Many Charms May be Used.--We mention but a few good luck and health charms, all worn in the hope of avoiding evil, or ill-health--which is just another name for evil (witches).
There is the garlic sack; onions; stockings; the bag or sack with hot bacon and pepper; the crucifix; medals which have been blessed; a parchment containing prayers, etc.; bones, teeth and many other items--all more or less "witch" charms.
It may not be amiss to remind the reader that one can scarcely ever find a Catholic of Irish or Italian or other extraction, who is not wearing a charm suspended from his neck, one near the heart, or carrying one in pocket or purse. Likewise, it is easy to find many charms, blessed by a priest for a dollar or two, affixed to automobiles owned or driven by Catholic drivers.
It is fair play for us to declare that if they feel that some good will come from wearing these charms, then by the same sign they will not need to fear any evil. It is the old story all over again--one man's meat may be another man's poison! The reader and a lot of his relatives do lots of things the Jew and the Catholic do not find in harmony with their philosophy.
Old World, and New World Charm.--"Letters of Protection" as we know them in America, or sometimes "Himmelsbriefs" as they are known both here and in Germany, are quite common in America, or were not many years ago.
Many Pennsylvania German homes have a large, or perhaps a smaller copy, framed as others would have, for instance, the "Lord's Prayer," or the motto "God Bless Our Home"--all having the same end in view. But an English version of the "Himmelsbrief" also received a large circulation, as late as 1918, during the world war of that time and since then.
We accepted an order for printing copies of the "Letter of Protection" in 1918, which we learned were subsequently handed to members of the National Guard, and to draftees who went into the service from several central counties of Pennsylvania.
These charms were limited in their circulation to friends of the party for whom we did the printing.
Since that date, however, we have learned a great deal more about "witchcraft" as an age-old subject, and its comforting assurance to those who are protected while carrying such charm--no less than the Catholic who has his charm constantly on him, or her.
Quoting from C. J. S. Thompson's book, "Mysteries and Secrets of Magic," at page 270, we read of one of these letters written by a Pope for a Kingly subject, as follows:
According to the writer of this manuscript, King Charles I is said to have carried a charm against danger and poison that was written for him by Pope Leo IX. It was inscribed as follows:
"Who that beareth it upon him shall not dread his enemies, to be overcome, nor with no manner of poison be hurt, nor in no need misfortune, nor with no thunder he shall not be smitten nor lightning, or in no fire be burnt soddainly, nor in no water be drowned. Nor he shall not die without shrift, nor with theeves to be taken. Also he shall have no wrong neuther of Lord or Lady. This be in the names of God and Christ ✠ Messias ✠ Sother ✠ Emannell ✠ Saibaoth ✠"
Locks Keep Out the Witches.--In "Olden Times; or, Pennsylvania Rural Life, Some Fifty Years Ago," by H. L. Fisher, Esq., (York, Pa., 1888), appear a great many poems. Part of one of them reveals the attitude of most rural folk a century ago, when it was quite the proper thing for preachers to excite their people with stories about "fire and brimstone," and perhaps "hell and damnation;" "angels and devils, or satan (witches)." Where does one go nowadays to hear sermons of this sort. Says Mr. Fisher, in part:
Whether scripture was read, or prayers were said,
Is more than the writer remembers;
But it runs in his head, ere the two went to bed,
They carefully covered the embers.
Yea, even much more--they locked every door
Upon horses, cows, heifers and stirks;
The house-doors were barred and the gateways tarred,
Thus, showing their faith in their works.
What more could be done? Smith loaded his gun
With powder and ball and with shot;
"Near the head of my bed I'll have it," he said,
"And for witches and thieves make it hot."
Gun loaded and cocked and all the doors locked,
Let witches and thieves do their best,
Gates bolted and barred, and some even tarred,
Man and beast might slumber and rest.
(See also: "Popular Home Remedies and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania-Germans," containing many "Old Women's Beliefs, Cures, &c." (Pub. by The Aurand Press)