“Whoever carries this book with him, is safe from all his enemies, visible or invisible; and whoever has this book with him cannot die without the holy corpse of Jesus Christ, nor drowned in any water, nor burn up in any fire, nor can any unjust sentence be passed upon him. So help me.”
-John George Hohman
Compiled by John George Hohman in the early 1800's and published locally in 1820, the Long Lost Friend is one of the most important books in the Pennsylvania Dutch folk magic most commonly called Pow-wowing.
John George Hohman along with his wife Cathrine settled in Reading, PA in 1802. Although Hohman was a devout Roman Catholic we also held strong belief in faith healing, and started his own practice. Unfortunately, this practice along with his farm were never enough for Hohman to take care of his family, so he began to compile his book of folk magic, herbal cures, and general occultism. The book was a moderate success at first, and became quite well known after its first English translation was published in 1846. It has gone on to be an influence on many American occultists, notably, Paschal Beverly Randolph, author of “Eulis! The History of Love”, and modern author, catherine yronwode .
Within the book itself (you can find a complete text here) you will find “arts and remedies” , testimonials, and a preface defending the book against charges of “witchcraft” and explaining its congruency with Christianity according to the forty-ninth psalm. This justification of pow-wowing is common among practitioners because of the reaction to anything considered unchristian at the time.
It is also common for practitioners to use bible verses as incantations during rituals, in which particular verses were used for specific problems. The most well known verse is Ezekial 16.6, which is believed to be so effective that even non practicing people can use it effectively.
The testimonial section is largely what one would expect, although many of the maladies are colloquially described, naming such illnesses as “eye pain caused by a wheal” or finger pain caused by “the wild-fire”. Also found within this section is the claim that “This book is partly derived from a work published by a Gypsy, and partly from secret writings, and collected with much pain and trouble, from all parts of the world, at different periods, by the author, John George Hohman.”. These so called secret writing had quite a wide derivation, from the Kabbalah and Egyptian mystery schools, to German and English folk magic and Christian mysticism.
The bulk of “The Long Lost Friend” is a list of cures for specific illnesses and many other problems. The Book covers quite a variety of spells including curing a toothache with a needle and thread, vintager, flour and an apple tree, or, an incantation to freeze thieves in there tracks. The most interesting part is that Hohman claimed the book itself to be a talisman that would protect its owner from harm.
Pow-wow magic is still practiced to this day and “The Long Lost friend continues to be a part of its practice.