace some of their practices back to Kelpius and the "Woman in the Wilderness" bunch.
I live in Nazareth, settled by Moravians, who are often portrayed these days as simple pious Christians, largely from Moravia. A little research, though, shows that most were Germans and had their own strange and intriguing beliefs and practices, although these days they're pretty much a mainstream Christian group. Zinzendorf went to the same pietist school in Germany that Kelpius had graduated from, but then got caught up in Kabbalah in London, along with Swedenborg. It's all way stranger than I would have guessed.
I know the first two mulleins, will look up the other. Have always admired the architectural form of the common mullein, probably one of the first plants I learned to recognize as a child.
My gardens are shaded so I grow many cultivars of plants that grow in the woods around here, plus some wild ones I've dug when woods were being felled for development.
The workshop sounds fascinating, the sort of thing I would like, but I'm still in the state of no driver's license. A shame--I never encounter anyone interested in plants and would love to.
I also have an interest in landscape and place, symbolically and with regard to its effects on what some would call the psyche. It relates to plants, really, as well as geology. When you go to some places, the plants there are like speech.
Hunter: Der Muttersprachen,
Ever been to the Hexenkopf? Must be 5 miles away from you.....I have celebrated Walburgisnacht there the past 3 years. We just celebrated Vinters Nacht at the Sacred Oak in Oley, the tree is a thousand years old and the place is so full of spirits you can actually photograph them let alone feel them.
Did you collect any Lobelia inflata seeds?
Yes the Moravians, very impressive lot, I've been to Lititz, their Christmas 'star' I've used as a stylized thornapple although I'm not sure they would be pleased, lol
Any jack in the pulpit?
Nancy: Oddly, I have been to the Hexenkopf, but not at night. Was involved with a bunch who went looking for indigenous sacred places in the area and that is thought to have been one. The whole South Mountain/Reading Prong ridge is pretty interesting. The biggest of the indigenous stone complexes, often called the Oley Hills Site, is right up near Longswamp.
I've heard of that Sacred Oak but never went there. I'll put it on the list.
Sacred Oak, Oley, PA, photograph by Hunter Yoder
I didn't get any Lobelia inflata seeds but could probably go out right now and get some. I grow 4 kinds of lobelia, and they're the least showy one, but interesting--I never know where they'll come up. I don't have jack in the pulpit. I put it in once but it didn't last. I do have may apples. They do better every year. I have some pennyroyal, wild ginger, wild columbine. For some reason I have an obsession with heucheras and I have many varieties which hybridize.
Hunter: Arisaema triphyllum is a weirdo, actually you need one of each sex for it to do well. Has the unique ability of being able to change sex however. The root system is not a bulb but a korm, the difference escapes me....
Hexenkopf has a pagan, Pennsylvania German (Deitsch) past hence the name.
Indigenous is a relative term. We all have tribal origins in our own ancestry, its just not a PC concept.
The mayapples we used to call Mandrake, and it is very nice to have really needs that undisturbed in the woods setting. I imagine you could fit some Bloodroot, and Goldenseal in there as well. I'm trying to get some Witch Hazel going but no luck yet. Of course there is the fabled Ginseng!
I have an interest in cloning plants and trees. Brown Turkish Fig and all the cactii so far want to do more in that direction.
Grab those seeds! Trade you for something, I have a prized Black Metel Datura and a great deal of other herbs, catnip, lemon balm, basils, parsleys, sage, oreganos, nicotiana rustica etc etc. The Pennyroyal would be good as well. Collecting seeds for next season here.
Hexenkopf, Williams Township, PA, picture by Hunter Yoder
Nancy: Well, you are speaking my language here. I did know about the Pennsylvania German history of Hexenkopf. Also agree about indigenous. So did these Lenape I know and that was why I didn't say Native American. They said everyone who was born and grew up here is native, in ways most people can't even understand. These were not stereotypical Indians. I'm not the only one who found their traditions to be almost as close to those of these esoteric German groups we speak of as to what people picture when we say Indian. You see that in Moravian and other histories, too.
Many woman stayed behind when the Lenape were driven west. German farmers married them because they were great at growing things. And (you can look this up in early European visitors' writings) the Lenape looked more like Europeans than Asians, except for tendency toward black hair and dark eyes. The English in charge couldn't tell if that quiet German farm wife was Lenape. The German and Lenape traditions merged in Pennsylvania in ways we rarely hear about.
More on that later. Could go on and on about some of this stuff. Mountain Bummy once directed me to a growth of goldenseal right outside Kutztown. I wonder if it's still there. Probably not. Did have bloodroot for a few years. Have considered getting a little from a local wood, but haven't-- it's not as common in this area as it once was. Big plant with the Indians, by the way.
I'm very interested in the concept of reindigenation. Everybody comes from people who were tribal and who related to the world in ways that seem "primitive" now. Some people are relearning it.
I've found ginseng a few places around the Lehigh Valley and dwarf ginseng in more places. Also Jack's big brother green dragon, Arisaema dracontium. There are some in a park about 5 miles away, probably have seeds on them now.
This is more interesting than things I ought to be doing. I'll check back again later. You would pity the poor cacti I have crunched in a tiny pot for years, rarely watered.
Hunter: Well its good we are having this conversation. I tried reconnecting back a few years ago without success. Its seems that Deitsch Magic, Braucherei and the pagan Hexerei are the oldest continuous magical tradition in North America of European origin. This has not escaped the attention of the Wiccans, notably Raven Silverwolf who has taken a wiccanized form of Hexerei to the bank in her silly Llewelyn publications. That being said I have very good friends in the Wiccan community via the Black Forest Clan. The so called Germanic Heathens who despite their German blood have reconnected via the Nordic Gods and Goddesses as a result of something called ASATRU. However, in part thanks to yours truly, they are beginning to come around to a more continental version of Germanic paganism via the Deitsch which is far more palatable then something overtly Deutsch with all the problems there from the last century.
More specific to our personal experiences, I too know where that plot of Goldenseal is or was..........shown by the same man. Its up in the hills behind Kutztown. I cite Bumbaugh as a mentor to the horror of the “New Age brauchers” in Berks County, or Barricks Kaundi.
Anyway I have my book out now, 600 plus pages, lol with two others behind that ready to go.
The Lenni Lenape as a nation still exist.....in Oklahoma which is where all the tribes seem to have ended up. I had an interest in the NAC at one time and their sacrament. Growing up along the Sacony creek as I did and playing in the flood plain as I did their spirit rubbed off as this was where they resided. Ground zero for Powwow magic is Oley. As you know this is an alternate name for Braucherei. The Grand old wise woman of Braucherei is of course Mountain Mary which is probably where the name Mountain Bummy was derived from. She lived in Oley or Friedensburg as it was called back in the day in her case the Revolutionary war.
The sharing of knowledge between the German settlers and the Lenni Lenape has always been speculated, you seem to have a excellent handle on that aspect!
Why were the Germans there? In part because the English tended to use them as a buffer between the 'Indigenous' tribes and themselves, same as with Wissahickon the same is true in the Carolinas, checkout something called the Weberite Heresy which has a direct connection to ole Muhlenberg in Allentown, Pa. oddly enough and there is plenty of odd connections that come back to Lehigh and Berks counties.
That cactus, repot in Mulch only, that stuff used to keep down weeds and retain moisture, usually of shredded bark or branch material, which I get free from the township. And water it! Probably an Opuntia.
I bought Goldenseal roots on Ebay!
I may have the best South American Columnar Cactii collection in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Nancy: I haven't looked into Wicca much, probably because I don't know any Wiccans. I'm interested in any land-based traditions.
Hard to learn much that's real concerning Indians in our culture because so much homogenization has taken place, both in the culture at large and in their cultures as a result of powwows. At one time different tribes' cultures and languages were as different as Chinese and English are. However, the point of interest is that they were tribal and neolithic, and therefore land-based, and so recently.
I'm also interested in the Saami, but they're a lot less accessible. There's still quite a bit of land-based culture left in the Indian subcontinent, too, and I believe we can learn a certain amount about prehistoric European cultures by learning about traditions still being followed in some of the out-of-the-way places there.
I know about Mary, and also about the Oklahoma Lenape, but they have completely lost the woodland part of the culture they once had. They tend to deny, by the way, that hidden Lenape remained behind doing their sacrifices in the sacred places and passing down traditions, but now even the people at the University of Pennsylvania museum have researched it and found that it's true. There's a nice exhibit down there right now, Fulfilling a Prophecy. [now moved to the Lenape Cultural Center in Easton, Pennsylvania] One of the people that helped put it together was among the people I knew for a while, Bob Ruth aka Redhawk. The exhibit explains at least some of the connection between the Lenape and the Germans.
The Germans in many cases were also here because of freedom of religion. Pennsylvania was where all of the mystics and nutjobs came because they could worship and live as they chose.
Will check the garden once it dries. It's covered with the neighbors' trees' leaves right now and I don't want to remove them until things dry a bit. I've pulled plants out by accident in the past when there was wet soil. I may not have much of the inflata, it seems. My clean-up earlier in the week was more efficient than I thought. Only found one seed pod so far and I'm not certain it's far enough along for the seeds to be viable. The rest may all be in the compost.
For some reason that book cover cracked me up, but it does sound interesting. And at least you're producing. I get too caught up in learning and never produce much. A publisher asked me for a book proposal on a certain subject, I think it was in June, and I've never put the thing together. Maybe this kind of conversation will inspire me.
Hunter: The Lenni Lenape tribe recently cloned the Shackamaxon Elm tree and they came in to ritually prune the 'World tree' in Oley.
The Saami, ok supposedly there is a connection between seiðr and their tradition, like digging up a tree and planting it upside down!
I'll see if I can checkout that exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania where my cousin, Dr Don Yoder is a professor emeritus, he by the way is the Source on the folkways of the Pa Germans, saw him last year at the fraktur Symposium at the Philly free Library.
As far as The Backdoor Hexologist' what is the old adage? Never judge a book by its cover, LOL
There is no reason today why you shouldn't publish a book or three. Heck I'm not even a writer.
As far as inflata is concerned, no worries, I'll look for it this Solanaceae family is attracted to me. Look and ye shall find.
Ever look at Marija Gimbutas, The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe? Neolithic Europe 7000 BC
Tribalism, I raised the horn at the World Tree to The Allemanni, my ancestral tribe in Europe with due respect to the Lenni Lenapes.
Our tribe here and now is Der Heidevolksstamm or Der Stamm..
Nancy: Pardon my imprecise communication. Lobelias are not Solanacea. Didn't mean to imply they were. They're Campanulacea. The inflata is known as an entheogen, although I haven't tried it myself. I hear it can be very harsh to taste or smoke.
It's not that I'm fixed on Indians as opposed to other cultures, just that I've had more exposure to them. Certainly in my family Western academia ruled and little or nothing was passed on about ancient tradition. I still don't talk to my brothers about these things because they just think it's garbage, although in my opinion the inner knowledge is roiling inside them and their lack of recognition of it is making them unhappy and causing other troubles, including health.
Heathens and pagans have interested me ever since I learned about them. I pay some attention to the "Celtic" stuff, too, even though it has become as romanticized, homogenized and sanitized as the Native American stuff. It's more likely that people here will become curious enough to at least sneak a peek down the path of reindigenation by those traditions than by Indian or more exotic ones. And for me it primarily comes down to paying attention to where you are and what rocks, plants, animals and landforms surround you.
We get nearest to whatever tradition we choose by involving ourselves with land, sky and life right where we are. When you do that, the metaphysical stuff just happens. I'm not one of those who went out to see Avatar when it came out, and I wouldn't say it was a great movie, but I finally did see it last month, and there was a part where one of the main characters connects with a great tree via a sort of cord that is part of her body, and in doing so she connects with the land and the planet and the ancestors. That's the kind of thing that happens if you spend time with the land and plants. Our culture doesn't recognize it or prep you for it, but others once did and still do. I think it's what young people are seeking, without knowing it, when they go off to the hills and/or woods to do drugs, have sex or just sit and talk about cosmic things.
I think a lot of people do receive that connection, especially if when young they spent time on the land alone, but since they have no way of understanding it, they shove it back into their minds and consider it irrelevant if they consider it at all. It drives them, though, drives their interests and curiosity. Some part of them doesn't forget that they met something else and they pursue it in different ways, often by a fascination with poetry, spirituality, nature, or shamanic-based cultures.
Ha, sorry. Like I said, I can go on and on. I admit I'm curious about Hexology. Does it dispense with all those Bible verses and odd chants that powwowing uses?
Stopped to Google and now I found and read half of the page with your essay Runic Symbology in Contemporary Deitsch Hexology--to the bit about the Eck. I guess I'll stop writing this and go back and read the rest. Interesting what you said about seeds, because as I said, seeds of interesting plants keep being planted in my gardens without my putting them there. I guess the birds bring them. Or something.
Hunter: [quotes her] "I admit I'm curious about Hexology. Does it dispense with all those Bible verses and odd chants that powwowing uses?"
Hexerei is totally Pagan, noooooooo Book of Psalms, ever hear of the die Merseburger Zaubersprüche?
Nancy: I hadn't heard of them. Just looked them up.
I always thought those Bible verses in die Braucherie were a jarring part of what obviously did not originate as a Christian tradition.
Hunter: Right you are, actually all the Heathen charms were xtianized, check out a friend of mine, Jack Montgomery, author and Hexenmeister, his article in Hex Magazine issue Two: Traditional Germanic Healing Arts in America: Powwowing, I'm in issue Four and Six of Hex Magazine .
Hunter: Thrice to thine and thrice to mine. And thrice again, to make up nine. --Macbeth. Very powerful charm this one
Nancy: I don't know much about charms.
Hunter: How about the nine herbs charm? The Herbs are Mugwort (of course), Plantain, Nettle, Crabapple, Chamomile, Thyme, Fennel, Lamb's Cress, Cockspur grass. This is the Anglo Saxon list the Icelandic list is alittle different, anyway its for healing as was the 2nd Merseberg Charm. As is the Pennsylvania Deitsch magic, anyway here's one version, you chant it three times over the sick person.:
A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.
I don't pretend to have the gift for zauberspruchen, I have the gift for the Painted Prayers. Too bad you can't meet the Ladies down in Downingtown today they are far better with the verbal charms
Nancy: Yes, wish I could go. It would seem like a revelation to actually talk to people who are interested in anything I'm interested in. Plus, I've been curious about seiðr since I read my friend Jenny's book and she and another friend described some of their experiences. They're in England, so I couldn't hope to join them. Maybe someday.
Stinging nettles are another plant that showed up this year--in a hanging basket I planted. Must be birds.
I'm a little uncertain about this charm thing. Surely its efficacy must depend on the person chanting it and especially on that person's state of mind at the time.
I have no problem seeing how magic can work. I've come to a different understanding of cause and effect, time and the illusory consistency of the material world. I see how even the past can be changed and that contrary to the way most people see it, things can arise where they weren't before, creating memory shadows where needed so that impressionable people think they were always there. It's the little word sculptures I don't quite see the use of. Maybe talking with people who use them would be helpful.
Haha, sometimes I scare myself when I write things like that last paragraph down. It's so completely against everything I was taught, but sometimes new understandings become necessary. No doubt you have some of your own.
That said, I just remembered that maybe 8 to 10 years ago, one of those women I mentioned had me do a rather involved bit of magic that involved a small stone and a chant, just, "All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things shall be well." When after weeks of doing that the outcome was as hoped, she had me bury the stone. Forgot about that.
Hunter: Nettle tea! keep that one, excellent herb.
Well as far the charms go, especially for healing, they definitely work. There is this concept of the 'well worn path' maybe you heard of it. Anyway, after a while people forget why these charms work....they have been in use so long that they have this momentum working for them and they just work!
To be honest with you Nancy, I figured you for a natural.......LOL
Nancy: You should see this woman's poem about Fenrir. Maybe I'll see if she'll let me send it to you. She wrote it in an old style with great rigor.
I've always felt I must be a natural at something, just never figured out what it is. LOL
Hunter: Anyway, we have a Yahoo list, The_Backdoor_Hexologist. lots of good info there, Its dedicated to Lee R. Gandee, who I recommend you checkout. He really set me straight with the Hexology. He was a Hexenmeister, a master of all the aspects of Hexerei, Jack Montgomery who I mentioned was his apprentice and now is a Hexenmeister. Hexerei knowledge is passed from male to female, female to male.
Plants talk, Valerian is a very loud talker. Met her at a farmers market and she demanded I pick her up and take her home, lol
Valerian in Bloom at Zaubereigarten, photo by Hunter Yoder
Plants have a spirit each one has a different one. They are more fatalistic then us animals, death is no biggie.....
I assume you know the Elder.......berry or Sambucus
Nancy: Used to pick elderberries and help my mom make jelly when we were kids. Took valerian once at the suggestion of a doctor. I forget why now.
Later. And thanks.
Hunter: Well the Elder or Frau Holle is a goddess, actually an old crone, she is very PA Deitsch. She was planted usually behind the haus to ground out negative energy and protect the family. She has a connection to the underworld and likes to be close to the watertable. the berries uncooked are a little poisonous. Naturally I have her.....
Nancy: I've often seen the Elder in meadows and as you say in wet places. Interesting about the connection to the underworld.
I've become interested in Goddess worship the last few years. As usual I haven't committed to it, but learning about it has been part of coming to terms with my own femininity, which I didn't manage to do while my mom, who was something of a misogynist, was alive.
In a somewhat related mode, since I'm rambling to you about things many people would not get, I have this suspicion about a landform, a little valley or gorge, known by the Moravians as Schoen Eck, from which the Schoeneck Creek emerges. It used to have a cave in it, but that was filled in within living memory, and it also has twelve to fifteen springs in it, depending on the water table, so that no creek flows in but the Schoeneck is a good size when it flows out. The Indians called this area Welagameka, "The Fertile Place" and everyone thinks they meant the soil, but I think that both they and the Moravians, known for their worship of the Goddess as the Holy Spirit, had another interpretation of that. I think, to put it politely, it represented to both groups the female principle.
This little valley faces east, toward the sunrise, with all the implications of the sun beams shining in and impregnating the earth, that kind of mystical stuff. There's even white quartz toward the back of it. I won't go into the symbolic significance of that, but maybe you can guess—a solidified male contribution.
"Green Man" Nancy Wisser
Anyway, what is known is that the Indians of the Lenape village at Welagameka, perched on a bluff above where the creek comes out, refused to move after the Walking Purchase. While on a visit, Zinzendorf himself went over for two days in a row and sat and talked with those Indians until finally an agreement was reached. I think some money changed hands, but also to this day that little valley or gorge remains the property of the Nazareth Moravian Church, even though it is not near the church itself. Because it isn't logged or disturbed much at all it is a remarkably rich wood, in soil and species diversity, considering how small it is. I often walk there and I ended up placing in it some of the more shamanic scenes in that book I mentioned before.
Of course maybe I just think about things too much. LOL
Hunter: Wow that's very cool! Northampton County? Sounds like the perfect place for an Ostara Ritual. Ostara, fertility goddess, from the Oester shown always with rabbits and is the true origin of Easter (the name) and all the unchristian elements everyone takes for granted like easter baskets, rabbits, etc. As you say, water has the fertility and is used in the Hexology as droplets. Its use symbolically goes a ways back, Currently I'm looking at Gumbatas and most especially the artifacts of old Europe, just west of the Black Sea, my favorite fertility goddess is the Snake Bird Goddess. The snake was held in reverence in part because it seems to move like water. The bird goddess aspect is stylized as just a beak and two eyes. Anyway I gave it a shot, drawing inspiration from the Vinca culture 9-10000 years old.
Terence McKenna is a great source, his Food of the Gods, Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, suggests that Mushroom cults connected societies with the earth, Gaia the goddess and that with the advent of monotheism and the male destroyer gods, this connection to the earth was lost.
Another favorite goddess and there are so many great ones, is Asherah, the Canaanite goddess later Hebrew who was cast out of the temple in Deuteronomy. Fertile goddesses are frequently identified with a grove of trees all of the same species sometimes on top of hill.
Nancy: It's about 8 miles, roughly, north of Bethlehem, just outside Nazareth. Nazareth is also known as the Barony of the Rose, curiously. It was the only Barony marked out in the colonies, and Zinzendorf was supposed to move here when he was kicked out of Germany. A replica of his manor house there was built here for him (still there, but apartments now), but he never came back because things got ironed out in Europe and he stayed. Anyway, while the rest of the Walking Purchase belonged to the Penn brothers--this was after their father, William's death--this one piece of land belonged to Letitia, their sister, who only had to pay them one red rose annually, on St. John's Day in June. Really smacks of mystical stuff to me.
When I joined the Megalithic Portal, a website where I became a writer on megaliths, and the like, many years ago, I was about the only American on it and some of the Brits--pagans and heathens--took it upon themselves to tutor me in this sort of thing, so I've heard about Ostara, etc. Kind of cool that you know all of this. As for the water, I guess that is general to many traditions. Certainly we see the native sites here are often built in regard to water sources, many at springs and marshes, sources of rivers. I've often seen snake effigies of stone near springs and marshes. That huge Longswamp site I mentioned is at a place where streams going one way flow to the Delaware and a stream going the other way flows to the Schuylkill. Water was seen as the blood of the earth mother.
Hadn't heard of the Snake Bird Goddess. Unfortunately that link is broken so I can only see the thumbnail.
McKenna has often been mentioned by my friends from the Portal and I have given his books a cursory look, but I don't know his stuff well. Certainly much was lost with the advent of Christianity, and more is being lost all the time as modern culture penetrates remote parts of the world and young people of earth-based cultures long for the modern and city life, until no one is there to learn the old traditions.
I just tried signing up to join the Yahoo Hexology group. My name on Yahoo is aluta_gaia. When I first joined Yahoo at the invite of one of my British friends I wanted aluta (my name on the Portal, after a little town outside Nazareth) but it was taken, so I added the gaia part. A slightly embarrassing name, but it more or less means "struggle for the earth."
I have a number of goddess images on my altar here, several of them from Hinduism, which is what I was interested in before I got the writing assignment that landed me in the company of the Indians and then got me onto the Portal where I met the pagans and heathens. I was happily doing only nature articles for magazines and then an editor asked for that Lenape article, the project that ate my life. It has been an odd journey but as if it was meant to be.
I considered ignoring your friend request, which I do with many, until I saw the cinquefoil comment. I can't resist plants.
Hunter: Sorry for the late reply, Nancy. I've been offline for a week down in Philly working on my building there with storefront, the soon to be opened Gallery, The Hex Factory.
Anyway the Snake and Bird Goddess (sometimes combined) are characterized by Gimbutas as 'mistresses of water.' This is old Europe, going back 6000 BC. Upper Paleolithic /Neolithic stuff which I love since that time since it was the time of the goddess cults. She has identified another mythological creature relevant to this conversation, the egg bearing waterbird. The waterbird is in creation myths almost universally. Tribalism is always defined by a creation myth.
Another recurring image of the goddess is as a tree, frequently feeding rampid caprids with her boughs. Although seen as such in the Middle East she is also there in the old European artifacts. This image later became stylized into the menorah.
Kali comes to mind on the subject of Hindu goddesses, LOL I have a rabbi friend who has traveled extensively in India an has studied with and is Sadhu, his teacher is on here, LOL
Nancy: The Hex Factory? That's great! Where in Philly? I know the city pretty well. I wish you good luck!
You seem to know a lot of interesting stuff. Thanks for passing it on. The goddess stuff is fascinating.
I found some of the Lobelia inflata, but I think I was too late for the pennyroyal. I checked both in my garden and in a place where it grows on its own and in both cases the plants were no longer visible. It's possible birds take them for their winter sleeping spots, like bluebird boxes, because pennyroyal repels insects. I know they're always taking my silver sage for their nests for the same reason.
Yeah, Kali is awesome and kind of an inspiration to some of us older women. LOL
The Hex Factory, 2080 East Cumberland Street, Phila., PA
Hunter: The Hex Factory, 2080 East Cumberland street, East Kensington/Fishtown right off Frankford. Old building built like a ship, circa 1875. Will feature Heathen Hexology, magic plants and dwarf rabbits which I raise in Philly and Brooklyn, they run wild all over the place in the backyard and first floor. Yes, seed collection time is upon us, I collected, the Italian broadleaf basil this morning and some Black Metel Datura. A lot of the perennials have all ready reseeded with hardy seedlings abounding. No frost yet in the city and it is time for me to take my Meyers dwarf lemon trees off the roof along with all the cactus, Igads!
Nancy: I know generally where that is, but I don't know that part of town well. Sounds pretty cool. Do you dry and sell your own plants? Probably you have to order some?
Dwarf rabbits? I don't know much about rabbits except that they make surprisingly affectionate pets with more personality than most people realize. A couple of people I know had them, but I've never seen the dwarf ones. Philly AND Brooklyn? Huh.
Funny you should mention lemon trees as I saved some seeds from a regular lemon recently to grow a little lemon tree over the winter, just to have it. Meyer lemons are sweeter than most, aren't they? Did you ever go to Ott's Exotic Plants in Schwenksville? They have beautiful lemon trees in their greenhouses, with enormous lemons and those sweet-smelling blossoms. We like to get down there in the middle of winter and walk around their conservatory, breathing the air full of citrus blossom and jasmine, and pretending we're in the tropics. The problem is, I can't resist buying plants.
The joys of plants--they're ever fresh to me.
Hunter: Meyers Dwarf Lemons, bloom continuously, and yield a lot of lemons, however seeds are useless, the tree must be cloned to enjoy the exceptional performance these trees give. I have Brown Turkish Figs trees also which over winter in Brooklyn and now in Philly. The rabbit Schiesse or Hasse Schiesse boosts the yield of these and the Elder. The rabbits are very smart and have excellent vision and are very willful creatures. Any idea of what this is? [picture] Teasel or moth mullein is my guess since seeds of both abound in this plot.
Nancy: That's probably teasel--one of a number of herbs I took when I became almost unable to walk anymore because of unbearable pain in one knee.
Doctors said it was arthritis and there was nothing they could do for it except physical therapy, which was just making it more painful. By other symptoms I'd been having for years, I guessed it was Lyme disease or something related, so I went on Stephen Buhner's Lyme protocol. I had to take large quantities of herbs for months, and the effects were scary intense, but the pain completely went away and now I can walk just fine. Until then, plants were just a fascination for me and I never used them for anything. Added a lot of appreciation for the relationships between them and us. Buhner has other books about plants. Good stuff.
Teasel, picture by Hunter Yoder
Hunter: I found on a walk along theBrandywine Creek and came back later and took the seed head broke it up in the herb garden, I have about twenty seedlings, see what overwinters. I planted the echinacea seeds in the pots of dead basil or eggplant, to leave out over the winter so the seeds freeze and emerge in the spring.
Yeah knees...always are problems, I find bicycling is very good for the knees.
I think the Teasel has another application, something to do with combing wool or spinning thread, It reminded me of beebalm and grows on the floodplain like the beebalm.
I use the echinacea seed pods before they get too dry for entheogenic purposes, very strong stimulant.
Nancy: Never heard that about echinacea. Where do you learn these things?
I've found I can't grow echinacea because the wild bunnies in the area eat it as soon as it's out of the ground. I've tried several varieties. Maybe they use it like you do. LOL
I've read that about teasel. Certainly the pods look suitable for a use like that.
I like to bike, too, but right now my bike is out of commission. Must get it fixed for spring. Other years I would be biking a lot in this weather.
Hunter: Which part? The using the 'cone' or the entheogenic aspect? The cone because the plant takes two years or more to get roots of any significance, and peeling back a mature green cone yields the same hot lemony taste that is the sure sign of the active ingredients. Echinacea always has to be fresh or it useless, that taste is the way of knowing that you are getting the 'actives.' I learned from trying, its an original position. It is a strong stimulant that yields some interesting insights. I also grow sinicuichi, a Mexican and South American herb in Pennsylvania. Its well known for its auditory distortions.....things very far away are suddenly audible and seem very close.
Yes I think you are right, its Teasel, hurray! How did you use it?
Nancy: I meant the entheogenic aspect, although that is very interesting about the way you planted them. If you want to try the Lobelia inflata, let me know next year and I'll harvest some. I've never tried it, but I know some people add it to their smoking mixtures.
I took a root tincture of teasel, the species Dipsacus sylvestris, which is thought to be best for Lyme. That's only one small part of the herb protocol I took. It included cat's claw, andrographis, sarsparilla, and Polygonum cuspidatum, or Japanese knotweed, which somewhat ironically I had worked hard at eliminating during one summer at the local state park.
But Stephen Buhner says it's important to notice which plants arrive without being planted and which become invasive, that in some cases they arrive or become invasive for a reason--we may need them for something. Ever since I read that I keep a sharp eye on what plants show up in the garden unbidden. I still pull weeds I don't want, but I allow some plants to join the garden. I'm more interested in having a home for interesting plants than a purely ornamental garden, anyway. LOL
I was looking at more of the hexes on the Yahoo group and for some reason it reminded me of those drawings I did at Rick and Jack's place in Krumsville. Not the same thing at all, of course, but until now I'd forgotten all about them.
It's funny to me that I've run into someone who is into this Pennsylvania Dutch sort of magic after doing the research I did and using some of it in a passage in that fiction book I put together. I even wrote a paragraph or two in which the powwow doctor explains the esoteric way it works (all made up by me, of course), but it's actually a set-up for the end when the end of the world happens and I use it as a mechanism to bring everything back. It's all silly stuff, but I put a lot of myself into it. Maybe that's the energy that drew this in--who knows?
Sorry if I run on too much. Anyway, if you two should learn of any heathens who live up my way, please let me know. I would love to meet someone who is into this stuff. It would be so nice to talk with someone about this sort of thing without having to pass the usually insurmountable disbelief barrier.
Hunter: I'll have to take a look at Stephen Buhner. Invasive plants, yes they are, LOL The Plant world is not that pretty idealistic place most people see, rather it is a battlefield filled with opportunistic plants, most easily felt in this sense at the peak of the season. The plant energy gets so intense, its impossible for me to sleep.
I never consider myself an herbalist and they usually become wary of me, rather a sort of ethno botanist.
Heck, Krumsville is ground zero for the Hexes. Well maybe Lenhartsville, the Sistine chapel for Hexology is Johnny Otts' ole Deitsch Eck Hotel and the decorative work there in the dining rooms. I think you lived there at one time. Johnny owned the place and painted Hexes in the back before selling the Hex business to Johnny Claypoole. Ott definitely knew the magical aspects and I quote him in the forward of my book. Claypoole never really had a grasp of it, but was a wonderful craftsman. What has happened is we put the pre-xtian magic back in the Hexology. Lets face it they never looked very Biblical, lol
Your book sounds very interesting. Its so easy to self publish now on Lulu.com. You can print only one book at a time if you wish.
I'll trade you seeds for that Lobelia inflata.
Plant reality works two basic ways, that as a benevolent grower of dangerous plants, in this way you can experience the plant and its 'behavior' and have control or you can carefully ingest them and then what was outside is now inside you and in a sense has the control. My interest in ingestion has faded (although there are special times) and the interest is in the peculiar behavior of these fellows and bringing them to flower and seed. This in part due to my cactus plant teacher who is best described as a benevolent grandfather.
Anyway I'm off to Philly riding the bicycle from Downingtown, its around 40 miles.
Nancy: Well, we all have our perspectives, created by the unique lives we live. I'm very fortunate in that the universe has always handled me in a beneficent manner, so naturally I see all things arriving as potential good. Not that I don't struggle with circumstances, but it's more like a child struggling with his mother when she tries to remove a splinter or give him medicine.
The first thing I saw by Buhner was his The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature. That was pretty long ago, before I was using herbs. I should probably reread it. He has other books. I haven't had a look at The Lost Language of Plants, which I'm sure I would find interesting.
Yes, I lived and worked at the Deitsch Eck, saw those paintings every day. Lenhartsville is an extraordinary place. I would love to spend some time there now, with what I now know about magical and sacred landscapes. We still go there at least one a year for a wildflower walk along the Ontelaunee Creek. An odd note--Eric is related to the Ott family that Johnny was part of. One of his ancestors was a Theresa Ott from out near Reading.
I'll look at Lulu. Thanks.
I would be happy to send you those seeds. I got many from one plant, but they are minuscule. I'll have to figure out how to send the properly, maybe fold a little envelope for them. I found my throat getting irritated a little just opening the dried seedpods.
Hope your ride was excellent. Amazing that you can still do long rides like that. Kudos!
Hunter: Yes small seeds, put them in a folded piece of paper, tape it and put in an envelope, mail to Hunter Yoder, 2080 East Cumberland Street, Phila, Pa 19125. The Oregano and the Sinicuichi have seeds like dust or sand, A candy-colored clown they call the sandman.......
I recommend the Datura Wrightii, extraordinary flower! But I have a wide ranging collection.
Datura Wrightii, picture Hunter Yoder
Eric? Wisser? das ist gut Deutsch name!
Varnishing floors, dealing with rabbit issues, seems I have Himalayan dwarfs, David Aponte my artist in residence here has brought back a rabbit magazine from Bethlehem where his grandmutter lives. They built a casino there? Gods......
Johnny Ott blut? better start painting Hexes, Nancy......
Nancy: Will get those seeds in the mail today. The datura sounds okay, but how would it do in part shade? Do you have any for shade areas?
A woman a few blocks away on Main Street grows a datura with huge, peach-colored pendulous blooms. Do you have that? If not, I could probably get you seeds next year. She's my eye doctor, by the name (really!) of Dr. Pollyanna Sparrow, and she comes from a family of plant people.
I told Eric what you said about hexes and he said, "Maybe we should." Probably just kidding, but could you recommend a book to read for starters? Yours?
Hunter: Yeah Datura is very popular now as an ornamental, Sure it'll grow in partial. I actually have a Stramonium/Wrightii cross that well kinda happened, LOL The wrightii have huge blooms without the frills of say the Metel, which maybe what your Dr has. Sure I'll sample those seeds as well.
It would be very cool if you could share with us on the Backdoor Hexologist Yahoo list your remembrances living at the Deitsch Eck, that actually would be priceless! And your Husband's connection to Johnny Ott would fill in a lot of missing pieces of the puzzle with him. Strangely enough, Johnny isn't getting the credit I think he deserves these days for instance in my cousin, Don Yoder's book.
As far as doing Hexes, start with the Rossette, then an eight pointer.
My book really addresses the Pennsylvania German Magical community, Braucherei, Hexerei, HooDoo and Root Doctor magic as well as die Blantz of course, Geographical locations and the Runes. Its definitely the best book out there on Pennsylvaniaa Magick. It also documents my evolution back to my Pa German magical roots....Its not really a how to do a Hex Sign book, but has a great recipe for making Black Henbane Ale, lol.
Hey any reminiscences about Tom Luckenbill would be appreciated as well. He actually showed me a number of things that I haven't really been able to find anywhere else, in particular sun worship in the Appalachians.....and levitation.
Nancy: Not sure if the good doctor is just using it as an ornamental. Probably, and yet I have seen books about shamanism on her desk.
I could probably say something about the Deitsche Eck, seeing the art and learning how to make potato filling, lol. I grew up out in Slateville. It was a mile to the general store at Wanamakers, and we were usually the only family in the store who had English as their first language, although my father had learned Deitsch growing up in Whitehall and Fogelsville. His parents had eloped there from near Sunbury.
Eric and I both have German blood, but in both cases it's about 1/4 of our lineage, the rest a mix from the British Isles, mine more Welsh, his more Irish, although there's English in both cases and some Irish in mine, and Iroquois if the stories are true. He has both Deitsch in the Ott line and Deutch in the Wissers, Catholic Germans who came over in the 1840s to work the mines in Orefield and Ironton, town names I'd never thought about until he got the genealogy bug. We were able to locate the exact mine hole his great, great, great grandfather died in in Lehigh County, the one who brought his family over from Germany.
I don't remember much about Tom except large bags of LSD tablets, which I never tried and some blue meth that gave me the best score I ever had in high school gym basketball. He drew up a horoscope for our marriage but I never got to ask him what the symbols meant.
I remember Bumbaugh, of course, and when we lived in K-town while Jonas was small, we visited him and I remember wishing then that I could drop everything else in my life and go out there with a notebook and a tape recorder and learn everything he knew. What a shame that no one did, or if someone did, that it wasn't written up in a book that we could buy. What an extraordinary character, full of that kind of knowledge you can't get at a college or university. Of course I hadn't spent much time with him when we were in school. I was a little afraid of him and I'd heard things about him and teenage girls. Lol.
I also lived and worked at the Kempton Hotel for Archie the elder. That was a trip. Another place where most of the people working there would often pause and say, "Och, how do you say it in English?"
When we were in Kutztown with Jonas I spent a lot of time with an old order Mennonite family. they spoke their own kind of Dutch, plus all knew English and High German. They still make their four-square gardens. Fascinating ways and traditions.
Levitation? That sounds awesome. Haven't we all experienced some very strange things over the years? It takes a lot of work and energy for people to pretend not to notice all the magic just swirling around all the time.
Hunter: That's some great stuff der, Nancy Yes I remember David talking on about Slateville up near the Appalachian ridge in Lehigh County, I think. A couple years ago I tried to reconnect with Rick, calling him out of the blue. In a typical Rick ism he responded by saying he hadn't dreamed that I would call, how dare I, LOL.
We have a pretty good pic of Bumbaugh in the Backdoor files in the doorway of his Lyons storefront where I guessed he moved to after East Main Street in Kutztown. The new age Brauchers, "The Three Sisters" freaked when they heard that I saw him as a mentor. We didn't hit it off after that.
Slateville, Lenhartsville, Kempton, Kutztown, sounds like you got the full nine yards of the Deitsch experience. There are some really good sources from the Kutztown area regarding Witchcraft or Hexerei. Has that real down to earth on the farm style to it.
Yeah Tom, remember loaning him my circular saw so that he could make a pyramid to sleep in at the Fogelville Farmhouse behind the Brewery where the band, Neon and the Eternal Plasma Band stayed.
He had significant energy.
I remember the Claypooles laughing when I told them I was painting Hexes, not much laughter now.......I did an interesting interview with Eric Claypoole recently.
So no Johnny Ott insights from your stay at the Deitsch Eck? I always thought he had the upper hand on the partnership with Jakob Zook. But both really popularized the Hexology, in fact they coined that name in the late forties and Ott was the professor, Dr Johnny Ott...... His style of painting was distinct and I remember seeing his more commercial advertising work on the sides of barns on Rt 222.
Anyway just got all my cactus in off the roof and they are in what I call the Sonnerod Room.
Enjoying the conversation.
Nancy: Great cactus and great picture. You do nice hexes, sir.
"Sonnenrad Room" Photograph, Hunter Yoder
This might interest you. When we lived in Slateville and some of us kids got sick--might have been measles, I'm not sure--one of the older Deitsch lady neighbors brought over some black birch/sassafras tea to help cure us. I remember they made quince jam, too.
We had an older woman babysitter who lived a half mile or so away. Her married name was Hefner but she was a Follweiler and had a way with plants that made a huge impression on me. This was before I started school. She grew the four square garden, mixing flowers with vegetables in a glorious array.
Margaret in Her garden, collection of Nancy Wisser
Just a child, I would walk the paths and admire it all, with larkspurs and phlox and gloriosa daisies and who knows what else towering over me, then I would walk to the other side of the house to a little rill that ran through, and she had planted the banks of it with a mix of house plants, bedding plants and wildflowers. I was enthralled and enchanted. The edge of her porch was lined with coffee cans with slips of this and that rooting up. I know she gave me at least one plant to take home, but I'm not sure I kept it alive. I was very young. I still have a sunbonnet that I believe was made by her.
I'm sure she was part of what started me on plants, although my mom's whole family had the bug. My great uncle was president of the National Iris Society and National Daylily Society in different years, and one of my uncles started a garden center which my cousins still run. Both my parents were wildflower hobbyists and wildflower walks were such a part of my upbringing that I was startled to learn that not everyone knew the names of all the regulars.
from the collection of Nancy Wisser
Then when we moved to Albany to live in a schoolhouse not far from the sawmill with my mother (we had moved down to Hatboro for a couple of years after their divorce), I spent many happy hours alone with a Peterson guide just walking the woods and fields and identifying everything I saw. My brother Andy (the youngest, and the one I got along with best) and I liked to ride bike (we both still do) and we rode and walked our bikes to Hawk Mountain, where we met an older couple I now realize must have been the Brauns, who gave us water to drink and let us sit on their back porch and watch hummingbirds come to their feeder while they talked to us about birds and plants and the forest. It all seems magical now. Andy and I still do a lot of birdwatching, but we rarely see each other.
When we lived in Kutztown and Jonas was at Kutztown Elementary (didn't you have kids there, too?) I took a Pennsylvania German course with good old Keith Brintzenhoff and tried to teach a bunch of it to Jonas. He doesn't remember much now, but he still uses words like rutschy and gretzy, forgetting that his friends in Ohio won't know what he means. He used to be able to rattle off Thirty Days Has September in Deitsch pretty well, but we've both forgotten it now.
Johnny Ott was much spoken of, not only at Deitsch Eck, but in our house when I was young. Johnny Claypoole was a friend of my mom's and would come to visit our place. I guess I should have wondered a little more about that. Lol. Anyway, she used to mention Johnny Ott. I can't remember anything she said, though. I know I grew up thinking of him as the king and patron saint of hex signs. Now I think of it, I believe Eric's grandfather, whose mother was Theresa Ott, had a sign in his shop that was painted by Johnny Ott. I'll be seeing Eric's dad on Thanksgiving. I'll see if he remembers any family stories.
I remember the house near the brewery. Jeff Keim used to live there. I was there a couple of times. I was always bad at partying, though. Much better at plant identification. Lol.
Do you know anything about the redware pottery? My mom had a friend who made it and sold it, somewhere out near Reading or Wyomissing. She gave me a tiny piece as a gift once and I still have it in the kitchen. Isn't the redware a Dutch thing?
I'm thinking I have a book on hex signs by your cousin. Must have gotten it when my mom died. I don't know for sure. I plan to do archaeology on the box piles in the front room upstairs in January and February when I'm less distracted by the out of doors.
Well, that's enough reminiscing and recalling for now. I will ponder these topic further and see if I come up with more. Here are two things I learned from Pennsylvania Deitsch farmers: groundhog skins make good shoelaces, and yellow-shafted flickers have some good eatin' on 'em.
You know who probably has some stories about his Dutch ancestors and powwowing? Allen Hoppes. He's on Facebook. And I'm sure you've talked with Jack about his relatives. My stepmother's grandmother was something of a braucher also. There used to be a lot of it around.
Hunter: You had a very Deitsch experience in your childhood which along with your blut is priceless. Its one of life's pleasures to participate in furthering one's kultur. I encourage you to pickup a brush or a pen and make those magical stars and symbols of your ancestry. Black Birch and sasafrass tea, the Brauchers always worked with die Blantz and the charms for healing. The old charms are priceless as are the recipes.
We both grew up in close proximity to the Blue Mountains which clearly effected us both. Wow, didn't know you were in Albany township, that whole area is very peculiar.
I too cycled Hawk Mt numerous times. I would start out in Krumsville, head toward Kutztown but break towards Virginsville past the old homestead, onto Lenhartsville, then towards Blue Rocks, staying along the Mt Ridge towards Hamburg, using Rt 61 briefly to pass thru the gap to the otherside of the ridge, Turn immediately towards New Ringold, and climb Hawk Mt from the 'otherside' and a past descent into Kempton and on back to Krumsville, A nice piece of cycling.
Just sent you a pdf on Beliefs of the Pa Germans.
Here's a pic of the thornapples now with Sinicuichi green in the background.
Allen Hoppes....funnel cake?
Nancy: When Andy and I biked to Hawk Mountain we were still in elementary school, so it was a big thing for us, although our parents took us to the Hawk Mountain trails from the time we were very small. They moved to that area to raise their family because they'd seen it while hiking. I've attached a recent picture of the place where we lived until I was 8 and my parents divorced. It was just outside the limits of Albany Township. We moved back and into Albany a few years after the divorce. You can see how close we lived to the ridge here.
You wouldn't want to see my hexes. Lol. They would be all daisies and sunshine and sweetness. With over a decade and a half of suicidal ideation and depression in my past, I feel I've done my time with the darkness and I am more interested in blooms than runes. Anyway, it's Eric who has the Ott blood. Still, I've done a little magical art of a sort. I have a big Pan-type figure on the wall near me and a green man or green-being painted on a large water jar on the floor. I would send a pic but I guess you can only add one per message. Right now, words are my main weaving.
I've read some of the PDF and will read the rest soon.
It was the plants and the landscape that always captivated me. And plants and landscape are universal in all of the indigenous traditions around the world. I'm especially fascinated by people's childhood experiences of a mystical nature, little epiphanies or ecstasies experienced spontaneously while outdoors alone. I'd be curious whether you recall any of these.
I have a couple of thornapple pictures from the roadsides. I'll send one at some point.
Hunter: [quotes her] "I'm especially fascinated by people's childhood experiences of a mystical nature, little epiphanies or ecstasies experienced spontaneously while outdoors alone."
While in the subtropical rainforest in Brasil just behind Rio de Janiero, in the 'Foresta de Juca' I viewed and identified my constant companion on all continents a beautiful Datura and was simultaneously bitten by a black ant on the neck, sort of a love bite......
Don't mind me, I'm on a mission from the Gods and Goddesses on this Hexology thing, lol
Great pic of the ole homestead near the ridge.
Off to Philly on my usual 40 mile cycling commute. Finally got rid of the car after driving one for 40 years.....damn nuisance those things. Rent when I need to.
Keep weaving with words.
Nancy: That's a great story. A poem I wrote long ago had a line--"each insect bite is the kiss of the Goddess." That was before I stepped in a yellow jacket nest and got stung 70+ times. Lol. She was just kidding--I was fine by the next day.
Here's a picture of one of the common daturas I saw growing in the fields around here this year. The only solanacaea I grew this year was a variegated nightshade that I grew as part of a hanging basket. Well, not completely true--we had an unusual kind of petunia this year, too.
How amazing to get to South America. That must have been great! I haven't traveled much.
I did a nature journal called Biophile for the Lehigh Valley for a year, printing it, distributing it, doing the art, and writing most of it by myself. During that time I interviewed people who were involved with parks and nature in various ways. Often they were college trained in biology, etc. I observed something curious--at the end of the official part of the interview while we were discussing birds or plants or whatever nature enthusiasm we had in common, the other person would often say, "Now don't tell anyone I said this, but . . ." and proceed to tell me of some numinous, remarkable, or inexplicable experience that occurred while out in the field.
It happened so frequently that I did a short piece on it, telling some of the stories anonymously (having gotten permission in each case first). Since the fact that people tell these stories is an observable phenomenon, I thought it was okay to include it among the other articles, all of which were factual, but there was some blowback, people telling me it was inappropriate and unscientific.
But think of it--if a scientist rejects data before coming to a conclusion, that's bad science. Here we have thousands, possibly millions, of people rejecting data of anomalous experiences, actually rejecting the evidence of their own eyes, in the name of science. Everyone believes that place, landscape, nature, or the Earth, however you want to perceive it, is without consciousness, unable to react to or communicate with us, but they can only maintain that belief because of this mass rejection of experience. If all the facts were in, it would be clear that something's going on.
People around us here feel justified in rejecting the idea of spirits, gods and goddesses with small "g"s because they don't have the facts. I won't say I have answers about what it is that keeps reaching out to people, especially those who love land, plants and creatures well enough to spend a lot of time out there. I like the mystery. But the word-weaving I'm most bent on is that which would change the perspective of the "down-to-earth" people a little, get them to reflect on some of their own experiences in a new light, and consider why the rest of the world believes in things our culture dismisses.
You're in great danger of receiving an email containing the short piece of nonfiction that is at the heart of what I'm working on these days. So far I'm holding off.
Nancy: Hoping the seeds arrived by now.
Hunter: Heil Nance!
Received the Lobelia inflata. Danke, will put the 'Indian Tobacco" to good usage. See how they interact with the other kinder in the garten......
Debating what is best to reciprocate with.........but it should be interesting, if your lighting conditions are unsuitable they (seeds)can be used to amplify an intention or two.
I looked at your blog site originally and found it unusual.
I have done a considerable amount of container growing which puts everything into a 'context' so to speak. I have noticed the phenomena of planting a single species and have observed what it attracts outside of the generic container pest growths. Anyway have developed this into two or the intended and unintended, and triads, one intended and two unintended. For instance San Pedro cactus will inevitably attract, Datura and or Nictiana rustica. And so on......
Opuntia might attract Sinicuichi. Henbane will attract Stramonium, (that pic of yours by the way looks like Datura stramonium Tatula)
Sunflower attracted Bella Donna. Either its symbiotic as in Fir trees and Amanita muscaria or chance or 'willfull'
Have ventured a bit into breaking thru with animal to animal communication or inter species thought with some recent success with cats. They seem a bit astonished, and maybe its not allowed otherwise they may lose their upper hand with the humans, oh well, LOL
Also working on a way to eliminate cell phone bills by carrier pigeon usage as the information highway declines into a vague interactive version of syfy channel.
The house is now full of plant energy.......
Thanks again and send me want you will, with or without warning....
The Rabbi just phoned and has informed me he is off to Kathmandu, December 7 and wants to stop in to knockout a gut glick hex before leaving, he seeks to meet Bon Shamans who specialize in 'shape-shifting'
Nancy: Awesome trip for that rabbi. I'm fascinated by shamanism but when I try journeying for myself I inevitably fall asleep. I will try again soon--just bought another book on it.
Interesting about the plant interactions. Something to think about. I'm working on a piece about plants right now.
Carrier pigeons. Lol. My grandfather kept them, always told us they were saying "Look at the goon," because we were there. He raced his pigeons and was very involved in it.
Cat communication--our older cat is very cat-like, but our younger one is different. I have trained him to sit up, lie down, roll over, and shake paws, well, at least put his paw up. Usually he has to know I have a treat in my hand first, though. The difference may just be that when I got the older one my life was full with a child and a job, so I didn't give her much time, but now I'm home all day and can put a lot of attention on the cat.
My Tumblr is unusual but so far the only people who seem interested are a couple at a nature preserve in Colombia who found it somehow. If nothing else it will serve as a repository for quotations I may want to include in things I write.
Send whatever feels right, whenever it works for you. Even if it's months from now it will be a nice surprise. I'll keep you in mind for other interesting seeds and plants. I guess I'm curious about henbane.
Hunter: Just got online, today, the letter was sent yesterday, the die is cast......
Nancy: And so may it be.
Nancy: Your generous gift of seeds received. Danke schön.
Hunter: The Three Sisters of Hexerei. Currently I'm working on a Rooster Hex, two roosters on either side a 'tree of life' plant motif based on a scherenschnitte, the original has flowers of course, culminating in a spectacular bloom on top with two secondary blooms on either side of it. At any rate, I've switched out the blooms throughout to meet my special needs and to well make my contribution, and they are of those same seeds, Bella Donna, Datura Stramonium, and on top the Henbane, one or two tulips may have survived, lol.
By the way, I never saw that henbane request of yours till after the letter was sent.
Nancy: I look forward to seeing a picture of that hex when you've finished it.
The seeds have been dedicated on what passes for an altar in my nameless spiritual/magical practice. I promise I will learn about them and treat them well.
I have read and even wondered about these plants. My mother grew daturas so I've probably wondered about them least. But now I have all three--and how strange to have them come to me through you. It seems so random. Life is mysterious: exoteric and esoteric systems, layers of them intersecting and overlapping.
I read an article about anthropomorphism, in a science magazine yesterday. Of course they made it out to be an ignorant and thoughtless habit of the human psyche. Yet, on another level, isn't it smart and useful to see complex, unpredictable and shifting systems as nonhuman people with volition and perception? And on a further level in some ways of understanding the world, isn't it true? For a given value of true, since the word takes on shades and echoes of meaning when we start moving between levels.
Don't mind me. I get like this sometimes. Lol. Anyway, thanks.
Hunter: I always was curious to know how you evolved......anyway you should add some Goddesses and Gods to that altar or in your life. My intro to them has been through the Runes (the Elder) many of which are Goddesses and Gods. Not all at once but one by one and through a personal evolutionary process which is hard to explain. Many of them are also plants, curious ones like the English Yew for Eihwaz, the Birch for Berkano and the Leek for Laguz. The Berkano is a Goddess, the Yew is a dark one. My attraction was to Ing or the Ingwaz, not terribly German but more Anglo Saxon, a diamond shape, symbol for land/earth/king, I saw it as what it is a male fertility sign. This gradually evolved towards Donar, the German variant of Thor, the Rune, Thorasaz, the thorn, Thursday, the th sound, and the color red. He actually has Pennsylvania German connections throughout their superstitions. Red heads are still viewed as 'wild' from the Christian belief that those with Donar's hair color were pagan. The other big Pa Deitsch one is Frau Holle as in the Hollebrier or Elder. But that is just my connection to the Goddesses and Gods.
Those three you have there are the Hex version of the Three Sisters of Wyrd. No creampuffs these gals, lol
As far as anthropomorphism goes we as humans are really just animals and our connection to other living things is through that context. If we can connect with them in a spirit sense, the anthropomorphism becomes merely a device. If it works, that is the question.
Entheogens for instance. Usage is for insight and can be very useful for divining, or revealing a hidden enemy or problem solving. Is this a scientific method? No but the greatest scientific minds tap into the subconscious every time they need that spark that leaps into the frontier of knowledge.
I do my best thinking while in a light sleep.
Remember the plants are the gateway to the Goddesses and Gods and all good things come in threes.
Nancy: Happened to be at the computer when this came in, working on an article having to do with plants.
The altar for the past 6 to 10 months has been totally dedicated to goddesses or The Goddess. (I haven't quite sorted out for myself whether I think of them as separate or as aspects of one and the beauty of it is, I don't have to sort it out.) I have pictures of known goddesses like Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Durga, the virgin of Guadalupe (I'm not Christian but there's a reason for her being there) and then unnamed pictures that represent Maid, Mother and Crone. I keep Kali in the kitchen. Lol. Also on the altar I have a Huichol depiction of a woman whom I take to be a goddess. Received it from Phil and Will Park's mom as a Christmas card a couple of years ago and it spoke to me. In a purely metaphorical sense, I should add.
I didn't grow up being taught what it means to be female or feminine, and I was always perfectly happy with that, but at some point I realized that, I guess you could say an untapped power lay there. Learning what being female means at a deeper level might keep me from the deep unhappiness of my mother and her mother, both of whom seemed to always wish they were male or see power as a thing men have. I had an advantage having these intelligent, sharp, unsentimental women as my forebears but to get to my whole self it seems I have to reach out for what they tried to leave behind. So I'm learning.
"If it works, that is the question." That's how I view all of this stuff. I try to fly at treetop level so to speak and embrace only those things that work for me, regardless of the system they come from. I pick things up, I leave things behind. I allow for change.
When you say thorn do you mean hawthorn? And when you say Holle, you mean elder, not holly, right? When we bought this house we got with it a young holly that's right in the middle of the front of the house. I've found one hawthorn on my walks around here, buried in a hedgerow nowhere near a house, probably planted long ago and no one remembers it's there, likewise a yew in that little gorge I told you about. I like seeing them unpruned. I have a hunch where there might be wild elderberry bushes not far away. I'll have to put on my waterproof boots and get over there sometime next spring once the leaves are back.
Hanging on the wall near the computer I have a knotwork picture I bought, with three crows in a triskelion formation at the center. I like crows and I'm right in there with threes, too.
I read this quotation lately and it goes not just for shamanism but for some other things like the entheogen uses you mentioned.
"What is beyond dispute is that shamanism is one of the oldest and most longstanding human behaviours to exist. If it were all make-believe, then why would this be so, and why. . . is it so useful to our daily lives? Shamanism and journeying to the otherworld is as natural and important to human beings as eating and sleeping, whatever our rational minds might think."
This is the stuff people long for. They know that some natural part of them is being denied with the way we are supposed to live. Everyone has a live wire sizzling and waiting to be plugged into the flow.
Hunter: Have to check the Hawthorn out, sounds interesting but no, Thorn/Thorasaz/Thursday/Th is just that a thorn and is the actual thorn thicket reference in the Sleeping Beauty tale. Three Thorasaz make a very strong curse.
Holly is interesting and I sense, Germanic. That wedding Pat did up in Reading, you saw the pics on the BD, anyway the place was landscaped with Holly, English Yew around the house and other curiously Germanic plants. Here in Brooklyn, the old Brownstones across the street have the Yew as a kind of hedge planted by Hildegaard the owner I knew before she passed away. gave me sauerkraut in white wine........yeah old country.
The Yew is a hedge/tree that lives to be thousands of years old and sends out strong vibes felt from miles away when they reach this age. "Riding the Hedge" is a term to describe witchcraft, oneside of the hedge faces the village and civilization the otherside, the dark wild forest. Yew is poisonous, all parts, bleeds red sap when cut and is used to make the strongest Bows. The deer that graze them or their red berries are often found dead by their side.....naturally I have it.
As for shamanism, it is something I have worked on for years, and you must be careful with it. As you get further into a thing it never is as simple as you might think. Actually I have another essay up on Zaubereigarten which addresses that issue, take a look at it and see what you think. Its called The Reanimation of Germanic Tribalism in PA Deitsch Hexology.
Nancy: Some of my Brit friends have said that the pollen of the yew is an intoxicant and that sitting or sleeping under it while it's blooming can give you visions or even make you very sick. I don't know if they've done it or just read about it.
I don't do shamanism. I just read about and study it a bit because it's related to, well, I'll have to send you a piece of writing, nonfiction. Feel free not to read it. But it tells how I got pulled into reading about shamanism. I tried to journey a few times, a few years ago, but when the drumbeat started I would fall asleep like a baby, so I accepted that this was not my forte. Lol. Anyway, although it's not a full experience, you know and I know, and most creative people would know if they had the understanding, that when we write or paint or play music, whatever, we do little journeys. You pause, maybe step back from the painting when you have to make a decision about it, your mind gets quiet, and some part of you goes somewhere and comes back with a gift. Certainly that's my experience with writing. Yeats wrote a poem about it, sort of. It's called Long-Legged Fly.
I think it's why artists, writers and musicians so often have mental health problems and substance abuse problems. Our culture has little or no help for someone negotiating the passages and worlds you have to travel in for creativity, and people get lost, or caught, or entranced with the source of their inspiration. And part of it is that we've lost the sense of the magic throbbing inside what we think of as the mundane world around us.
I started reading that piece you linked to last evening and enjoyed it as far as I got, but real life intervened. Will read the rest this afternoon or evening. Do you have anyone helping on that website who knows how to embed links? Lol. Or do you do that because you expect to get readers inexperienced with the internet so you write the links out to make it easier for them to recognize it?
Expect an email.
Hunter: Should be able to just click on the link, not the name if its in the links department.
And yes that site is getting out of control.
I have the material for a new book, Heiden Hexology, Essays and Interviews.
The "Shamanism" issue is about blood. Magic for lack of a better word works better if the tradition you use is of your own blood. The word Shaman is of Eastern Siberian origin or Tunsik, I believe. There is however a Sanskrit possibillity. The point is us of Germanic origin have our own magical tradition we have been disconnected from. When we pass over to the otherside thru trance or death, the first question you will be asked is what is your tribe? If you have been a Buddhist or a Practicing shaman but of Germanic origin it could be a problem. If you have no tribe you end up with all those disconnected pathetic souls who fit that category.
I myself had a great (and still do) interest in Peruvian Highland Shamanism and contribute to this forum under the name Hunter, they don't quite know how to deal with it but so be it.
Nancy: I'm lost, of course, when it comes to the whole blood thing. Am I Welsh, Irish, English, German, or Iroquois? There could be more mixed in. I always identified with places more than family. I spent a lot of time alone outdoors and during my parents' divorce and subsequent absorption in their own problems, I felt adopted by the land. I'm one of those disconnected pathetic souls you speak of, I guess. Lol.
All of these sets of gods and goddesses, they're different jigsaw puzzles of the same picture. I understand that the point is the picture, not the shape of the pieces.
When I'm out on the hills or in the woods, looking at and touching plants and stones, watching birds and seeing where the clouds are blowing from, I'm with my tribe. It is a spirit world for me.
Hunter: Looked at your piece you sent me, very very, very......good. I too spent a great time alone roaming the hills and dales as a child preschool alone, maybe with my dog. Especially along the Sacony, the water was just alive with all aspects and species in various degrees of development from eggs to chrysalis to adult. And of course the groves of trees all of the same species on the flood plain with hoof marks of all sizes , thousands of them, rubbings on the trees, yes the Goddess lived here......Its important to take these real life experiences with you when in my case I stylize them into geometric cosmologies.
Nancy: Just back from a walk and it's time to cook, but had to say I loved your descriptive language in that last email. Reads like it came from the heart. What a great place to grow up. I'm including a photo, not of the Saucony but the Ontelaunee near Lenhartsville. Magical places.
The Lenape tradition, which I do not follow, says that when you see many kinds of paw and hoof prints in one place, that is the footprint of Mesingwe, guardian and herder of the animals, the spirit some of them also say is the basis of Bigfoot rumors. He walks between the worlds, they say, and sometimes people see him.
I've dreamed of him. Which reminds me, last night it was Hyoscyamus niger who was haunting my sleep and dreams, and I haven't even opened the plastic packet. What have I gotten myself into? Lol.
I appreciate the good words about that piece. I have many more quotations about those experiences, many by famous people, including John Lennon. I'm supposed to be writing that book, but it's going in flows and halts, more halts than flows. Must go now.
I read the reanimation article with much interest, although I would have to have a couple more reads if I had to be ready for a quiz on it. It's sort of like two articles in one, one on the evolution of your work and the groups in general, and one on the pieces themselves and their symbology. A lot to take in, but a good overview. I had no idea any of this stuff was going on, and when I wrote the bit about braucherei in my story I thought I was writing about something old and nearly forgotten. Anyway, thank you for directing me to it.
Hunter: No quizzes but what is this plant?
Nancy: Boy, I want to say that it's an Eryngium, but I guess it's not. I have to say I don't know without research.
Has a burdock kind of flower, but obviously not the leaf etc. Philly has some weird things growing in the vacant lots.
Hunter: Here is that Rooster Hex in the Zaubergarten with the Three Sisters, see if you can pick em out, hasn't been released to the public yet.
Anyway I have a suspicion about that plant, maybe even a superstition.
Nancy: It could be great burdock instead of common burdock. The leaves are still a little funky, but if it's in a vacant lot... I was going to ask whether you have a better picture. I don't have a sense of how big it is.
Very nice hex! I see the flowers. For some reason it reminds me of a stained glass window. It would be interesting to have someone do a hex or two in colored glass. I can imagine people having them installed above their front doors.
Let me know about the plant. I remember when I lived in Philly for a while in the 70s I found some surprising plants in vacant lots along South Street, before it got so popular.
Hunter: The great Burdock is here, and it is definitely 'great' huge! Don't think this is it though.
I think there is a very good bookstore in Bethlehem, I got a primer on die muddersprachen, Deitsch from them online. I use the Moravian or Star of Bethlehem as the basis for my stylization of thornapples. So it could happen that we all meet there at some point. My associate, Dave Aponte regularly visits his grandmother there.
Thanks for the info and perspective on the Backdoor, Where I am in East Kensington is very close to Shackamaxon Park.
Nancy: Sorry if I was a little obnoxious on your forum. And I was kidding about the Walam Olum. It's probably not a legitimate document.
Hunter: Didn't notice the obnoxiousness, thirty years in New York City and you lose being overly sensitive. Put up the edited version of the Reanimation piece with lots of pics, makes a lot more sense. Trying to get it published in Hex or Folkish Journal, so I'm keeping it quiet that its already published on my site.
I thought you might enjoy our der Heidevolksstamm Walburgisnacht ritual at the Hexenkopf on....Walburgisnacht, lol No animal sacrifice, but you may bring something to sacrifice to Frau Walburga if you wish. It will be at dusk, more details if necessary.
Hunter Yoder on the Hexenkopf with Datura Stramonium, 'thorn apples" and Horn, 2010
Nancy: Hey, thanks! You are absolutely right,I would enjoy it very much! I've been curious about it since you mentioned it. And since then, without my bringing it up, someone at the Lenape cultural center mentioned it as one of their ritual places, too. Unfortunately I can't go.
I don't drive and anyway Eric is off that night and when I asked him about it he made it clear he is not interested. Perhaps I'll have my own modest celebration. Many thanks. I am honored by the invitation.
Hunter: Well its a ways off, the owner is Ned Heindel, maybe your brother knows him. If you have never been there, its worth the effort but not after that date, the place becomes uninhabitable, snakes, poison oak and deer ticks..... heck maybe we could swing by and pick you up even.
Nancy: I have been to Hexenkopf, years ago now. Funny, the woman at the Cultural Center, Carol Kuhn, also mentioned the tick problem there. If I'm to judge from the people who are complaining so far, it is already a bad year on the tick front.
Thank you for your gracious offer, but I would rather meet you two at a quieter time with an opportunity to talk. I can do Walburgisnacht another year. Hopefully there are more to come. Lol.
Hunter: I just tie up my pants legs and where long sleeve clothing and my signature hat, weird place, great rock alter, the jack in the pulpits are always out, this will be 4 years in a row for me.
This is about as close to you as we'll probably get.....the Hex Factory will open as soon as it does, lol and we have that Oley show in early September, otherwise its Philly, NYC, Downingtown, a new essay on the recent evolution of Germanic Magic and Shamanische is in the works, reading Jenny Blain and Michael Harner
Nancy: I was always cavalier about ticks, saying often, "If I worried about poison ivy and ticks I couldn't do what I do." But 3 years ago Eric ended up in the hospital and nearly died from an acute tick-borne disease (ehrlichiosis) within a week after we found the tick on him. Admittedly the tick had somehow eluded notice for 4 days before we found it, but it kind of put the scare into me. Doesn't keep me from walking into the bushes--I guess nothing could--but I'm much more cautious than I ever was before.
I know Jenny Blain, in an online sort of way. We used to chat on the Megalithic Portal, where I met most of my Brit friends. Jenny and Jezreell and I spent many hours trading laughs and turning over ideas back in those days, before I even knew she had a book coming out. They used to talk at length about their blots. Very interesting person. I have read her Nine Worlds book.
I keep to myself a lot. We'll meet when we're supposed to.
Hunter: You should check out Jack Montgomery, friend of mine here, his American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healers, recounts his personal experiences with root doctors, hexenmeisters, granny-women, his mentor was Lee Gandee.
Jenny's book took me awhile to get into because that whole ethno/scholar turned practitioner made it confusing, liked the in the mound the best, I prefer the Seiðr to Galdr which is supposed to be contrary to my gender, but I am proven in that regard, however Seiðr is not Shamanism and she eventually in a convoluted way gets around to that. Shamanism the word is now used to sell books
Nancy: Thanks! I remember looking that Montgomery book up before. Maybe you mentioned it or I saw it on a page on your website. It does sound interesting. I'm not reading much about shamanism right now, although I would really like to pick up something by James Swan.
I'm very interested in the concept of place and it's psychological implications. Mind you, I see psychology mostly as an end run around modern thinking, done in order to find a way to talk about what traditional cultures call spirits—what our culture sees as going on inside people, other cultures often see as happening from the outside. Anyway, if in any of your reading you run across anything discussing place, I would be obliged if you referred me to it.
Completely agree about Jenny's book. I see this with other scholars who are writing about things like this. They try to reach their peers and end up making me feel like banging my head against a wall. It's what finally made me realize that my lack of schooling may not be a liability. I'm free of the taint of academia, other than Mr. Shaw, Mr. Angstadt, and Mr. Steitz (is that last one wrong? It's been a while.) I can leave out all the parts I would skip if I were reading it. Lol.
As for shamanism, the problem there is that there's a broad spectrum of related practices that we have no word for, so people are making that word stretch beyond its meaning. Until there's an adequate word to take its place it will probably be used that way. For me it's a wonder that that general type of thing has caught on as it has and that the word shamanism sells books at all. Things have come a long way. There's a strong undercurrent these days. I'm not part of it, though. Barely getting my toes wet.
Hunter: Well first and foremost is Lee Gandee's Strange Experience published the year before we graduated from High School, its never been reprinted. Agree about the so called 'lack of schooling.'
Spirit of place.....Hexenkopf
The Galdr crowd many former 'magicians' Which in my brutal way of using a couple words to describe things, are attempting to impose a will for a selfish purpose, (ego) on the universe are growing wearisome I like the blood concept but not the death worship, Wotan who has a curious Christ like appeal.
Everyone refers to Mircea Eliade the big guys, Harner, McKenna, of course Castaneda is so out of style but......the original over educated shaman.
Anyway there are a great deal of egos involved here in southeastern Pennsylvania in neopaganism, and I assure you I am not one of them. I have weathered more then one ego storm and its so dumb but we always have die Blantz und Hexerei.
I would like you to reach your full potential
Nancy: Thank you for the good wish, maybe the best thing to be wished for someone, and I wish the same to you. I have to weather plenty of ego storms even when I see no one but myself. But the plants and the land and the sky are always there grounding me with reminders of what is too mundane for people to teach but too essential to do without...
Nancy Wisser at pre-Columbian stone site, in Pennsylvania, 2011