A relevant post.
By Harmony Yendes.
Mourning is hard. It doesn’t matter if the person has passed away, is estranged from you or has chosen not to have contact with you. It. is. hard.
Mourning can be more complicated when the person is still alive but you cannot see them, speak to them, write to them, tell them about your day, your happy moments or your big achievements in life. Or the opposite spectrum, like not being able to talk to them when things are tough, knowing they would have the perfect advice or the perfect response to how you are feeling. We get dependent on certain people and their responses to the events going on in our lives. Sometimes, when a person is abruptly cut out of your life, or you have just “lost touch” when one or both of you moved away, it can be difficult to cope. We find that…
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Spring Equinox 2020 marks the tenth anniversary since Cassandra Latham Jones handed her business of Village Wisewoman to me.
I had previously worked as a qualified holistic therapist and was therefore accustomed to dealing with clients, however with this alternative way of working, clients would be dealt with in a different way. The consultations providing guidance can be similar to counselling (in which I now possess a Diploma) as clients contact us concerning various dilemmas in their lives and we discuss appropriate methods or courses of action that may help them.
Cassandra has a unique way of working and has built a good reputation which means that she is a hard act to follow. I had been a Cornwall resident for only ten months when I began and local residents did not know me well, however I had adequate experience to provide the services required. Over the years I have settled into the village community by frequenting our local Inn, some of the church services and village events, as well as performing at local festivals in West Penwith.
In a short period of time I developed an organized correspondence system when dealing with clients. I have a selection of email folders for inquiries, readings, distant readings, spells, charms, handfastings, rites of passage, feedback, property cleansings, wart charming, wisewomen walks and workshops. Notifying a client concerning the list of items we require when working with them now comes naturally to me and I converse with the confidence that comes with experience. Cassandra taught me to do my own accounts, which is quite an easy task with a small business. I admire her for managing this considering she has ‘discalculia’, however it was less of a problem for me as I am good with numbers and nowadays modern technology lessens the burden of book-keeping.
I understand why the ‘code of ethics’ is necessary and it is wise not to cast spells for clients who desire to influence others against their will. These spells can have huge repercussions and there have been occasions when I witnessed the consequences when others have cast spells for selfish desires without forethought.
Learning the process of creating charms has been enjoyable and is reminiscent of past occasions when I used cross-stitch and crochet during my childhood and adolescence. I have the skills required for intricate needlework and the corresponding ingredients for each charm still holds a fascination as each one is unique to the client. For example, when I construct two fertility charms neither would be identical in appearance or their contents.
Another aspect where needlework skills come to the fore is in creating clothes for hearth dolls which inspired me to create more clothing for other dolls with an uncanny likeness and purposes. After observing this activity, Cassandra commented that my work with dolls is one of my outstanding talents.
I have witnessed many Tarot readings and I now know Cassandra’s Tarot cards well, therefore I have the ability to provide readings from them myself if she were unable to do so. The psychic impressions and messages I receive during a consultation compliment her readings and never fail to add to the advice given. Our distant readings for clients unable to visit have proven to be extremely accurate and given guidance and help to many all over the world.
The Handfastings we provide are fabulous occasions, we have taken on the role of Celebrants at wondrous sacred sites and other unusual venues. My past ceremonial training comes to the fore when setting up a sacred space although the words I now use have changed, with a deeper connection to the ancient land around us. We prefer that they couple are in a relationship at least a year before taking this important step, some have been legally married a considerable length of time and others have their spiritual ceremony with us and attend a registry office before or after our ceremony if they require the legal contract.
I would love to experience more of these ceremonies on the beach or by the sea which in my opinion adds to the romance of the occasion.
Our property cleansings are quite an adventure, from modern houses to period properties, cottages, hotels and public houses. The history and varied lives that people once led can leave residual energies that seep into the foundations of buildings and affect them in startling ways. The spirits of deceased owners can form an attachment with their former properties which they have difficulty in releasing. Some spirits are harmless and the present occupiers are quite comfortable with their presence, however there are others that can cause problems and require guidance and persuasion to move on.
I have experienced on many occasions the remarkable difference of energy and atmosphere within a property after the cleansing, during our return visits.
Spell casting is an exciting aspect of our work, particularly when a specific time is set for a client to work along with the practitioner. There have been occasions when the required result has occurred within 24 hours and also instances where a period of time has passed before reaching a successful outcome. Throughout this past year I have worked with one particular client casting many spells for an ongoing legal case and each spell produced a successful outcome for each stage of the process.
Our workshops have been successful as many are intrigued by the work we do and enjoy spending time with us to experience this.
We have met some wonderful individuals and had many fascinating discussions. It is also heartening to hear feedback on how the experience has changed their lives in a positive way.
I have learnt more information during our ‘Walks with Wisewomen’ as Cassandra repeats the folklore and stories of various sites on each occasion. She is delighted with the way our work has become ‘second nature’ to me. It is not an easy path and I have been severely tested throughout the years. Cassandra is also pleased with the way I advertise and network to reach more people who need assistance and that the business has grown considerably compared to the period of time when she worked alone.
So there you have it…..ten years of organizing and working within the business of Village Wisewoman. It is so important to have an occupation one enjoys that does not lose its fascination or become mundane!
I thank Cassandra for her patience and tuition over the last eleven years. Her methods are often unorthodox and there were times I did not understand them, or how it would benefit me, until I put this tuition into action. This scene from the movie Karate Kid is a good example of what I am referring to:
I look forward to the next ten years of becoming older and wiser as I continue assisting our community!
It was on 26th June 2009, that I first ventured onto the streets of Penzance for my Teazer performance under the tuition of Cassandra Latham Jones. I had previous experience of Morris dancing and performed at various folk festivals, however I mistakenly assumed the role of Teazer could be something similar.
It all began with a telephone phone call during November 2008 from an acquaintance who asked if I would be interested in training for the role of a Teazer. They briefly explained what it would entail and I agreed to try, as it would also provide an opportunity to join a community event after recently moving to Cornwall. I had visited the home of this particular acquaintance and their partner on a few occasions while they were in the process of creating a new Penglaz ‘Oss after the original ‘Oss retired. They were extremely excited about this project and I witnessed the gradual development of the new Penglaz creation. It was the first time I had seen a horse’s skull and heard about the folk tradition in which these skulls were utilised. Cassandra contacted me soon after hearing of my interest and invited me to attend the 2008 Montol festival near the winter solstice, so that I could observe her first performance with the new Penglaz.
The acquaintance who introduced us was also a photographer at the event and suggested I wore a mask and dark clothing, as the majority of people wore ‘mock formal’ attire.
On our arrival at the event I joined the back of the procession at St Johns Hall with my former husband and son. I then made my way to the front to observe Cassandra’s performance. Penglaz the ‘Oss did not appear during the first procession so I concentrated on Cassandra’s movements as she marched at the front of the band in time to the music and waving to people who lined the streets. At the hill fort we stood around a large fire beacon to warm ourselves and visited a pub with the photographer, their partner and one of their friends.
The crowd seemed to increase in number for the second procession and once again I followed at the back with my husband and son, then gradually moved to the front.
Cassandra and Penglaz appeared out of an entrance adjacent to a restaurant in Chapel Street and were welcomed by enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. The energy was wild and exciting.
When I had previously performed at festivals with my former Morris team, I was one of many performers, but on this occasion it was a little disconcerting to see that Penglaz and her Teazer were the main characters and focus of the event. This meant there would be greater pressure on the performance and I voiced my concerns to the photographer who assured me that it would all have a positive outcome.
During my interview with Cassandra on the 26th January 2009, I was informed of a second new Penglaz and an ongoing disagreement between the other ‘Oss rider and Cassandra, but she assured me I would not be involved in this matter. Cassandra and I met regularly for practices at a yard owned by an engineer known to the photographer. My son and husband both rode Penglaz and each of them had a unique interpretation which gave the ‘Oss varied personality traits within each performance.
My former husband gave Penglaz a cheeky character, while my son being only seventeen years of age, was unpredictable, mischievous and Cassandra states that he was and still is, the fastest ‘Oss rider she ever had!
Although I was an experienced dancer, I needed to develop a connection with a completely different type of energy to perform this role. Cassandra sent me explanations and descriptions of the Bucca elemental (of sea and storms) spirit that works through the ‘Oss and Teazer.
I modelled my Teazer kit on the one Cassandra wore, as the Teazer ‘cross dresses’ to represent the ‘male and female’ aspect and ‘topsy turvy’ Cornish energy. Cassandra attended a ‘guild meeting’ and presented its members with video footage of our practices, announcing that I would be her apprentice Teazer and apparently it had the guild members’ approval.
My first appearance was on Friday 26th June 2009 on Mazey Eve. My former husband volunteered to ride Cassandra’s Penglaz (the one and only time) and we were understandably a little nervous on our first appearance particularly within a community we were unfamiliar with. On reflection I am sure many were wondering who we were and why we had been placed into a ‘lead role’ within their community festival! Just before the performance I was instructed by Cassandra to wait outside a local inn while she attempted to locate someone. A local man approached me asking why I was there and when I explained, he stated that I would never be as good as Cassandra and continued to tell me how long he had known her and revealed rather personal details about her life! What an encouraging start to the evening!
We prepared ourselves and Penglaz in a room at the Barbican and Cassandra stood at the open top window waving at the gathering crowd who were cheering and looking up at her. We made our entrance from the large black doors to lively music provided by the Golowan Band and cheers from the crowd. Mazey Eve is a wild celebration and extremely crowded, so keeping near Penglaz and making one’s way through the crowd is quite a task! I watched Cassandra closely and on many occasions our movements were identical which boded well for future development.
Cassandra imbued a confidence and connection with the ‘Oss during her seventeen years of Teazing, something that would also develop within me after years of experience. One’s reflexes need to be quick due to the unpredictable behaviour of the ‘Oss and the crowd.
The Teazer’s role is to attempt to control the crowd as well as keep an eye on Penglaz, making space for her to move around and protecting her from over-enthusiastic intoxicated revellers who step into her path, or attempt to get too close, as this could result in injury. There were specific signals Cassandra used to direct Penglaz, to laugh, dance and also stand still if needed. The stomping and snapping move of the ‘Oss is one that takes practice as the timing of snapping the jaw and stepping need coordination. My son Rhys accomplished this move quickly and with a spectacular result.
After my first performance as Teazer, I received some positive feedback, plus a few criticisms from one, who thought I should teaze the ‘Oss in exactly the same way as Cassandra. At first I could not understand what he meant, however after years of experience I understood, as he advised me to watch her feet. Mine now move in the same way as the energy has ‘grounded’ within the performance. Another person did not agree with two Teazers being on the street instead of one, but Cassandra explained it was the best method for training. Whatever their viewpoints, I knew that I had done a good first performance for someone with no previous knowledge or experience of ‘Oss Teazing. My role with Cassandra and Penglaz in Penzance continued for two years and then Cassandra and I were dismissed from the festival over further political issues. (See Original Penglaz Reinstated). I was rather relieved to be out of this situation within the Golowan festival, as it allowed us freedom to perform in our own way. After leaving we re-named our ‘Oss Penkevyll and our Guise team Boekka.
Boekka has had three changes of colours, image, performers and riders throughout the years, however what remained constant was that Cassandra and I were united as Teazers. I performed alongside her for eight years and then, after twenty five years of Teazing, Cassandra handed on the role of head Teazer to me.
My Teazer role has developed over the years and the strongest connection and change within it occurred at the All Hallows Gathering in 2016 after my release from a situation that was, on reflection, draining the energies. The Teazer role needs total focus and I discovered dividing my energy between Morris dancing and Teazing did not work well.
I now have two apprentice Teazers as well as new ‘Oss riders. All are doing extremely well and Boekka is going from strength to strength. This year is our 9th year of performance (as our team first formed while our ‘Oss was still Penglaz during 2010). I also own and ride an ‘Obby ‘Oss by the name of Morvargh (Cornish for Sea Horse).
I have learnt some valuable lessons in the last ten years and am not the same person who moved to Cornwall eleven years ago, however I have some fond memories of those early days.
Cassandra has asked me to mention that I am the ONLY Teazer she has taught and I am proud of this fact.
It has certainly been an eventful but rewarding journey!
I had heard of ‘Gong Bath’ events that utilize sound vibration, but had not attended one until yesterday.
Our lovely friend Angie Latham along with her husband Dougie and fellow sound therapist Anthony, invited us to a Sound Healing Journey within the Merry Maidens stone circle. As we travelled along the lane, we could see the stone circle in the distance and sunlight reflecting off the impressive large gongs that stood in the centre.
We were well prepared with blankets, pillows, coats and drums to join in with the rhythm session. Angie welcomed Cassandra and I with a warm embrace as we had not seen one another for a while, due to the unpredictability of life.
Other group members arrived and we admired the wonderful instruments on display.
I felt drawn to the quartz crystal bowls and looked forward to hearing them. Angie explained how their vibration connects to the higher spiritual energy centres of the body. As a healer and someone who has also hosted psychic development circles, I know this method would be of benefit to people who are involved in these pursuits.
Angie’s Beautiful Gong creates a wonderful calming vibration.
Anthony explained how the gong pictured on the right is tuned to the Mercury vibration connected to the throat energy centre. As a therapist I am aware that this would be ideal for communication problems and physical throat conditions. The lower gong on the left is attuned to the vibration of Venus and connected to the energy centre of the heart. This would help with many aspects of emotional problems and physical heart ailments.
Here is Anthony.
Angie seemed much happier and content now she has found her ‘soul purpose’. It is obvious that she enjoys this work that benefits her and all who attend her events.
Angie asked Cassandra to speak to the group about the history of the Merry Maidens circle so they could connect with its energy and their surroundings. When the group had settled, we were instructed to lie down and relax.
Cassandra was well prepared.
As we relaxed, the deep earthy sound of the gong resonated around us. I was aware of someone walking their dog through the site and the animal was disturbed at first by the sounds and barked for a while, but soon settled down to the deep vibration. We laid there for over an hour and even though the ground was hard, there were times I felt as though my body did not touch the earth, particularly when sounds from the quartz crystal bowls rang out. As well as sounds from gongs and bowls, rattles and chimes were also used.
I have meditation CDs at home for daily practice and I recognized many sounds that day which activated the Reiki energy that I work with.
When the drum beats began, our bodies slowly came out of the relaxation and we rose to join in with the drums. All around us group members were smiling and enjoying their individual experience. We created a good rhythm, some listened and others drummed and danced while the sun slowly descended on a beautiful day.
When it was over, we invited Angie, Dougie and Anthony to join us for a well deserved drink at our local Inn to toast Anthony’s birthday and a update which was long overdue.
I am so pleased I attended this event and highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to experience it. Thank you so much Angie, Dougie and Anthony for a wonderful evening.
For more information go to Sacred Earth Sound Therapy
A relevant article featuring George Pickingill a fascinating cunning man.
Today the popular image of witchcraft in the mass media and in books and magazines is largely defined by ‘Wicca’, a form of neo-pagan witchcraft created by a retired English civil servant called Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884–1964) in the 1940s. It is now established worldwide as a post-modern, ‘nature religion’ with a spiritual emphasis on Goddess worship. Modern witchcraft, however, did not begin with Gardner and it has a hidden history before Wicca. This history has connections with the famous occultist Aleister Crowley and also with Australia.
From the 1800s onwards there were several revivals of witchcraft in Britain based on historical precedents. These forms of pre-Wiccan witchcraft are variously known today as traditional witchcraft or ‘Traditional Craft’, the ‘Old Craft’ or ‘Elder Craft’, the ‘Sabbatic Craft’, ‘The Nameless Arte’, and ‘The Crooked Path’. There is also plenty of evidence from historical sources, folklore accounts, court cases and, later, newspaper reports in Britain, of the activities of ‘cunning folk’ and other practitioners of folk magic. In popular terminology and belief they were variously known as ‘white witches’, ‘wizards’, ‘sorcerers’, conjurors’, ‘pellars’, ‘planet readers’ (astrologers), and ‘hedge doctors’ (herbalists). These magical practitioners operated widely in both the rural and urban areas of the British Isles and they were consulted by all levels of society from farm labourers to the owners of large country estates.
These cunning folk or ‘white witches’ offered a wide range of services to their clients. They were popularly believed to possess the Sight (the ability to foresee the future and events at a distance, now called ‘remote viewing’ by parapsychologists), exorcise ghosts and banish spirits and poltergeists, cast spells to attract love and money, locate lost or stolen property and missing people using divination or by consulting spirits, and heal the sick using the ‘laying on of hands’ or herbal remedies. Most importantly, as far as their clients were concerned, they could counter the malefic spells cast by so-called ‘grey’ or ‘black’ witches. In some cases the cunning man or wise-woman acted for the general population and the authorities as unofficial witch-finders. However, all types of witches were believed to be able to cure and curse, hex and heal.
Although there are obvious similarities with some of the modern magical practices carried out by Wiccans, most of the methods and techniques used by the old-time witches bear little resemblance to those used by the neo-pagan witches who appear today in the press or on television. Often the cunning folk practiced dual faith observance and the charms, amulets, prayers and incantations they used invoked Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Trinity and the company of saints. Psalms were used for magical purposes as spells and they still are in some modern traditional witchcraft circles. With the coming of the new religion of Christianity and the suppression of ancient paganism, objects such as the cross, saints’ medallions and even holy water were widely used by folk magicians because they were believed to possess ‘virtue’ or magical energy and had inherent healing power.
Read more here New Dawn Magazine
Unfortunately this trait seems to be a growing problem, Cassandra and I have had clients consult us who are targeted by such people. I have included a link to the following article which is accurate in its explanation and warns of personality traits to look out for when seeking friends or groups within the Pagan community.
The 26th of January 2019 marks 10 years since I apprehensively walked the small gravel pathway leading to Cassandra Latham Jones’ cottage. I had an appointment to be interviewed for an apprenticeship as a Teazer of Penglaz the ‘Obby ‘Oss in Penzance. I did not realize that Cassandra was also seeking someone to continue her community work as Wisewoman of St Buryan and this subject arose during our conversation. I volunteered to try both apprenticeships, as I had searched for the Old Craft throughout my spiritual journey.
The past 10 years have indeed been challenging in many ways and Cassandra warned me this would be so. During the first part of my journey I became involved in various spiritual practices and quickly discovered they did not resonate with me. This resulted in my departure from magical groups when the tuition did not provide the ancient connection I searched for.
Image John Isaac
It is essential to be robust emotionally in this work and there was no better person to test and teach me than Cassandra. She warned she would be a hard ‘taskmaster’ and this proved to be so.
I was born and raised within a strict religion (which has many traits of a ‘cult organization’) and this separated me socially from my local community, therefore I had little knowledge of how community life developed and worked. Even when I left the religion (shortly after leaving school) and moved to other locations, I had minimal interaction within new communities.
It is vital for a Wisewoman to know her community and be approachable to members who may need assistance. The residents of St Buryan village were welcoming and I have learnt so much from living here since 2010. Communities are a ‘tribe’ or large ‘family’ who often have disagreements, but their deep connection and maturity enables them to resolve any disputes.
Image John Isaac – Graphics Chris White
Another form of our community work is through festivals and performances. Cassandra was pleased with my ideas and inspiration, particularly when they resulted in the birth of the All Hallows Gathering after an arranged meeting with our wonderful Mari Lwyd community in Chepstow at the beginning of 2014.
The role of apprentice to someone renowned and respected within the Pagan community is something many Pagans fantasize and dream of. There are those who would give anything to have this position, so it was no surprise my path brought jealousy, competitiveness and feelings of entitlement from others. It seemed our acquaintances were happy about the situation at first and maybe assumed that as Cassandra and I were so different externally, our working relationship would be short-lived. They may have hoped I would not have the ability to withstand the training and a few years on, when our working relationship showed signs of success, the negative feelings surfaced from some around us, particularly those who contrived to gain the apprentice role by befriending Cassandra. Some stated I was an ‘incomer’ and too new to the community to be chosen for positions as Teazer and Wisewoman, while others thought they had more of an advantage being Pagan and of Cornish descent. (I have never attempted to claim ‘Cornish descent’, I am proud of my birthplace in a historical part of Kent and do not create a false image to replace it as others have done.) Whatever their reasons for objecting they showed no faith in Cassandra’s choice and projected their negativity with the intention of adding more obstacles to our path. I now understand why ‘wisewomen’ of old worked solitary and did not socialize. Fortunately I have found a few genuine and supportive friends during this journey and my focus is now upon them.
The quote by Rudyard Kipling comes to mind:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too!”
Cassandra has taught me many valuable lessons as well as providing a home for me when unfortunate circumstances could have left me ‘homeless’. In return for her kindness and tuition, I was able to assist Cassandra by creating our performance team Boekka when her role as Teazer in Penzance was no longer required. I designed new costumes and an image for Penkevyll our ‘Oss as well as choreographing dances for our performance team. I created new websites for Village Wise Woman (when former friends took her previous site offline) and another website for Boekka (when a former member removed our site from the internet). I created my own website, a blog for Cassandra Grumpy Old Witchcraft, and accounts for Cassandra’s Book Village Witch. I now maintain performance and business-promoting accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also arrange Wisewoman workshops and these have been successful.
In the past Cassandra would rely on others to help her with work on her cottage and I have been able to assist her with many tasks. This gave us a wonderful feeling of achievement as we had not needed outside help but managed to accomplish these tasks between us. I also assisted her health-wise with a gentle fitness regime and suggestions on supplements and diet. I taught her Morris dancing in which she successfully performed for seven years and enjoyed it, however she now needs to live her life at an easier pace.
At first when dealing with clients, I often asked Cassandra’s advice on her way of communicating. After 10 years of dealing with a vast variety of clients, I am now confident to deal with these alone. My spells and charms have a high percentage of success and I have assisted many within the community, bringing a deep sense of satisfaction when I have successfully helped others. This work is varied and unpredictable and each day brings a different challenge.
Being a Wisewoman is not an occupation one can ‘retire’ from as Cassandra has discovered. She still sees clients providing readings and consultations, but the business aspect is my responsibility. It is difficult to make a business successful, it takes a huge amount of work, promotion and advertising for a number of years before one can profit from it. Fortunately I enjoy the promotion and advertising which has produced wonderful results.
Image John Isaac
The discipline concerning power of the mind was another important lesson as this skill is needed in everything one does, particularly in magical work. The land and sea are abundant in power and harnessing its energies for one’s needs or desires is not easy. Creativity, curiosity and persistence can reap rewards from the Universe using the correct acquired knowledge. Awareness and desire is also needed along with the willpower, knowledge and wisdom. To connect with the four powers: to Know, to Will, to Dare and to keep Silent requires the ultimate discipline.
Working within the Cunning Way and Folk Magic over the last 10 years has certainly been an adventure.
It has been eighteen years since I first read the book about George Pickingill – ‘The Pickingill Papers ‘ during my Alexandrian training, I felt a connection with the fascinating life of this intriguing ‘Cunning Man’ and eight years later the reason for this became apparent.
I enjoy ceremonial ritual and it has its uses, however the methods of Cunning/Folk Craft (for myself) give a stronger direct connection to the spiritual essence of land and sea, as the absence of ritualistic structure lessens distraction giving one’s focus more intensity.
The following article explains the Cunning Craft and Folk Practitioners:
Cunning folk – Traditionally the cunning man or cunning woman was a person who healed, worked magic, created herbal remedies, provided charms, anti-witch measures, spells, and fortune-telling services, they were paid a fee for their work. Cunning (knowledgeable) or (wise), originated from an Old English term kenning, this referred to professional or semi-professional practitioners of magic. Some acquired their gifts through heredity, their magic was a mixed bag of folk medicine and occultism. Folk magic was passed along in oral tradition, and embellished along the way, they employed practical remedies for specific problems. It was believed they could work with supernatural powers in order to increase the effectiveness of their work. In most (Cassandra would say and has taught that it would be ‘some’ rather than ‘most) instances someone could set themselves up as cunning folk, with no particular background or training, although some did come from a background of magical practitioners.
Up until the mid-nineteenth century there were several thousand cunning folk working in England, and although there was a higher ratio of men, the women were successful in their role. Many of the cunning folk working in Britain kept their ordinary line of work, while earning money as a professional cunning man or woman to boost their income. Most cunning men and woman were solitary practitioners and employed a variety of magical implements.
Some kept animal familiars and supernatural entities, known as familiar spirits, they were considered to be benevolent and helpful. It was believed the familiar spirit took the cunning person on a visionary journey to a place called Elfhame, (elf- home). In this trip the cunning folk’s soul would go with the familiar on a journey into a hill, to a great subterranean fairy hall, while there they would encounter fairies led by the king and queen, and take part in a feast. (Cassandra has taught that nowadays this could be translated into communing with the ‘spirit world’ within the local environment)
As most local clients were poor, fees for magical services were small. Their fees were much higher when a member of the aristocracy sought them out, and this was often to do with matters associated with love, money and bewitchment. The cunning men and cunning women who worked for the aristocracy, were much better off financially than those who only treated villagers. Some cunning folk received annuities, and others took a percentage of all stolen goods found through divination. (Cassandra has taught that yes, there would be a percentage of goods, but she would not say they were ‘stolen’.)
They were particularly popular for their charms, which they recited during their spell casting and divination work. They also created specific and very expensive charms for the aristocrats, writing down magical words in order to conjure, love, money, fertility and prosperity. The charms were sometimes written on parchment or paper, sewn into a bag, and either placed in the clients home, or carried about by them. By employing a variety of divination tools the cunning person was able to tell a person’s fortune and divine the name of their future love. They were often consulted to cast spells or charms to ensure a spouse’s fidelity and to find lost items. Some cunning folk claimed to have the ability to locate lost treasure, the cunning man or woman was called upon to overcome through magical means, the demon, spirit or fairy that was guarding it.
The cunning folk were especially adept in creating charms that would repel or break the spells of other witches blamed for bewitchment. They were the only healers to offer a package of anti-witch measures and were especially effective curing malevolent sorcery. They were also called upon to protect, heal and locate lost animals, and to care for crops. The cunning folk used a wide variety of methods to heal their clients, using various herbs, plants, the laying on of hands, and conducting elaborate ceremonies. They practiced folk magic, known as low magic, and ceremonial magic known as high magic, their role was to attend to the physical and spiritual needs of their client.
Cunning folk flourished up until the late 17th century, this was a time when belief in magic was high, they took the role of unofficial police and were believed to be a deterrent to crime, and when crimes were committed a cunning man or cunning woman was consulted to divine the guilty party. From the 18th century onwards their place in society continued, and carried on into modern times, especially in rural areas. Many cunning folk operated in a very competitive market, and would often travel great distances to visit their clients, their profile was very important to them. They used crystal balls and scrying bowls in their work, also astrology and numerology. A Grimoire was a most coveted item and those who owned one added to their profile. (Cassandra has discovered that there is no documentation of any Grimoire sent to a Cunning/Folk Practitioner within Cornwall). Although they were predominantly solitary practitioners, there were some families who approached it as a magical business.
British Cunning folk were referred to as wizards, wise men, wise women, conjurers, pellars,( see the historian Jason Semmens’ paper – On The Origin of Pellar) charmers and white witch, and in the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods Britain was a place where folk magic was very popular. In France, the terms devins-guerisseurs and leveurs de sorts were used to describe cunning folk. In the Netherlands they were referred to as toverdokters or duivelbanners, in Germany Hexenmeisters, and in Denmark kloge folk. In Spain they were curanderos and in Portugal they were known as saludadores. Cunning folk and their use of white magic for healing and as a protection against black magic, was widespread in Germany. The primary role of the Italian cunning folk was healing,with the use of herbs and spiritual healing, their spiritual healing was believed to come from an inner power, known as la forza (power), la virtu (virtue) or il Segno (the sign), they were also consulted to remove curses.
Because of the usefulness of cunning folk, they were able to practice their magic as an open secret, and quietly conducted their business in such a way they avoided anti-magic and anti-witchcraft laws. They met with little interference from authorities, who chose to ignore them unless there was a specific complaint. The cunning folk were often denounced during religious gatherings, but because of their popularity and usefulness, were never pursued. During the time of the Inquisition, cunning folk became vulnerable targets, but in spite of this there was a huge amount of public support for them, because they were so important to those who required their services.
The disparity between witches and the cunning folk, was that witches were seen to do harm, and cunning folk were seen to be useful and provide a valid service. Cunning folk were active from the Medieval period through to the early twentieth century, when it is believed the declining belief in malevolent witchcraft, did away with the need for anti-witchcraft measures, which was a primary service offered by the cunning folk.
I began a ‘countdown’ to the new year from the 1st December to 1st January on our All Hallows Dark Gathering Facebook group. Each day I posted a photograph of a performer with a little information about them conveying our appreciation for their contribution to the event. On the 2nd January, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Cassandra had written the following post :
“Before we get any further into the year I want to put a shout out about Laetitia Latham Jones. In case there is anyone who doesn’t realise this, she was the one who had the original idea of the Welsh Mari Lwyds meeting the Cornish Oss, Penkevyll at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. We now have this amazing annual Dark Gathering following that initial inspired idea. Tia has not only supported me in my role as Event Organiser over the years but has continued to create brilliant ideas which we have incorporated. We have her to thank for researching and discovering the wonderful Ancestor Chant, and now just recently she has applied her time and energies into the personal bios/reviews of a few recognizable characters from the Dark Gathering. Also let us not forget her wonderful performances as Penkevyll’s Teazer – the Art of which she is now teaching to her two apprentices. I would like to publicly thank her for her dedication and hard work behind the scenes to help maintain the Dark Gathering. May it go from strength to strength! ”
Image John Isaac
The last ten years have been what I would describe as a ‘roller-coaster’ and extremely challenging with drastic life changes, however I had the tenacity to continue. This has rewarded me with wonderful experiences within my work and performance life and I have met some fabulous individuals. I am intrigued to see what the next ten years have in store ….
In modern movies snowmen are portrayed as something magical, loved by children and they also capture the imagination.
I remember feeling these magical energies when Cassandra Latham Jones and I built a large snowman during the heavy snowfall of January 2010 in the grounds of the mill house in Crean, St Buryan.
The history of the snowman however is quite different as you will see in the following article: