Mary "Old Moll" Derry

"Fortune-Teller of the Revolution"

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MARY DERRY, Matriarch of the S.W. Pennsylvania Derry line. Born approximately 1765 in Germany, and died in May or June of 1843. Little is known of her prior to the American Revolution, including her maiden name, though, ULRICH is a possibility. Many legends, myths and folklore abound about Mollie.

 
 

Valentine and Mollie Derry

Mary’s maiden name is unknown at this time, however, we now know that Valentine and Mollie Derry came to America during the time of the American Revolution. Cousin Joan Derry relates to me her discovery and thoughts about Valentine and Mollie Derry.

“We are absolutely the only family named Derry in Georges Township. How fascinating to also read that both Valentine and Mollie were in the British Army and both deserted to serve under Daniel Morgan of “Morgan’s Riflemen.” Daniel Morgan was living in Charles Town, VA (now WV) about this time, which is only a stone’s throw across the line into Loudoun County, VA. I always wondered where Old Mollie Derry got the title of “Fortune Teller of the Revolution.” Why so specific?  Why not just the “granny-healer” and “witch of the Monongahela” as to her unusual skills? Why “of the Revolution?” Evidently, she was one of the soldiers fighting next to her husband. What a wonderful and marvelous character she must have been! I did a little research on Morgan’s Riflemen and found that members had to pass certain sharpshooter skills. They did not wear uniforms, but rather hunting clothing (i.e. leggings and moccasins) and a feather worn in their cap. They used the flintlock rifle and were infamous in winning several battles during the war. How close a description this is for Mollie’s (oldest) son, Bazil Derry. He [Bazil] was known as a “great hunter with excellent sharpshooter skills,” wore hand-made moccasins he sewed himself, etc. She must have passed on her skills.”

A transcription of a news article written about Valentine and Mollie Derry and was published in 1879, some 36 years after Mollie’s death.

                          Mountain Democrat, Placerville, California, Saturday, October 25, 1879, Page 3

 THE MOUNTAIN HUNTER

    “Valentine Derry, commonly called Felty, and Mollie, his wife, came to Western Pennsylvania at the time of the Revolutionary war.  They were both Haytians [Hessians], and both belonged to the British army.  Derry, with his wife, deserted and joined the American side and were under General Morgan.  After the Declaration of Independence, Derry and his wife found their way over the mountains and settled in Georges Township, Fayette County, Pa., took up a small tract of land at the foot of the mountains, about half a mile south of where old Pine Grove Forge used to stand.  After building a cabin, Derry employed his after life exclusively in hunting deer and bear, in which he was remarkably successful.  The deer and bear were plenty, and he never went out without capturing just what he wanted.

    It was thought by man persons that he was a wizard, and could charm the deer.  He sometimes used a certain ingredient that he rubbed on his moccasins and leggings.  He would then make a circuit where deer were plenty, and take his position some twenty-five or thirty steps at either side.  In a short time he would see a buck coming on a slow trot.  When at a proper range he would bleat, the deer would stop, and he was always sure of his meat.  If he wanted another one he never had to wait long.  He once tracked an old she bear, that had cubs, in the rocks.  After some deliberation he concluded to crawl in and shoot her in the den.  She met him half way at a narrow passage.  He lying down, and she coming out, fastened on him and commenced eating her way out; but before she had done any more damage than tearing the seat out of his leather breeches, he got his hunting knife out of his scabbard that was at this side, and plunged it into her, behind the fore shoulder, and she lay on him a lifeless bear.

    Salt was scarce, and they had to jerk the venisons.  This was done by cutting the meat off the bones in small pieces, and stringing them on strings.  They always used the sinews of the hind and fore legs for that purpose.  They would have a slow fire to dry the meat.  Derry always tanned his own hides.  He said the brains of any animal would tan its own hide.  At the death of old Felty his mantle fell upon his son Boltzer [Bazil], who had been as successful a hunter as his father, and is now living in the same cabin, ninety-three years old.  On the first of June the hunting time expires.  The deer then lost their horns.  Strange to say, they lose their horns every year.  At two years old they are called spike bucks; at three years old, two prong; and they get a prong every year on the new horn.

    No dog or wolf can scent a fawn while the sprouts are on them.  During this interval the Derrys employed themselves in catching trout in the mountain streams, and these fried in bear’s oil made a most delicious meal.  This hunter had a wife and child who shared with him life’s cares and burdens.  This hunter’s wife had (and who has not) a history.  She was famous, not only in the neighborhood, but in places more remote, as a “Fortune Teller.”  Young men and maidens and those of a more mature age and wisdom visited her mountain home in the hopes of hearing of something that would help them for either weal or woe.

    Was anything lost or stolen, whether horse or cow, pocket-book, money, jewels, silver spoons, or any other thing of real or imaginary value, the powers of this celebrated fortune-teller, having the well known name of  Moll Derry, were frequently called into requisition.  Many and miraculous were the stories treasured in the memory of the oldest inhabitants, and related for fireside entertainment, of her actually telling, without any hint, the article lost, when and where it could be found, and if stolen, the description of the thief, whether male or female.  Certain it is, if character be a test of truth, tradition has awarded to Moll Derry the title at least of being a remarkably good guesser.  Her invariable dress was a short gown and petticoat, fabricated from the raw material, and from her own hand.  Her method of unfolding the future destiny of any of her votaries was done through the simple medium of coffee.

    The parties seeking their fortunes had to take with them, in addition to money, a certain portion of the article first mentioned.  This was prepared in the usual way, care being taken that it should be strong, and that a goodly quantity of the sediment or grounds should adhere to the sides and bottom of the cup.  After the liquid had been leisurely sipped, Moll, during the sipping operation, would closely scan the visage of her subject, creating the impression that she was then in search after coming revelations.  The cup being placed in the left hand of the seeker, bottom upwards, and the subject required to turn the cup three times, being careful to turn the cup toward the seeker, Moll would then take the cup, and by the grounds that adhered to the sides and bottom, read off the seeker’s fortune.  It was thought by many that Moll had intimate dealings with the devil.  As far as known, she harmed no one, and if she got her money and coffee, she was always contented.”

~ END OF ARTICLE ~


Polly: “Can you tell fortunes?”
Old Moll: “Yes, and misfortunes too.”

    Polly was a fictional character in A. F. Hill’s book, “The White Rocks.”  “Old Moll” was the subject of many stories told about the witch that lived in S.W. Pennsylvania.

    Mary Derry was my 3rd g-grandmother and was known as “Old Moll,” Fortuneteller of the Revolution, “the Witch of the Monongahela,” also known as “Mollie.”  She had seven children, the oldest Bazil, born in 1793, Jacob, born in 1795, Barbara, born in 1798, Phillip, born about 1800, Jeremiah, born in 1802, Rhoda, born in 1804 and Mary, born in 1811.  With the exception of Bazil and Mary, all eventually moved west to Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon Territory.  Jacob, my 2nd g-grandfather, married Rachel Bright in Pennsylvania in 1815 and were the parents of Rhoda, my g-g-aunt.  Jacob and Rachel had three children before leaving Pennsylvania.  They were Philip, born in 1817, Basil (my g-grandfather), born in 1820 and Carlisle, born in 1822.

    It has been widely accepted that “Old Mollie” was a real witch and quite a character, however, that was many years ago.  In A. F. Hill’s book, “The White Rocks,” she is the witch who forewarns Polly Williams that her fiancé will murder her, casting her off the white rocks in the mountains near Fairchance.  Mollie was quite famous during her time.  Her fame continued for a century after her death and legends, myths and folklore abound yet today.

    Her maiden name is still a mystery to the family.  Cousin, Kathy Volpe Sawyer (descendant of Chariety Phoebe (Derry) Hartman, granddaughter of Mollie), suggests Mollie is of the Ulrich family line.  This may well hold water; yet cousin Joan Brown Derry recently discovered information that she may have come to America at the end of the American Revolution with her husband, Valentine Derry (Deoring), and that they were both Hessian soldiers for the British, then deserted and fought for Morgan’s Riflemen when they arrived in America.  Whatever the case, Mollie’s past remains as elusive today as it ever has.

What’s a witch look like?
    Many different descriptions of Old Mollie varied around Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  One describes her as “a very small person who rocked herself in a cradle with length-wise rockers.”  Yet another described her as “a large woman, heavy and hunched over, completely bald.  The skin on her broad face and round head was tawny-brown, blotched against brown, leather like skin.”  Still another described her as having “a great hairy mole on her upper lip, with two long canine teeth in her upper jaw that protruded down, giving her a walrus like appearance,” “was able to ride great distances on a broomstick” and that she “walked with a cane.”
Certainly, these myths and legends have all the attributes of what we think a witch might look like.  It was said that she lived in absolute destitution in a hovel in the mountains above Uniontown, and that she could “command rattlesnakes to guard her and her cabin,” yet she was widely known throughout South West Pennsylvania as “a healer, using herbs and roots.”
Old Mollie was a renowned practitioner of “Pow-Wowing” and “Der Hexen Hammer” (The Witches Hammer).  She is said to have owned an “Erd Spiegel,” meaning “Earth Mirror,” some type of crystal ball by which she could foretell the future.  In the 1820’s she is reputed to have lived with another witch near Rubles Mill, PA, named Hannah Clarke, who apparently was her (Derry’s) apprentice.

    In a recent information exchange between Kathy and me, I learned a bit more about our common ancestor, Old Mollie.
Kathy wrote: Der Hexen Hammer would be the tool if you will, of Hexerei.  This has nothing to do with Powwow or Braucherei...well it is related by direct opposition...because it is a “dark art.”  Powwow is the laying on of hands, with the Braucher or Powwower’s hands working as Jesus once did.  It attempts to “try for” or “take away” what ails the afflicted.  It was explained and outlined in the grimoire book “The Long Lost Friend” whereas Hexerei is found in the “Sixth and Seventh Books of Solomon.”  Any PA Deutsch Powwower (insert our “great” granny Old Moll) would have been familiar with both, as a healer would need the tools to remove the hex from the “ver hexen.”

I wrote: Okay, Old Mollie really wasn’t a witch in the conventional sense of the word?  She was a healer.  I have learned a lot about this subject over the last few months, however not near enough, as I still need to keep things in simple terms.
So, the legends and myths of Old Mollie begin to unravel as we discover the truth about her practices.  Ver hexen translates from German to English then, “To Bewitch,” and Mollie needed to know both Powwowing and the Dark Arts (or Der Hexen Hammer – or as Wilbur said, “Heshen Hammer”) in order to counter hexes or “curses.”  Do I understand this correctly, Kathy?

Kathy wrote: “Yep, from what I've learned myself, that’s about it.  So, not a witch in the traditional sense of the word, however (there’s always gotta be a however), locals would have nonetheless called her a witch!  It was common in the PA Dutch communities to refer to the Powwows as witches.  They also freely used the terms white witch/wise woman for good works.  I have never read anywhere that Moll cursed a single soul but folks lived in fearful respect of her.  Which of course leads me to believe that she could remove hexes.  A simple soul who had a hex removed would then make the “remover” guilty of witchery by association.  It is a sad, tail biting response!  Moll was also known for her power of prescience and this would have made the general population extremely nervous :-)) I just finished reading “Hex” by Arthur Lewis.  It is a recounting of the York, PA “Witch Trial” in the 1920’s.  VERY good stuff!”

Kathy passes on another legend about Old Mollie. 
 
Kathy writes: “Heard a great Old Moll story today from Wilbur Landman and thought you would like to have it:”
    “There was a gang of robbers from McClellandtown who would come to Smithfield to rob Shaker (and possibly Mennonite) farmers (because they did not carry guns) coming home from market with the money they made from selling their goods.  They would accost the poor souls, rob them, kill them and dump their bodies in the millpond at Rubles Mill.  As you may recall, Old Moll lived near Rubles Mill for a time with her apprentice Hannah Clarke.  The robbers went to see Old Moll one day and asked her for a potion that would put people to sleep for good.  She is alleged to have said; “Why are you coming to me when your hands are still wet from your dirty work at the millpond?”  This scared them so badly that they ran away and supposedly did not bother the people of that area anymore!
I have also learned that the name Moll Wampler came from writers/storytellers of Old Moll’s time because they feared her, they did not want to use her actual name when spinning yarns.”

Old Moll’s Witchcraft
    Since ancient times, Germanic tribes from the Palatine valley relied on faith healers, brauchers, when health problems developed.  Several hundred years ago, brauchers immigrated to the New World with various Germanic religious sects.  Cooperative, instructional meetings, or pow wows, between Native American medicine men and newly immigrated brauchers allowed the newcomers to learn about herbs and remedies indigenous to North America.  The brauchers, now known as pow powers, practice within Pennsylvania Dutch communities across the country.
Braucherei is an ancient tradition of folk healing, based in Christianity but incorporating beliefs and characteristics of many cultures, practices and religions, including American Indian, Gnostic, Jewish, Celtic and others.
    Braucherei was commonly practiced in Berks County in the 18th and 19th centuries when there were few doctors, and people relied on traditional healing and herbal cures.
Braucherei involves the use of herbs, repetitive prayer, ceremonies, symbols and other tools.  Prayers used in the practice of Braucherei traditionally were passed down orally, not in writing.
Both men and women served as brauchers, or those who practiced Braucherei.  Men tended to be open about their work and to accept pay for it; women traditionally worked more quietly as a service to the community.
    Braucherei began to die out in South Central Pennsylvania and surrounding communities during the early 1900’s when increasing numbers of people began to favor “modern” medical care.  Other factors also contributed to its demise.
Many brauchers consulted a book on traditional cures written in the early 1800s by John George Hohman.  “The Long Lost Friend” is still available from online booksellers and in some libraries.
    Braucherei contains many of the same elements as Reiki, a Japanese technique administered by “laying on of hands” that is thought to promote healing and well-being.  Some Christian sects such as the Pennecostal’s also practice the “laying on of hands.”
It is my belief that Mary “Mollie” Derry was a healer and led a harmless life and was an honest woman.  She lived to be 75 to 83 years old, as her exact birth year has never been known.  It is also my belief that Mollie had a strong faith in God.

“Old Molls” Will
1843 - Will of Mary Derry - Will Book 2 p. 282 - Fayette County, PA
The last will and testament of Mary Derry of George Township Fayette County State of Pennsylvania:
“In the name of God I Mary Derry considering the uncertainty of the mortal life and being of sound mind and memory blessed be almighty God for the same, do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following that is to say, first I give and bequeath unto my grand child Andrew Derry the son of Mary Fowler the house and lot where I now live in Haydentown or George Town lying and being in George Township in Fayette County and state above mentioned it being the whole of my freehold estate whatsoever to hold to him the said Andrew Derry his heirs and assigns forever whom I hereby appoint Mary Fowler sole Executrix of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all formers wills by me maid (sic).  In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the fifteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eighteen hundred and forty three.”
Attest:
Jacob Dawson
Jacob Derry
[Will proved 17 June 1843, Jacob Dawson testified before Joseph Gadd, Registrar for the probate, that the will of Mary Derry, late of George Township, is as it is purported to be.]


~ AN EXCERPT ~

CHAPTER XII -THE FORTUNE- TELLER From the book "The White Rocks" by A. F. Hill

May has come again. It is so warm and pleasant, too; the fields and trees are so beautiful and green; the birds are singing so merrily in the thick foliage, and the sheep and young Iambs are sporting so gayly in the pastures, that one can scarcely realize that a cold, chilling winter, with its heavy snows, is barely gone. King Winter has departed now, and not a single trace of his rough footsteps is seen anywhere, for no sooner had his bleak winds and blinding storms rolled away than the young buds peeped timidly forth, as though half doubting that he had really gone, and the tender blades of grass began to thrust themselves from the ground; and now an Nature has revived from the shock she so lately felt, and is as blithe and happy as though winter had never stripped her of her green robes.

It is nine o'clock, the pleasantest hour of this beautiful May morning. The sun has risen far above the mountain, and the dew has everywhere disappeared from the leaves and the grass. IRA TATE, with a neighbor, who is helping him today, is in the field planting corn. He is in excellent humor, as who wouldn't be this delightful morning? And has not killed a chicken or a dog, nor broken a hoe or anything of the sort today.

At the farm-house the morning's work is done, and Aunt ELIZA, MARY and TILLY have not much to do.

"It's such a lovely day, TILLY ," observes MARY, "that I should like to take a walk somewhere." "So should I", TILLY replies.

"Suppose we walk up the mountain", MARY suggests. 'I am willing, if AUNT ELlZA" -TILLY so calls her -"will get the dinner."

"Oh, she will, I know and gladly, for she frequently says that help in such small matters is only in the way. I'll ask her. I say, Aunty!"

"Wen?" responds Aunty, from the depths of the kitchen. "Can you get dinner without our help today?" "Why do you ask? Are you both sick?"

"Oh no. On the contrary, we are so very well that we feel like taking a walk up the mountain this lovely morning." "I suppose I can get along without you. But don't stay too long, or you'll have me uneasy." "Oh, we'll be back about dinnertime. So, we're off, TILLY. Get your bonnet; I have mine already."

TILLY gets her bonnet, and away the cousins go, tripping down the path, out at the gate, and along the road till they reach the mountain path, into which they turn and began their upward walk.

"Oh, it's so pleasant!" TILLY exclaims, with an earnest contraction of the eyebrows, which seems to imply that it is disagreeably so. "Very," is her cousin's brief reply.

They do not travel quite so fast now, for the mountain grows steeper and steeper, and the path more and more rugged.

"What if we should meet old MOLLY PRY, and we by ourselves?" TIllY abruptly suggests, half alarmed at the very thought.

"Why, if we were to meet her," returns MARY, with a slight inclination to witticism, "we would not be by ourselves." "We would have bad company, then," rejoins TILLY, "which is worse than none."

"Why, you don't fear the old woman, do you?' "Don't I? Well, if I were to meet her up here in the mountains, and I alone, I should faint -and I know I should," TILLY confidently affirms.

"Why so? She was never known to harm anyone." "No, not directly; but if she predicts evil of anyone it is sure to come to pass; and that is what I should fear -that she might say some horrid things of my future. Three men once, of the names of BUTLER DOUGHERTY, and FLANIGAN, of whom you have no doubt heard -"

"Yes, I have heard of them."

"Well, they were up in the mountain after chestnuts, and they met OLD MOLLY, and provoked her in some way, and she cursed them, and predicted that they would all be hung before a year. She came pretty near the truth, if not quite. BUTLER was hung for killing and robbing a drover before 6 months -the only man ever hung in Fayette County; DOUGHERTY shot a man over in Greene County, and was hung by a mob before the year was up, and FLANIGAN, about the same time, murdered his wife with an ax, and ran away to escape justice. It is not known positively that MOLLY's prediction was verified in his case, though it has been rumored that he fled to Ohio, and shortly after, in a crazy fit, brought on by drink, hung himself in a barn."

"I have heard of those men, and of their deeds, but I was not aware that OLD MOLLY warned them of their fate."

"She had, though; for they stopped at hour house on their way home and took dinner, and they laughingly told father of their adventure with the old woman, how they had teased and taunted her to hear her swear, and how she had prophesied that they should all be hung before chestnuts should be ripe again. It was 10 years ago, and I was quite young then, but I remember it distinctly."
We wonder whether TILLY means quite a young girl or quite a young woman.

"Have you ever seen the old woman?" asks MARY. "I have never seen her, though I am sure I should know her by the description I have had of her. They say she is the frightfulest and wretchedest looking little old woman that lives on the mountain."

"Now I would just like to meet her," says MARY. "I really hope we may. If we do, I'll get her to tell our fortunes. Do you think she would?"

"Certainly. I have heard that she tells everyone's fortune whom she meets, without even being asked. If they don't want her to, and go away from her, she will yell it after them."

"I'll not run away if we meet her. I think it would be fun to have our fortunes told. Think of her telling us all about our future husbands -who they are, what they're like, and how old they are, and -"

"Oh, you know yours already," TILLY interrupts. "Do IT' MARY rejoins. "Now who should it be? I appeal to you for information." "Oh, you know. Who should it be but MR. KIRKE!" "I don't know that" MARY returns, with a blush. "I think, however, you may safely say who yours is to be. If you can't, I can."

"No you can't, for I don't intend to marry. I have had many an opportunity, but I have always been determined not to tie myself to anyone. I like to be my own mistress -to go where and when I please, stay as long as I please, and come back when I please. Talk of your married bliss! It's nonsense! Think of a surly brute of a husband to wait on, and half a dozen ch___Oh, it isn't worth talking of. Give me the bliss of single life! A single life for me!"

"Then, if such are your ideas, beware. I know of a certain fellow who will have your heart before you know it." "Who is it?" MR. NED STANTON." It is now TILLY's turn to blush -and she does. "Do you suppose for a moment that I care for him?" she asks, faintly. "I shouldn't be surprised." "I have never thought of such a thing," replies TILLY ; her voice, however, betraying the fact that she has thought of such a thing, and is thinking of it now -with pleasure.

"Then I suppose you were only flirting with him that evening at the party," MARY suggests. " And I suppose you were only flirting with Phillip KIRKE," TILLY returns, evasively. "Well, I am not in the habit of flirting; but -Dear me! I'm so tired! Let us rest."

... And with this abrupt change in the topic of conversation, they seat themselves upon a rock. "We must be halfway to the White Rocks," suggests TILLY. "Yes, and mayas well go all the way." "I am willing. Oh, the day is so pleasant," says TILLY probably forgetting that she has already imparted that piece of information to MARY.

They are soon sufficiently recovered from their slight fatigue to resume their way up the mountain; and which they do, and in half an hour arrive at the White Rocks.

"The view will be beautiful today," observes MARY. "Splendid!" replies TILLY, with some feeling. They are soon upon the high cliff, and approaching the precipice. But they are suddenly startled by beholding the withered, shrunken form of an old woman sitting upon the very verge of the cliff, where GEORGE ROLAND once went over to carve his initials, her feet actually dangling over the precipice.

"Who is that?" whispers MARY, trembling with a strange dread which she has never felt before. "It must be MOLLY PRY," returns TILLY, in a whisper. "So void of fear -so reckless of her life?" "Yes, her very nature. She don't see us. Let us away!"

They are about to turn and flee, when the old woman looks quietly around and sees them, but expresses no surprise. They hesitate. She slowly rises to her feet and confronts them. She stands fearlessly on the very brink of the precipice.

It is MOLLY PRY, the well-known fortune-teller of the mountain, who has, on many occasions, given proof of a strange power to tell of past events, and foretell of those to come. Her appearance, as she stand there, is miserable, squalid and wretched, not to say frightful. She is about 5 feet high and very thin -almost a skeleton. Her apparel consists of nothing but rags from head to foot -miserable, colorless, dirty rags. The coarse black hair hangs in tangled masses from her head, which is entirely void of any artificial covering. Her cheeks are hollow and sunken, and her small black eyes are set so deep in her head, and they glance out in such a disagreeable way, that one feels as uneasy in front of them as though they were the muzzles of loaded pistols.

"What are ye afeerd on" she asks, in a shrill voice, leveling her gaze on MARY. "Ye can't fall over the rock while I'm a standin' on this spot, though ye may when I'm not hur to watch ye."

"Excuse us, my good woman," MARY trembling replies; "but we are only a little surprised at seeing anyone here."

"Well ye needn't fear me. I neve was knowed to hurt nobody what didn't do me no harm. My name's MOLLY PRY; d'ye ever hear o' me?"

"I think I have, MARY replies. "You can tell fortunes, can't you?"

"Yes, an' mis-fortune, too."

"Oh, I hope you wouldn't tell me any misfortunes." "I'll tell ye the truth; I'll tell ye what's past and what's to come. Gi' me yer hand;" and MOLLY advances, and takes MARY's unresisting but trembling hand.

MARY shudders. She would withdraw her hand from the bony grasp of the old hag, but she fears to; she would avert her gaze from the piercing, half-hidden eyes that are bent on her, but she cannot.

"Ah," begins the old woman, "he was struck down in a dark wood for his gold, and he never saw ye again -died under the ground among the rocks, wavin' his hand an' trying to call to ye, his pale face covered with his own blood, and -"

"Stop, for heaven's sake," interrupts MARY, turning pale. "Why, what's the matter?" MARY trembles, but does not reply. "Ah, I've told ye the truth, have I?" says the old beldam. "Well, that's of the past. I'll tell o' the future now."

"Go on; but don't tell me things like that." "Well, " resumes the old hag, "I'll tell of love; yes, love; plenty o' love- for you, all for you-love, fun, happiness, enjoyment, followed by -"

"By what?" MARY asks, as the old woman hesitates.

"Sickness, sadness, horror, murder, blood -yes. blood -"

"Oh, let me hear no more!" shudders MARY, now dropping the long hand, staggering back, and seating herself, pale and half fainting, upon the same rock upon which TILLY stood last fall.

"Now, I'll tell your 'n," says the old hag, turning coolly to MARY's cousin. "Oh, I'm afraid!" exclaims TILLY , staring back in alarm.

"Oh, there's nothin' so bad for you," says the old woman, advancing and taking TILLY's hand. "Your father wasn't murdered, nor you ain't to be dashed to pieces among the rocks. Your lover -ha! You 've got a lover, so you have -Yes, a lover. What a gallant fellow he is! How bravely he woos! He kneels at your feet. What! Rejected? He springs up, rushes madly away, and -"

" And what?" TILLY asks, breathlessly ."Drowns himself. " TILLY screams. "Oh, I don't want to hear anymore. I feel so queer," she gasps.

"Very well, then. I have no more to tell Why, how pale ye both look! Don't be skeered Ye must git used to death an' murder lam. Death's nothin'. I die often, It's only fun." And going on in this wandering style, she again approaches MARY, who is still seated on the rock. "Here," she says, "take this; I found it on the brink there. It would'a fell over if I hadn't been there." And she hands MARY a little flower, exactly like the one that was seen growing on the brink of the precipice last autumn.

MARY takes it mechanically, shuddering more than ever, "Where did you get this?" she asks. "Growin' there," replies the old woman, pointing to the brink of the precipice, where MARY had first seen her. "Ah, he tried hard to dash it down upon the rocks below, but he couldn't. Beware of him! He may yit! It is a tender plant, and in his rough grasp the blood would start from it and rouse the vengeance of the people there!" - waving her hand wildly toward the settlement- "then more blood would flow! Blood!

Blood! Blood! Beware of him! BEWARE!" And the old creature turns and walks swiftly away.

"She don't know what she is talking about," says MARY, as the old woman disappears among the bushes. "I am sure she don't," agrees TILLY. "She must be crazy; she talks like on in a delirium."

"True. I shall pay no attention to what she has said. Dear me," MARY goes on, now half laughing, "she talks of nothing but murder, and -"

"Drowning," suggests TILLY ."Yes, and drowning. It would be ridiculous to give a thought to what she has said. It is strange about this flower, though," says MARY, growing more grave. "It seems to have sprung up just where we saw one last fall. Perhaps it is a kind that grows up here; some kind of wild mountain flower. I'll take it home. We should go soon."

"I think it is time to go now. We have spent so much time with that woman, it must be after 11 o'clock. "Near twelve, I should say. I wonder when we will be here again?"

"I suppose there will be a picnic party here before long. We'll come to that, won't we?"

"Oh yes. It has been nearly two years since I attended one. So, good-by, White Rocks, till we see you again. Farewell, but not forever."


More from Kathy

Pennsylvania Dutch Hexcraft or "Pow-wow"

Further north in Pennsylvania, German settlers began arriving in the late 17th century, the bulk of them immigrating in the first half of the 18th century. The term Pennsylvania "Dutch" is a corruption of the German word "Deutch" meaning German. Silver RavenWolf lives in Pennsylvania and describes this magical tradition in HexCraft. She has Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors, as I also do.

Two distinct groups of German immigrants came to Pennsylvania. The Fancy Germans, or Lutherans, brought their elaborate folk history with them, including the ornate customs of Christmas and Easter, the Yule tree and log, colorful decorations, baskets, and pictures of bunnies. The other German group was the Plain or Pietist Germans. They included members of the Mennonite, Amish, Dunker, and Brethren denominations. The Plain Germans wore distinctive clothing and tried to live a simple rural life-style guided by their interpretation of the Bible. Some of the pow-wowers Silver RavenWolf interviewed were Brethren, Mennonites, and Dunkers.

South central Pennsylvania was fertile and not physically isolated, as were the southern Appalachians. Hexcraft, or pow-wow, as it is locally called, survived because of the tendency of both Fancy and Plain Germans to live in tightly knit communities, where they preserved their customs and language into the 20th century.

Native Americans were present, at least initially, when the Germans arrived and the term pow-wow was possibly derived from the early settlers' observations of Indian pow wows. Silver RavenWolf thinks the word pow-wow may also be a derivative of the word power or may come from the Native American pow wow definition meaning "he who dreams."

Pow-wowing includes some charms and incantations dating from the Middle Ages plus elements borrowed from the Jewish Qabala and Christian Bible. Pow-wowing generally focuses on healing minor health problems, the protection of livestock, success in love, and the casting or removing of hexes. For over 200 years, pow-wowers have considered themselves to be staunch Christians endowed with supernatural powers to both heal and harm.

Hex signs are the most widely recognized symbols associated with pow-wow magic. The word hex means a spell or bewitchment and comes from the German word hexe for witch. Hex signs are round magical signs and symbols used primarily to protect against hexerie (witchcraft). They were used by the Fancy Dutch but not the Amish and strict Mennonites.

Some hex symbols and designs originate in the Bronze Age. Ancient Celtic and Germanic tribes put emphasis on the energy patterns of the divine Source rather than its representation as a human archetype. The Source was depicted in universal designs that assisted in focusing power either toward or away from the design. The basic pattern found in the original hex signs is the double rosette, which is found at many ancient European holy sites.

Most of the charms used in pow-wow magic were originally described in two books. The first book, Long Lost Friend, was written in 1820 by John George Hohman. He was a German Catholic immigrant who documented various charms and herbal remedies that had been preserved orally for centuries. The second book is the anonymous Seventh Book of Moses, also called the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. This book contains a mixture of wisdom derived from the Talmud, Qabala, and Old Testament. Silver RavenWolf says these two books were once found in almost all Pennsylvania Dutch households.

Pow-wow tools include common items such as spools of red and black thread, a ball of red yarn, several lengths of red and black ribbons, small hand-made ceramic bowls, a seam ripper, a creek stone (divinity stone) and a container of holy water. Red and white are the basic colors used in pow-wow.

Pow-wowing was still common in the early 20th century. Gradually over time, several local murders were attributed to pow-wowers. One belief held by some pow-wowers was that a curse could be broken by killing the person who placed it. Pow-wowing rapidly declined in the 1920s when the news media portrayed it as an embarrassing example of backward and superstitious Pennsylvania Dutch behavior. While researching her book, Silver RavenWolf found only elderly pow-wow practitioners, who often lived in local nursing homes.

 

 

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