Because the Amish are idealistically and geographically secluded from the rest of the world, there are a lot of questions about their culture and beliefs.
But there’s one question that’s asked much less often — do the Amish believe in magic? More to the point, someone may also ask do the Amish practice magic?
The answer to these questions is, unfortunately, not direct. It is not a simple “yes” or “no” kind of scenario.
However, we can answer this question by zooming out a little bit.
Is there a magical or supernatural element to the beliefs and practices of the Amish? Yes.
In fact, this is a common belief across many Christian subcultures and non-denominational spiritual healers.
But do the Amish honestly believe that their prayers and rituals are magical? Or is it an elaborate ceremony intended to reassure those who are in desperate need of hope?
To answer those questions, we have to take a much closer look at the concepts of folk magic, pow-wows, and the practices of the Amish.
1. The Origins of Amish Magic
“Amish magic,” which is considered a subset of folk magic, is the channeling of divine energy and prayer into an individual so that they may be healed by the grace of God — or so the belief goes. This is also known as pow-wow or pow-wow magic, a term that was cribbed from the Algonquian shortly after settlers witnessed tribal Native Americans performing their own forms of ritual healing.
However, pow-wow magic stretches back in time much further than the discovery of America. Its origins lie in the distant past of German-speaking countries where practitioners called it brauche, the German word for “need.”
Brauche was practiced as a way to address medical concerns that didn’t always have a clear solution at that time. Headaches, burns, bruises, and even hard-to-stop bleeding all had different approaches to help solve the ailment.
These practices were largely passed down orally from generation to generation until the early 1800s. In 1820, the first recorded manual of pow-wow rituals was published in Reading, Pennsylvania, entirely in German.
Entitled Pow-Wows; or, Long Lost Friend, this is considered in some historical circles to be the first grimoire — essentially a spellbook — of Amish “magic.”
Regardless of its designation by historians, there’s no doubt that this book is one of the most comprehensive records of how to diagnose what needs to be healed, addressing it with paranormal ritual, and solving the issue without conventional medical intervention.
Whether this book is referenced or discussed by the Amish is a bit of a moot point. Pow-wows is only a record of the traditional information that Amish communities already know, so they don’t necessarily need it themselves.
The book is more of a reference tool for those outside of the Amish who want to learn and perhaps practice it.
In these circles — and perhaps Amish circles as well — the book is employed in both researching and performing pow-wow rituals with the goal of healing or helping an individual. It’s used so often that it’s considered essential in terms of reading and use.
In fact, there’s only one book that’s referenced and used in pow-wow magic more frequently — the Bible itself.
This brings us to an interesting question: If the Bible (and, by extension, practicing Christians) condemn practices like sorcery and witchcraft, why are the Amish using it to perform paranormal rituals?
To answer that, we have to understand the perception, approach, and practices that go into performing Amish magic.
2. How Amish Magic Works
The Amish — and other pow-wow practitioners — believe that this form of magic is not explicitly magic. Instead, it’s more along the lines of the Catholic understanding of a miracle.
The nurturing element that comes through a pow-wow is a divinely-inspired energy that heals and protects the recipient. It’s more like praying than “casting a spell.”
The inspiration for this practice comes from the Bible and, more specifically, The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. These books are almost explicitly magical (or divine, depending on your perspective) in nature and considered a natural extension of the Pentateuch, or the first five books of Moses found in the Bible.
While this may sound esoteric or unbelievable, the books themselves are second-hand accounts of Hebrew texts from the Kabbalah and Talmud.
The second-hand nature of the books means that they’re also not strictly biblical — they include actual incantations, symbols, seals, and instructions. Some of them even claim to be able to reproduce miracles that are described in the Bible itself.
In other words, the texts that inspired pow-wow magic do appear to offer magical advice and instruction, but the source is said to be from God.
In practice, a pow-wower may pray or invoke any of the incantations they deem necessary to help the person in need. This is done through ceremonies dictated in the previously mentioned books, and they could also take the form of more conventional prayer circles, the laying of hands, and other symbolic gestures found in more mainstream religion.
The verbal component of these rituals could be adlibbed on the spot as a prayer. It could also be recited word-for-word from a text, such as this incantation said to remove bruises and pain:
These rituals were (and still are) most often performed by women who have been witnessed to have helped heal someone at some point in their lives. More often than not, these women would also mix in a known folk remedy with their ritual to help achieve the desired outcome.
(Unfortunately, it’s not possible to determine whether these remedies were medicinal in nature and doing the “heavy lifting” of the ritual or if they were somatic components of the ritual itself.)
Afterward, the recipient of the spiritual healing would be removed and / or observed to see if their problem was solved. If so, the ritual was considered to be successful and credit was given to the practitioner and God.
If not, the practice may have been re-attempted as needed.
Regardless, this practice has filtered into the lives of Amish and other plain people. There are records of it being practiced in larger groups leading up until the 1940s, when its popularity started to wane until the present day.
The practice has also fed into the use of hexes by the Amish, which are the symbols and shapes that they use to decorate barns. Hexes were often used as visual representations of blessings, much the same way someone may have a lucky coin or rabbit foot.
It’s important to note that not all Amish use hexes, however. Their ties to superstitions have led some communities to reject them. Most of the time, hexes are sold as tourist trinkets or souvenirs that are only symbolically tied to the heritage of the Amish.
Today, pow-wow magic — including Amish magic — is practiced little in mainstream society, if at all.
3. Is Amish Magic Real?
In subjective terms, Amish magic is real in that its practitioners often fully believe in it, its rituals, and its outcomes.
In objective terms, there’s nothing that would make someone believe in magic by reading accounts of Amish folk magic.
So this question isn’t so much of a yes / no answer — it’s really up to you.
If you’d like to learn more, we highly recommend looking up the grimoires that are used in the practice of Amish pow-wow magic. You can pick them up using the links below.
With those books as your reference, you can decide for yourself what to believe in the realm of Amish magic.
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