Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Long Lost Friend

Unlike many writers of horror and fantasy, who create fictional grimoires, spell books of loathsome lore, out of whole cloth, Manly Wade Wellman liked to use "real" magic books when he could, especially in the stories of John the Balladeer and John Thunstone. (And by the way, Wellman absolutely hated the appellation Silver John, which was invented by a publisher. Wellman always called him John the Balladeer or simply John. That's why you never see me use that name here.) One particular book, which turns up in a lot of Wellman's stories, is 'Pow-Wows or The Long Lost Friend' a compendium of folk remedies and charms published by a Dutch healer named John George Hohman in the 1820s. The book contains protective spells, binding spells, talisman's wards, and benedictions. All of this is "white magic" usually invoking the name of Christ in the spells. For instance, here's a spell for preventing the bewitchment of cattle: "Trotter Head, I forbid thee my house and premises; I forbid thee my horse and cow-stable; I forbid thee my bedstead, that thou mayest not breathe upon me; breathe into some other house, until thou hast ascended every hill, until thou hast counted every fence-post, and until thou hast crossed every water. And thus dear day may come again into my house, in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." This will certainly protect and free all persons and animals from witchcraft. The Long Lost Friend features prominently in three of Manly Wade Wellman's stories about a Civil War Sergeant named Jaeger. Two of these stories were published in Weird Tales, Fearful Rock in 1939 and Coven in 1942, and the third, Toad Foot, appeared decades later in 1979 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The book also showed up in a Civil War era story that doesn't feature Jaeger, The Valley Was Still, in Weird Tales in 1939. This story was made into an episode of the original Twilight Zone called 'Still Valley' in 1961. Wellman was a religious man, and he was always careful to point out that the spells in Long Lost Friend were "white magic". Wellman must have had some belief in folk magic himself as his personal volume of one of Aleister Crowley's books of magic has a hand written benediction in the front of it to protect the owner from the author and his magic. Wellman had also penciled crosses on the front, spine, and interior of the book. Anyway, The Long Lost Friend is available at Amazon, and you can find the full text online. In my upcoming novel Blind Shadows (written with Jim Moore) I made use of several of the real books of magic that Wellman used as a tribute to Wellman, but I didn't include Long Lost Friend. I plan to make use of it in fiction at some point though.

6 comments:

Keith said...

It's been a few years since I read much Wellman, something I intend to rectify later in the year. When I was in high school (early 80s), the used book store in the small town where I lived had a set of F&SF from the mid 70s almost up to the present time. Wellman's stories were some of the best of those issues, and a number of them dealt with folk magic.

Paul R. McNamee said...

John's a unique character. Surprised to see him mentioning John Dee in one story I recently read!

Have either of you read Drake's Old Nathan collection? It's directly influenced by MWW and it is one of my favorites. You can get the e'book free from the Baen Free Library.

Keith said...

I read it a number of years ago (~15-20), Paul. I don't recall a great deal about it other than I enjoyed it. I've been intending to read some early Drake, and I should probably include that one.

And speaking of MMW, I was just thumbing through my copy of Cahena, a swashbuckling historical adventure he wrote just before he died. I'll be reviewing it and Battle in the Dawn over the summer.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Paul, I haven't gotten around to Old Nathan, though it's on my radar. Totally agree about John. The character and his stories aren't like anything else.

Keith, the more I read by Wellman, the more impressed I am. Cahena is on my to be read pile. I've read all but one story in the Hok collection. Been saving that for a rainy day.

Keith said...

Charles, I've also got a mystery, Find My Killer, published under the name Manly Wellman. It's an old Signet paperback from 1947. The dedication is to Frances, so I'm certain it's MWM without the middle name. Are you familiar with it? It's also in the TBR pile for later in the year.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I don't own that one yet, Keith, though I've seen it around. It is listed in Manly Wade Wellman's bibliography so it's definitely him. Let me know what you think once you've read it.