Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Do pow-wows and dowsing still hold water?

Can a psychic locate a missing district attorney?

Can a folk doctor stop a nosebleed or banish warts?

Where is the line between science and metaphysics, superstition and religion? Education and upbringing have a lot to do with where that line is drawn.

My great-grandmother could pow-wow, not in the American Indian sense, but in the German Christian tradition of healing that involved recitations from Scripture and sometimes massage.

For example, if a baby did not gain weight, a condition called the take-offs, she could cure it with an appropriate reading, possibly from John George Hohman's 1820 book "The Long Lost Friend."

If I believed in channeling, I could have consulted her about my first child, who weighed the same at six weeks as she did at birth.

I talked to two people lately who were pow-wowed as children -- one with a growth on her finger, which subsequently disappeared; the other with serious burns, which healed. I found out that the secrets of pow-wowing are passed from one family member to another, but only from man to woman or woman to man.

And, yes, I am told, there still are pow-wows in the area, and they can stop bleeding.

Another folk tradition, which has somewhat the same mystical qualities as pow-wowing, is dowsing, a way of locating underground water, and some say even lost bodies, by using divining rods.

You can make divining rods by straightening coat hangers and holding one in each hand while walking slowly over the ground. When the wires or rods cross, you are over the source of water.

Dowsing is still practiced around here by professionals, but some people tell me anyone can do it.

Carla Baron, the psychic consulted by the Bellefonte Police Department in their search for missing District Attorney Ray Gricar, was Carla Meyer when she lived in Lock Haven.

She and my daughter were on the same school trip to Paris, where Carla proved fluent in French. I remember her as a prodigy at the piano, and if she can help find a missing person, more power to her.

The scientific point of view accepts or rejects a theory depending on empirical evidence. Skeptics question everything; suckers believe anything.

Some people say if you want to sell your home, bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the back yard. Curious to see if the statues were available locally, I called three places and couldn't find any.

Real estate must be doing all right without them.