Sunday, August 16, 2009

Five best magic books in America's past

Owen Davies, Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire, has written extensively on the history of popular magic, witchcraft, and ghosts. His new book is Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on magic in an earlier America.

One title on the list:
The Long Lost Friend
by John George Hohman

When John George Hohman and his family sailed from the port of ­Hamburg and pitched up on American shores in 1802, they ended up in Berks County, Pa., where other ethnic Germans had settled. It was there that Hohman began peddling books of charms, blessings and recipes. "Der lang verborgene Freund"—"The Long Lost Friend"—was his most successful. Within its pages were instructions "to charm guns" and "to prevent being cheated, charmed, or bewitched." God and guns are key themes in the book, appealing to the pious self-sufficiency of the Protestant Pennsylvania Dutch communities. "Anybody could use the book," explained one woman to a folklorist. But, she said, "you had to have a little faith, you know, you would have to believe in God." First translated into English in 1846, "The Long Lost Friend" eventually spread beyond the German-American population and into America's other folk traditions.
Read about the other books on Davies' list.

Also see Davies' list of the top ten grimoires.

The Page 99 Test: Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies.

--Marshal Zeringue