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Reamstown, farmers, pow-wow, birthmark, folk cures, superstitions
A handwritten, untitled term paper completed at Franklin and Marshall College by Price Norris, dated May 22, 1950. Within, Norris documents the findings he compiled from two Pennsylvania Dutch households regarding folk cures and superstitions.
Folklore Term Paper
May 22, 1950
Friday, May 19, Bob Rhoads, my roommate and I started out to interview Pennsylvania Dutch farmers to find out a few folk cures. Bob, who can speak Pennsylvania Dutch fairly well suggested we go over to Reamstown to the home of his Grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Rhoads. We arrived at the house just as they were finishing lunch. I told them of my mission and they very willing to help me.
As I sat in the living room I noticed on the wall various odd looking pictures and sayings. To start a conversation I asked what they were and Mrs. Rhoads told me this story.
My son had a strawberry mark on his neck. It was very ugly and a noticeable looking thing. I had heard that it could be removed by “Pow-Wow” but I first chose to visit a Doctor and obtain his advice. He told me it was a birth mark and could not be removed. We let things pass as they were never thinking of the matter until one Sunday in church. A lady sitting behind us leaned forward and whispered that she could remove the birth mark on my sons neck. She said she could do it by “Pow-Wow”. Having nothing to lose I allowed her to go ahead. She stroked the birth mark three times and as she was doing this she mumbled some healing words and offered a prayer. In a couple of weeks the birth mark was completely gone. Since then I have had the utmost faith in “Pow-Wow Doctoring”. As she finished the story she pointed to one of the sayings on the wall and said they were the secret words the Pow-wow Doctor used to heal her sons neck.
She then told me of the time she took her Grandson, my roommate, to a “Pow-Wow Doctor” to have a wart taken off.
As the “Pow-Wow Doctor” came in from the fields I told him of my grandsons troubles. He said it was a simple thing to cure. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old penny, next he took a corn cob and rubbed the penny on the corn cob three times. Then he threw the cob over his left shoulder. He then mumbled some words while stroking the wart with the penny. Within a week or so the wart was gone.
After we talked for awhile I asked if she knew of any other cures or stories. She said she had heard of a few but she hadn’t tried them. She gave me the names of some farmers and we went out to visit them.
Our first stop was to visit Mr. and Mrs. Stehmen, who live outside Reamstown in a section called Peacock Alley. We met Mrs. Stehmen and we told her who we were. She recognized Bob and was very friendly toward us. She told me a few cures but the one that stood out in my mind was the cure for a cold.
Every night before retiring take the index finger of the right hand and run it between the toes on the right foot. Then put the finger under your nose and inhale five times. Then say “cold begone” with each inhale.
As we were leaving I started out the side door and she promptly asked me to leave by the same door we came in. I asked her why she requested this. Her answer was that in case I brought any bad spirits with me they would only follow me out the same door I came in.
In closing my term paper I would like to say that this has been a very interesting course. I certainly have enjoyed going out among the Dutch people. It has really been an experience for a city boy like myself. I hope I get the chance to take more folklore courses.
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Norris, Price, "Folklore Term Paper: May 22, 1950" (1950). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 221.
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