American Traditional Witchcraft

The Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts Aims to Keep Pennsylvania Dutch Tradition Alive


Talk to someone from Pennsylvania Dutch country and if the topic of their great-great grandparents comes up they may mention and obscure practice known as Pow-Wow or braucherai in the local German dialect. Odds are they cannot tell you much more about it than what the above paragraph stated. If you're lucky you might meet someone who knows something like Ezekiel 16:6 can be used for stopping blood, or know of a book called The Long Lost Friend that still sees print from time to time.

In a move similar to the one that inspired the Foxfire series of books about life in Appalachia, three people in Southeastern, Pennsylvania set out to preserve the knowledge of a practice that has been slowly dying. Jesse Tobin, Mather Sicher and an herbalist Susan Hess formed the Three Sisters Center. Often referred to as Pow-Wow by the locals it was also called in the dialect now spoken by the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, it is called braucha" which means to try or to use. The term Pow-Wow may or may not itself be derived from local Indian tribes whose tribal shamans used similar healing methods.

Whether the hex signs that decorate many barns throughout the region were originally part of the Pow-Wow repertoire or not is not known. Many historians believe that the decorative folk art started as a way to decorate the plain looking barns. Regardless of how they started an additional branch of folklore sprung up around the colorful paintings and became part of the Pow-Wows repertoire.

In an effort to preserve this part of the American heritage before it disappears completely, the Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts holds classes throughout southeastern Pennsylvania including the one room school house mentioned above. You can contact them to schedule a demonstration or a workshop, or you can travel to the area to find out what their really all about. Not only does the group focus on the healing and herbal traditions of the German and Swiss immigrants to that area, it tries to keep the spiritual side of the Braucha's art intact. If you wish to contact the group or learn more you can call them at 484-3336-4611 or visit them online at If you wish to find a copy of the book which most accurately described Pow-Wow as its practitioners would have used it, has
The Long Lost Friend by John George Hohmann available in both the English and the original High German.