The Long-Lost Friend: A 19th Century American Grimoire Paperback – 15 Jul 2012
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About the Author
Daniel Harms holds two masters' degrees, one in anthropology and one in library and information science. His major area of research is magic from antiquity to the present, and he has been published in the Journal for the Academic Study of Magic and the Journal of Scholarly Publishing. Harms is also the author of two books on horror fiction and folklore. Visit him online at DanHarms.wordpress.com.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, I can't recommend the kindle version, which I've found almost impossible to work with. There are hundreds of footnotes (and you will want to read them) but they are not hyperlinked so you will have to navigate to the end of the book and then back, and you will have to do this numerous times on nearly every page. I find this slow and difficult, in fact nearly impossible. Footnotes are often a problem in kindle editions, but this is the first I've found where you're left to make your way to the back of the book without any help at all. This is an issue the publisher should decidedly address, because many people like myself will want the convenience of having a kindle copy as well as a print copy.
This curious work, however, is not a throwback to a pre-Christian pagan tradition. Like most grimoires, this one harnessed the best available supernatural beliefs, Christian and specifically Catholic. Typical is a "A good remedy to stop Bleeding," which consists of saying three times, "This is the day on which the injury happened. Blood, thou must stop until the Virgin Mary bring forth another son." The author of the original, John George Hohman, thought he was doing religious business. Looking at the long list of remedies, a reader can learn what sorts of worries bothered those who consulted this book of charms. For colic, you were to say, "I warn ye, ye colic fiends! There is one sitting in judgment, who speaketh: just or unjust. Therefore beware, ye colic fiends!" A remedy for colic subsequently listed (I suppose if this first malediction didn't work) involved some good old rye whiskey and a pipe full of tobacco. If you needed a general protection, then "Whoever carries the right eye of a wolf fastened inside of his right sleeve, remains free from all injuries." There were many charms against assault by gunfire or by knife. "I conjure thee, sword, sabre, or knife, that mightest injure or harm me, by the priest of all prayers, who had gone into the temple at Jerusalem, and said; an edged sword shall pierce your soul that you may not injure me, who am a child of God." Hohman includes this in a list of several charms for the same thing, and seemed not to realize that if one of the charms really worked, all the others would be superfluous. There were similar recitals that would keep witches away, and one that sounds like it was the sort of things witches would be good at doing, called "A Charm for Bad People," which goes like this: "It is said, that if you suspect a person for badness, and he sits down in a chair, and you take a shoemaker's wax-end, that has not been used, and stick one end of it on the underside of the chair, and you sit on the other end of it, he will immediately make water, and in a short time die." One charm would help with legal matters; anyone who has to go to court, "let him take some of the largest kind of sage and write the names of the 12 apostles on the leaves, and put them in his shoes before entering the courthouse, and he shall certainly gain the suit."
There may be some useful household lore here. If you are stung by a bee, it cannot hurt to apply an onion to the sting, and maybe there are chemicals in the onion to affect the pain; this particular treatment is still current, and was recommended by Ann Landers. There are suggestions for dying cloth red, blue, or green. The more interesting claims, however, are the ones that call upon supernatural forces, which show the worries that were current in Hohman's time. This remarkable book was so popular that it engendered its own folklore; Harms says, "According to some traditions, possession of the book, or even touching a copy, would lead to crows, including one transformed witch, roosting on the roof of the owner's house." I cannot say that crows have happened to my roof since I have had my review copy, but I can testify to one of its other charms. Hohman writes, "Whoever carries this book with him, is safe from all his enemies, visible or invisible; and whoever has this book with him, cannot die without the holy corpse of Jesus Christ, nor drowned in any water, nor burn up in any fire, nor can any unjust sentence be passed upon him." Holy corpse or not, this has all come to pass for me just as Hohman foretold.