Ossman & Steel's Classic Household Guide to Appalachian Folk Healing: A Collection of Old-Time Remedies, Charms, and Spells (Paperback)
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A long-treasured but forgotten classic of folk healing, with an introduction and commentary by the author of Backwoods Witchcraft and Doctoring the Devil.
Ossman & Steel’s Guide to Health or Household Instructor (its original title) is a collection of spells, remedies, and charms. The book draws from the old Pennsylvania Dutch and German powwow healing practices that in turn helped shape Appalachian folk healing, conjure, rootwork, and many folk healing traditions in America. Jake Richards, author of Backwoods Witchcraft and Doctoring the Devil, puts these remedies in context, with practical advice for modern-day “backwoods” healers interested to use them today.
The first part contains spells and charms for healing wounds, styes, broken bones, maladies, and illnesses of all sorts. The second part includes other folk remedies using ingredients based on sympathetic reasoning, including sulfuric acid, gunpowder, or other substances for swelling, toothache, headache, and so on. These remedies are presented here for historic interest, to help better understand how folk medicine evolved in America.
It is Jake Richard’s hope that reintroducing this work will reestablish its position as a useful household helper in the library of every witch or country healer.
About the Author
Jake Richards holds his Appalachian-Melungeon heritage close to his blood and bones. His family heritage in Appalachia goes back generations; they have lived in southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, and the western Carolinas for a good four hundred years. He spent most of his childhood at his great-grandmother’s house on Big Ridge in North Carolina, wading the waters of the Watauga and traipsing the mountains by his ancestral home on the ridge. “My family,” Jake writes, “always spoke of the old wives’ tales and folk remedies. They were mountain people to the bone; hunters, farmers, faith healers, preachers, and root-diggers.” Jake has practiced Appalachian folk magic for over a decade. Aside from being an author and practitioner, Jake is a member of the Melungeon Heritage Association, holds a seat on the board of WAM: We Are Melungeons, and is the creator of HOM: House of Malungia, Melungeon cultural society. You can find him on Instagram @jake_richards13
“Jake Richards has resurrected a book of commonplace remedies, recipes, and rituals that once had a home on many rural Southern family shelves. The book is rich with folklore and folk practices, and Richards manages the difficult task of balancing contemporary knowledge against tradition. The author adds in historical research, but even more, a sense of life through his own familiar recollections of these formulas and practices. This book will easily find a home alongside other classic books of folk medicine and magic on the shelves of new generations.”—Cory Hutcheson, author of New World Witchery
"Jake Richards has given the folk magic community a gift by bringing back into circulation Ossman and Steel’s collection of important remedies and prayers. Moreover, he has also provided the context for the work through his ongoing commentary. Richards allows the text to speak for itself while also giving explanations and insights from lived experience that fills in the blanks. For the many folks that have had the magic in their families buried or forgotten, this book provides a bridge that would otherwise be difficult to cross. There is both a familiarity in reading the contents, which speaks to what many of us grew up hearing in whispers or snippets, as well as information that is likely to be new and aide in growing anyone’s repertoire of folk magic. This book is likely to become a touchstone for many folk magicians, healers, and folks living in the Appalachian diaspora looking to connect to these traditions."—Aaron Oberon, author of Southern Cunning South
“As a seasoned Powwower in the manner of the Pennsylvania German Christian folk tradition, I have always been familiar with the Ossman and Steel work. It is a perfect example of how Powwowing was welcomed by our southern neighbors and made workable by the slight alteration of rituals and charms to fit more closely with their southern Appalachian folk Christianity. I highly recommend to all students of folklore studies Jake Richards updated ‘Ossman & Steel’s Classic Household Guide’ with commentary to add context to the rituals and charms. This work is important as it is a true testament of the state of historical folk magic in the Appalachians during the 19th and 20th centuries and has influenced the traditions of conjure and root work in Appalachia folk Christianity for nearly 200 years.”—Robert Matthew Phoenix author,The Powwow Grimoire
“Jake Richards’ annotated edition of ‘Ossman & Steel’s Guide to Health’ provides the rare opportunity to explore a scarce and culturally-significant work on the ritual healing traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch, which were influential throughout Appalachia. In the reverent voice of a contemporary practitioner, Richards guides readers through this classic healing manual, offering explanations and insights into the inner workings of this folk tradition. ‘Ossman & Steel’s Guide to Health’ is also the only known historical work of Pennsylvania Dutch ritual healing written by a mother and son, Ann Ossman and Isaac Steel, underscoring the traditional wisdom in valuing the contributions of both genders in the healing arts.”—Patrick Donmoyer, author of Powwowing in Pennsylvania