- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Cunning-folk: Popular Magic in English History Hardcover – 1 Jan 2003
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
'Nothing doth more harm in a state than that cunning men pass as wise.' Francis Bacon
About the Author
Owen Davies is Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of A People Bewitched (1999).
Top customer reviews
This is a really well researched book which makes use of court reports and press cuttings from the 18th century right up to the present day. The author is a Lecturer in History at Hertfordshire University so I would say that the material contained in the book should be 100% accurate. It would seem that the term Cunning Man is now falling out of use and being replaced by other names such as Shamans, Witches etc., however, how can we know what the neighbour does who lives next door or just down the road? Could they be a Cunning Man or Woman???
This is not the sort of book you would read in one go like for instance a novel but one which you could dip into as and when you wanted so you could learn just a little more about the Cunning Men and Women.
I'd recommend this highly.
'Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History' is a nice easy read which, believe me is not always the case when it comes to Historical works which tend to be extremely dry and well, boring. There's a lengthy bibliography at the back of the book as well as being indexed and fully footnoted (notes found at the back of the book). I was taught a history module by Owen Davies at university so I knew when I came across this book that it would be well worth the read! This book will be of particular interest for modern Witches, who would do well to understand the disparities between Witches and the Cunning Folk.
For anyone that is unaware, the Cunning Folk were basically Christian folk magic practitioners who sold their services to whoever needed it; they would often remove the bewitchment of so-called 'black witchcraft', curse others in return, cast love spells and perform divinatory readings (among other things mentioned in the book).
The book is well arranged and is divided into the following chapter headings: The Cunning Folk and the Law, For Good or Evil?, Who and Why, Services, Books, Written Charms, European Comparisons and Cunning Folk in the Twentieth Century. My favourite chapter was without a doubt the one on books used by the Cunning Folk; which was based on the evidence of one or two inventories of some Cunning Men. It was interesting to me that these people not only used Psalms in their practice but were rather well learned and even read the more avaliable Ceremonial Grimoires -- indeed many made use of astrological observances as well. Davies made an interesting point in the final chapter as to whether modern magic practitioners and Witches had any right to the word 'Cunning Man or Woman'; whether their magical systems and beliefs correspond to that of the Cunning Folk.
Having read the book I did come to the conclusion that the Cunning Folk were not witches, nor were they 'white witches' as they were variously described at the time. Modern Witchcraft is very dissimilar to what the Cunning Folk practiced and a lot of witches tend to honour Pagan gods, something the Christian Cunning Folk would have found abhorrent. The Cunning Folk were also in the trade for profit rather than spiritual development which is another huge disparity, indeed the lengths some Cunning Men/Women would go to to secure profit was something that Davies illustrated comprehensively. Some of the anecdotes in the work made me laugh, and 'brought home the history' as it were. I also found myself feeling sorry for a few of the Cunning Men that were tricked out of their wages by crafty clients!
Davies theorises on the decline of the Cunning Folk, and why this occurred. He came to the conclusion that they were no longer needed once the age of science and reason had moved in; a time when superstition and fear of witches was no longer of concern for most people, that was the true death of the Cunning Folk as a means of help to the people. This was an interesting point and the final chapter provided some advantageous food for thought -- what the culture may have gained technologically, they also lost spiritually and culturally.
Overall, a highly recommended and well researched book about a widely ignored piece of British history.
It is also interesting that the cunning folk were essentially Christian folk magic practitioners, having a mixture of astrology/ceremonial magic and folk beliefs (for example, writing a specifically Christian formula and swallowing it as a cure for illness). Anyone interested in Christian magic would do well to read this book (and for that matter Christian Magic, Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin Meyer).
All in all a really interesting read written by an able author and first-class scholar.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Even people who claim themselves to follow and practice pagan witchcraft should be enlightened by reading it and they would benefit from a thorough...Read more
Look for similar items by category
- Books > History > Europe > Great Britain
- Books > History > Social & Cultural > Religious
- Books > History > World History
- Books > Mind, Body & Spirit > Mythology
- Books > Mind, Body & Spirit > Occultism > Magic
- Books > Mind, Body & Spirit > Thought & Practice > New Age
- Books > Poetry, Drama & Criticism > History & Criticism
- Books > Religion & Spirituality > New Age > Occult > Cults & Demonism
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Customs & Folklore > Folklore
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Communication Studies > Media & Communication Industries > Press & Journalism