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Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  137 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Local practitioners of magic, providing small-scale but valued services to the community, cunning-folk were far more representative of magical practice than the arcane delvings of astrologers and necromancers. Mostly unsensational in their approach, cunning-folk helped people with everyday problems: how to find lost objects; how to escape from bad luck or a suspected spell ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published May 16th 2003 by Hambledon & London
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Sep 09, 2009 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: occult-history
Owen Davies’ Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (Hambledon and London, 2003) shows how cunning folk (known under a variety of labels) were a part of English culture (both rural and urban) up to the early twentieth century. He estimates for example, that by the nineteenth century, there were several thousand plying their trade across the country. Davies reveals that whilst prosectution was certainly an occupational hazard for them, in fact only a very small percentage of cunning folk ...more
Steve Cran
Aug 24, 2015 Steve Cran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 dif ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Kari rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was a really interesting book. Exploring a subject never before discussed in great detail, Davies covers many of the questions arising from the subject of cunning folk such as what tasks they performed, where they got their information and how they were perceived and dealt with by the public, church and government. The only slight downfall of the book is that in many ways it reads more like an extended essay. Davies explains what he will look at each time before doing so and this interrupts ...more
Jan 26, 2012 Charlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Owen Davies' book 'Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History' had been on my Christmas wish-list as one of those books that I really wanted to read and I wasn't disappointed to find it in my stocking this year.

Davies admirably debunks the fanciful notion amongst many self-styled Wiccan and New Age Pagans that they are somehow the legatees of an unbroken wise-woman / cunning-folk tradition of healers and white witches. Davies uses primary and secondary sources to identify cunning folk as ess
Feb 08, 2013 Deep~Glade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth reading if you want to know the real history of witches and cunning folk and not new age fluffy bunny made up stuff.
Apr 20, 2016 Gaz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians and Magical Practitioners
Shelves: history
Popular Magic by Owen Davies is an academic look at a specific type of magical practitioner called cunning-folk. Focusing on two periods – Early Modern and Modern – the book elucidates primarily upon social context, allowing the reader to appreciate the umbilical connection between cunning-folk and the popular belief in witchcraft.

While there were other magical practitioners, cunning-folk can be defined by the breadth of services they offered, and in particular by their Witch-Doctoring service.
Patick Kyteler
Jul 28, 2015 Patick Kyteler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Cunning Folk of Great Britain in the modern neo-pagan consciousness. We like to romanticize their existence, thinking of them as eccentric country witches living in spooky yet pretty cottages on the outskirts of charming villages next to mysterious dark forests where they gathered their herbs and worked benevolent magic for an appreciative community.

Wrong! Owen Davies does an excellent job dispelling this fantasy by revealing the facts bac
Louise Culmer
Jan 11, 2014 Louise Culmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A very interesting and entertaining book about the history of English 'cunning men' and 'wise women', people who claimed to be able to detect bewitchment, and counteract its baneful effects, and also to be able to find lost objects, make people fall in love, heal sick animals and people etc. Their main period of importance was when belief in witchcraft was strongest - they could tell their clients who had bewitched them, and break the spell that had been laid on them. As belief in witchcraft dec ...more
Really fascinating overall. While I can't fault Owen Davies' thoroughness, I do think the book could have been formatted a little better so that reading all this information didn't feel so much of a slog after a while. Not that the text is boring or dense, just that it was difficult to hold my attention at times because it was just all text with no breaks until you hit the end of the chapter. Give me some sub-headings, anything! Still, an interesting read, and one I can safely recommend if you'r ...more
May 24, 2014 Holley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good overview of popular magic in England. For a more advanced and comprehensive work, there is no better than Keith Thomas' Religion and the Decline of Magic, but for a refresher(or someone new to the subject)of the role of cunning-folk in English society, as well as the differences between cunning-folk and witches, this one is solid.

Of particular interest is a pretty thorough examination of the services provided by cunning-folk, and a list of books, etc. that were often found in their
Oct 07, 2008 Trunatrschild rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Traditional Witch
A book on Cunningfolk in Early Modern Era of England. It's all about them, their warts, their greeds, their pluses their minuses... basically just the facts ma'am. An Essential book on Traditional Cunningfolk.
Jan 04, 2013 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be on everyone's bookshelf. There is academic research presented in a easily understood manner.
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