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Book Review of Ossman and Steels's Classic Household Guide to Appalachian Folk Healing



"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye hall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." - Jake Richards


This book is a reprint of a chapbook from 1894 that was titled 'Ossman's and Steel's Guide to Health or Household Instructor', and was written by a Pennsylvania Dutch mother and son duo, Issac D. Steel and Anne Ossman. While many of the charms were written by the authors, many others were pilfered from The Long Last Friend and Egyptian Secrets. (Long Lost Friend also contained pilfered information from Egyptian secrets as well. I have no idea where Egyptian Secrets got it's information, but it was not from the Egyptians!) Jake Richards adds commentary throughout the text where some clarity is useful. Jake himself is an Appalachian conjure man whose heritage there goes back generations. He mentions in the book that the Pennsylvanian Dutch had a lot of influence in the Appalachians with their powwow healing practices. "Notable among these were the mystic beliefs brought over by the Pennsylvania Dutch through West Virginia. They held strong ideas regarding the heavenly bodies and the astrological forces they have over the body, as well as a traditional practice of magic and healing."


I absolutely love these old historical chapbooks so was delighted to read this one. While some advice from the days of the past would not be advised to follow today such as consuming substances that today we know to be harmful, there are otherwise many charms still useful for modern times. [See image below for a "sure cure for headache.]



The crosses were in the original formatting of the book and I am so glad that was preserved. At the end of the book is many recipes for making various cleaning polishes, silver and gold inks, rum, cologne and more which are really fascinating to read. This is a small book but chock full of info and so interesting to read. Recommended to anyone interested in the history of folk magic in America.

Thank you Jake for making this available to the public! And thank you Weiser Books for sending me a copy!

Weiser Books 2022

Jake's Instagram: @jake_richards13




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