Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History by Owen Davies
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
THey used to be numerous in pre victorian Britain, but now they are not even a handful if they are around at all. Owen Davies has written several well informed books on Witchcraft and Grimoires , several of which I have reviewed. This is also the only other book that I am aware of that deals with the cunning folk on a scholarly level that is available to the modern day reader. Emma Wilby has a another one out which I have reviewed. The two authors cover the same subject but I would say from different vantage points. Owen cover the social integration of Cuhnning folk while Emma Wilby covers the inner spiritual working to an extent.
The Cunning Folk were called upon in Old Britain to counter witchcraft . They were also called upon to find lost or stolen goods, to win love and to find treasure. Records of them go back all the way to like the 1400's but they may have been around long before that,they just went by a different name. Wicce was one of those name and it meant wise ones .
THe Cunning Folk have always hovered around a grey area in society. Not completely trusted and not completely loved. When suspected witches were being rounded up the cunning folk were left alone. After all it was the cunning folk or white witches who fought against the witches. Yet many church officials did not like the cunning folk because after all they did use magic. In fact the Chrurch despised them even more. Calling themselves white witches gave them a disguises and they were just trickier servants of the devil whther they realized it or not.
When the legal maelstrom hit the fan the cunning folk were not entirely immune. They could not be punished ihn secular courts of law but they did receive flogging and banishment from church courts on occasions. They were also sued in civil courts. Their claims of who stole whose property often times did not pan out and this caused social problems. THe wrongly accused would sue them for slander. Oft times their cures did not work and those they accused of witchcraft turned out not to be witches.
Later on when laws were promulgated against using magic to find treasure, often ment that cunning folk could find themselves in a bit of a bind especially when there was non treasure to be found. I personally think that many a cunning folk used fraudulent means to drum up business. Often times though they had other careers beside being cunning folk. Which of the two careers generated more income well that is up for grabs. Back i old times it was pretty difficult to distinguish between an astrologer, doctor or cunning man.
Cunning folk collected grimoires and displayed them on their shelves. this made them look educated. THey usually were not so ceremonials but they did employ bits and pieces taken from Ceremonial magic book. Written charms were oft tiimes written up and sealed with wax. Kept on the person of benefit for no one else to see they were often times sewn up in clothing . THe written charms had biblical verses and invocations from Grimoires.
Compared to other cunning type folks in other parts of Europe penalties against cunning folk wer mild. Now it must noted that it is ann open question as to whether true cunning folk still exist. THere are neo pangs out there who are trying to revive things. But bear in mind Cunning folk were not pagans they were Christians. THeir use died out well because who really is looking for buried treasure? Who is being curesed by witches? If you are sick you go to the doctor.
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