AMOS STOLTZFUS, AMISH DRUID

The Amish Druid Liberation Front arose out of a heretical Amish cult in the late 1960s centered around a young Amish powwow artist who left the faith to go and live on East 13th Street in New York City's East Village. The heir of a long hereditary tradition of "powwow" or "brauching" knowledge and practice, Amos Stoltzfus honed his traditional Amish gifts and arts of healing and farmyard magic and transmuted them into a new Way of the Urban Shaman. By detailed and intensive experimentation with meditation, Amish Yoga and Tantric Mennonite techniques, Stoltzfus evolved a mystical urban Amish practice which involved ritual dances down Avenue B and all night vigils in Tompkins Square Park.


Supporting himself by repairing bicycles in the Toga Mennonite bike shop, Amos Stoltzfus kept to himself for more than twenty years, shuffling up and down Avenue B, perching aloft the jungle gyms in the park, communing with the disembodied spirit of the Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side. Finally, one crisp October day in the last year of the twentieth century, he proclaimed himself the Second Coming of Mr. Natural and, removing all his clothes, began dancing down Avenue B, beating on a homemade tambourine. Villagers stopped to stare. Little boys jeered. One homeless dharma bum removed all his clothes and began an exaggerated shuffle in the middle of Avenue B. Traffic came to a halt. Amos danced in a circle, rattling his tambourine and chanting "Das ist tief Dunger, Ach, Das ist tief Dunger!" Another bum stripped, then another, and another, and slowly the ragtag group of insane ne'er-do-wells coalesced, then began shuffling in formation down the Avenue. And as they danced, a drummer began drumming, and other drummers in the park took up the beat, until by the time the bedraggled procession wound into Tompkins Square Park, the park was a mass of seething, naked humanity, quaking, jerking, chanting "Das ist tief Dunger, Ach, Das ist tief Dunger."

Within the hour, an elite squad of the New York Tasmanian Pig Fever


arrived in vans, sirens squalling and billy clubs at the ready. Wearing gas masks to filter out the rancid homeless odor, and not wishing to pollute their vans with the squalid degenerates, the TPF waded into the crowd, bloodying heads and forcing the dancers back toward the East River, where the ecstatics jumped or were pushed, "real holy laughter in the river," out of their minds. Amos Stoltzfus, bobbing in the chilly river, gasping for air, cried out "Wiedertaufer! Wiedertaufer!" until a garbage scow knocked him senseless and he went down for the third time.

Back home in Holmes County, Ohio, his family, who had been under the impression that Amos had taken up with the Beachy Amish and was working to convert the heathen in the big city, sent his brothers out in several horse-drawn buggies to retrieve the body. When they arrived in the East Village, they were greeted in the streets by a band of Anarcho-Druids, who hailed them as some sort of deities. The Anarcho-Druids related to the astonished Stoltzfus brothers the events surrounding Amos' death. Moreover, they described how Amos had been sighted in various locations around New York City several days after his death -- on the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Upper West Side, in Central Park, at Columbia University. Several of the Anarcho-Druid band remembered having seen Amos shuffle down the Avenue in the twenty years preceding his death, and they told his brothers that they were now imitating his walk, and that this rhythmic gait produced a trance state in which many of the Druids had been given visions of the Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side.

The Anarcho-Druids begged the Stoltzfus brothers to stay with them in the East Village,


and in the end prevailed upon Harold and Milton to remain. The brothers began public discourses on the Amish way of life in Tompkins Square Park, and the Anarcho-Druids lapped it up and wrote it down. Occasionally fistfights broke out between the Anarcho-Amish-Druids and rival millennarian groups, like the Hare Krishnas, the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Elvis Watchpeople. Within a few months, of course, the End was at hand. Practically the entire population of New York City was "raptured" away, and Harold and Milton found themselves without an audience. But they made their way to Lancaster County, where they amazed the remnant Amish with tales of urban glory.





1968
The First Time I Saw Abbie Hoffman
Exorcism in Some Beat Poetry
Rachel
Rachel and Alice
All Things Begin
My Druid
Crazy Mennonite
Rosannadanna of the Amish
How to Mutate and Take Over the World
Randall Stoltzfus: Paintings and Drawings