Historical Archaeology

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 179–196 | Cite as

The Concealment of Written Blessings in Pennsylvania Barns

  • Patrick J. Donmoyer


Although the history of the Pennsylvania barn and its migration throughout North America is well-trodden territory in the study of folklife, vernacular architecture, and cultural geography, few scholars have mentioned the presence of a tradition for the concealment of written talismanic blessings in the barns of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Because of the chance circumstances surrounding the discovery of these documents, only a few examples are known to have survived to the present day. This article will examine six specimens of concealed, written barn blessings found in southeastern Pennsylvania, representing a diversity of content ranging from folk-religious inscriptions to astrological symbols, as well as addressing a variety of intentions ranging from folk-medical concerns for livestock to the banishing of perceived hostile spirit entities. These examples provide evidence for an introductory examination of the background and scope of this ritual practice from the early 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick J. Donmoyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage CenterKutztown UniversityKutztownUSA

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