Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Many who are involved with Ceremonial Magick would be quite familiar with the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel. Going back a step further one would be quite familiar with Christian Holy men having conversation with various saints and angels. Having spirit friends or mentors is something quite common in all religious traditions. Why even Maggid of Joseph Caro in Safad helped this Jewish Holy Man write a book of law called the Shulchan Aruch.
In this study penned by Emma Wilby, the concept of the Cunningman is discussed along with his/her spiritual familiar. THe Cunning man or woman was sort of like the healer or wizard of the village . They would use magic to heal sickness and track down thieves. They also could protect one from witchcraft.In comparison witches were the old hags that cast mean spells on people and cavorted with demons. All this happened about 400 years ago. It was at a time when rural Britain was rather poor. malnutrition was rampant and plagues were a regular occurrence . Medical care was nowhere near advanced as it is today. Police were not as proficient at tracking down Nieves as they were today either. So teh cunning man or woman played an important role in the village. When the witch trials came about at first they spared but later one they too could be hauled in.
When the inquisition people tortured witches it was often revealed that they had demon familiars who gave them advice regarding magic and differing herbs that could cure illness. Not much was made of having these demon familiars. Many researchers thought that the demons were part of the church or elitist mindset hoisted on the witch trials. In a word the demons were a church invention .
Of course researchers forget the underlying animist faery belief that never die once chrstianity took hold. Often times these testimonial were a blend of church fantasy and the existing peasant belief in Faeries . In fact when comparing cunning folk to witches one sees that they are almost the same exact deal. demons and fae familiars shared a lot in common they both came to the practitioner at a time of need, taught them magic,had very intimate relations, shape shifted and took their charges to sabbats. Cunning folk could both heal and curse so could witches.
The author later addresses shamanistic spiritual practices ranging m native American , eskimos, and so Erwin shaman. It can be almost positively stated that there was an underlying shamanistic practice. In pre morn Europe and the faery faith was a hold over or remnant . The final part of the book delves into the spiritual uses for familiars and cunning folk practice, the reality of familiars and what could cause the open mid the ability to perceive these familiars if they are in fact real.
This book puts a lot of magic back into the concept while at the same time digging in depth the concept of familiars and its shamic origin . This book is a must read.
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