Cassandra and I hosted our last workshop for 2019 this weekend, the subject being Folk/Cunning Craft. One of our group has now attended all our workshops during the last few years and traveled all the way from his home in Scotland to join us. The other two members of the group experienced their first workshop on this occasion.
One of the group was new to the Craft which Cassandra found rather refreshing as she attended with an open enquiring mind and had many questions.
After two hours of discussion and identifying the type of jar/bottle spell each member needed to do, Cassandra took them out on a hedgerow walk to harvest the relevant plants, while I prepared other corresponding items for their return.
I also wrote out a list of correspondences that were available for them so that they could choose the items which resonated for them in their spells.
The group were given instructions on how to finish their jars/bottle spells at home, the liquids to use and how to seal them.
After they left for their dinner break, I prepared the hearth for blessing them in the evening.
After their spells were blessed we took them to a special place for charging them with the assistance of Granny Boswell on a wet, misty evening. We trimmed back the overgrown hedge so that we could see her headstone clearly.
Cassandra brought Cornish cake and ale for Granny, we had specific signs that evening of her acknowledgement. There were also three tall gravestones behind us that in the darkness had the appearance of three tall figures wearing black, shrouded by the mist. We were also in the phase of a powerful waning moon.
The moment we finished raising energy, the rain ceased and we conversed with Granny Boswell who responded with visible signs.
We then returned to the cottage for libations and Clutterbuck presented us with a live mouse! He had caught it Friday during our introduction evening, but after releasing it he could not find it. We heard some disruption in the kitchen Saturday evening when he caught it again and brought it to the hearth. (his donation to the libations!)
We enjoyed this workshop immensely, a wonderful end to the summer season.
“Had the most amazing weekend, mind blowing and loads to think about and read, thank you both x” A.T.
Cornwall has had some lovely warm summer days of late and two wonderful lively young men from Chicago had planned to visit and asked Cassandra and I if we would consider hosting an extra workshop for them. We were previously acquainted with them when they accompanied us on a Wise Woman Walk to Zennor Hill in 2018.
We advertised an extra workshop and received bookings from two ladies who also joined us that day.
Jason and Arkie are eager students, they love the world of herbs and potions and they have also opened their own retail outlet selling occult items in Chicago. They were staying in Boscastle and enthusiastically related their visit to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, particularly the artifacts there that caught their attention and sparked their interest.
Both ladies are residents in Cornwall and the group connected and worked well with one another.
All of the group members love the Cornish landscape and Cassandra’s discussion on the spirit elementals of the land fascinated them. After receiving knowledge on the subject and having their questions answered, it was time to take the group out to a local woodland to meet and connect with the elemental spirits.
They were given a meditation exercise to heighten their awareness before they were instructed to explore their surroundings.
Each member of the group relates an experience different from the others as each person is unique and has their own interpretation of the things they have observed.
When we met in the evening, I guided the group through a process of creating a protective space before we began trying different methods of communication. I explained psychometry, hauntings, spirit mediumship and we all related spiritual experiences we have had during and after loved ones had passed away.
The group members received excellent results with their psychometry, they surprised themselves with the accuracy of their impressions on certain items totally unknown to them.
The group also attempted scrying with a black mirror and spent some time experimenting with a Ouija communication board. Not everyone is comfortable about using these boards which is not surprising when they have a bad reputation from certain horror occult movies. On this particular evening all group members tried this method.
Each person finds a method of communication they feel particularly connected to or what works for them.
During the final part of the evening we shared libations of Cornish mead and Saffron cake while discussing the weekend. It was indeed a pleasure to spend time with such a wonderful group of people. I’m sure our paths will cross again!
“Hi Laetitia and Cassandra!
What a whirlwind the last few days have been! Such a pleasure to see you both again. Thank you so much for the time, effort, and energy you put into the Spirit Connections workshop. Arkie and I learned so much from it. We’ve already started talking about locations in Chicago we can go to practice our stone meditation and we plan on working more on our psychometry skills this week! We’ve made it a personal goal to attend each of your workshops so we can’t wait to see what else you have in store!” J.F.
“Firstly i would like to thank Laetitia and Cassandra for creating this wonderful workshop which allowed us to gain an insight and deeper understanding of what it is to work with the spirit world. Within the welcoming atmosphere of the wise woman’s cottage, it was great to discuss and learn from each other our different spiritual paths and our own experiences of the spirit world. We all gained a lot of knowledge from Cassandra and Laetitia about types of energies and how there are many ways to connect with them. Our walk to a special site with Cassandra allowed a peaceful time in which we were taught how to focus deeply within asetting in order to be more aware of our connection to the things around us. During the evening we were given opportunities to try out ways in which to connect to the spirits. My favorite practice we used was Psychometry, even though it was my first time doing this i found it particularly fascinating. Thank you Laetitia and Cassandra for a fantastic experience i will definitely be joining you again for another workshop.” C.N
“It was so good to meet you all last weekend, I think we were lucky to get such a nice group, even though we are all pretty different! I enjoyed the whole experience and particularly how important it is to have that space where we can speak openly about our beliefs, experiences and personal practice, Its so rare to be able to do this for someone who is not involved in the ‘community’. I loved that we could ask you both anything and get a sensible answer! I loved the ‘down-to-earth’ energy of it all, but that’s a big part of why i chose to come to you in the first place I suppose.
To give some more precise feedback, I would say that the visit to the grove was good – particularly as there was helpful (practical) advice from Cassandra on best practice for working in this realm. The evening work with the Psychometry was also good and lovely that there was no feeling of judgement or competition – its quite nerve wracking to try this sort of exercise for the first time so the last thing you need is added performance anxiety! I (like many others I’m sure) have a lot ofresistance to the idea of Ouija board work – just from the all the years of bad stories etc etc, made this exercise too difficult to get in to. Overall it was really helpful to get a taste of the different practices along with the wisdom that actually these are things that also require work and practice – like any other skill. When I think back over my years with horses and the times I’ve had the strongest connections and done the best work – its always been those times when i was really immersed, working at it every day and seeking and experimenting and being truly dedicated, I’ve no doubt that the work of witchery is the same…. I would love to be able to attend another of your courses (particularly charm/amulet -making, i think you do one?) It’s so hard to find teachers you can feel like you can trust in this sort of stuff, people with both deep and long experience who are at the same time warm, approachable and fun- i feel lucky to have had the chance to meet you both! With warmest wishes and gratitude. H.B.”
The 26th of January 2019 marks 10 years since I apprehensively walked along the small gravel pathway leading to Cassandra Latham Jones’ cottage. I had an appointment for an interview concerning an apprenticeship to train as a Teazer for Penglaz the ‘Obby ‘Oss in Penzance. I did not realize at this time that Cassandra was also seeking someone to continue her community work as Wise Woman of St Buryan the subject arose during our conversation.
The past 10 years have been challenging in many ways and Cassandra warned me that this would be so. During the first part of my spiritual journey I was searching for something that resonated spiritually and this resulted in my departure from previous magical groups when I discovered they did not provide the connection I sought.
Image John Isaac
I needed to be robust emotionally in order to take on this work and there was no better person to test and teach me than Cassandra. She warned me she was a hard ‘taskmaster’ and this indeed proved to be so.
I was raised within a strict religion (which shows all the signs of a ‘Cult Organization’) and separated socially from my local community, therefore I had little knowledge of how community life developed and worked together. Even after leaving this religion and moving to other areas, I had minimal interaction within new communities.
It is vital for a Wise Woman to know her own community as one will be more approachable to residents who may need assistance when the need arises. The residents of St Buryan village have been welcoming and I have learnt a huge amount from living here in the last 9 years. Communities are a ‘tribe’ or large ‘family’ who may have disagreements however their deep connection and maturity enables them to resolve any disputes.
Image John Isaac – Graphics Chris White
Another form of community work is through festivals and performances. Cassandra has been pleased with the ideas and inspiration I had, particularly with the birth of the All Hallows Gathering that resulted from us meeting the wonderful Mari Lwyd community at the Chepstow Wassail in 2014.
The role of apprentice to someone renowned and respected within the Pagan community is something that many Pagans fantasize and dream of. There are those who would give anything to have this position, so it was no surprise that my path brought, jealousy, competitiveness and feelings of entitlement from others. It seemed our acquaintances were happy about the situation at first and maybe they assumed that as Cassandra and I were so different externally, it would not last long. They may have hoped I would not have the ability to withstand the training. A few years later 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, while others thought they had more of an advantage because they were ‘Cornish’ and Pagan. (I have never tried to claim ‘Cornish descent’ in this lifetime, I am proud of my birthplace in a historical part of Kent and do not create a false image to replace it.) Whatever their reasons for objecting they did not show any faith in Cassandra’s choice as Wise Woman and projected their negativity with the intention of adding more obstacles to our path. I now understand why ‘wise women’ 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 help Cassandra by setting up our performance team Boekka when her role as Teazer in Penzance was no longer required. I created 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, Witchvox and Instagram. I also arrange Wise Woman 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 her a wonderful feeling of achievement that we had not needed outside help but managed to accomplish these tasks between us. I have also assisted her health-wise with a gentle fitness regime and suggestions on supplements and diet. I taught her Morris dancing too which she successfully performed for 7 years and enjoyed it, but now she has chosen to take 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 people, I am confident to deal with these alone. My spells and charms have a high percentage of success and I have assisted many within the community which brings a deep sense of satisfaction that you have successfully helped others. This work is varied and unpredictable and each day brings a different challenge.
Being a Wise Woman is not an occupation one can ‘retire’ from as Cassandra has discovered. She still sees clients and provides readings and consultations for them, 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 full of 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 will, knowledge and wisdom. To connect with the four powers: to Know, to Will, to Dare and to keep Silent needs the ultimate discipline.
Working with the Cunning Way and Folk Magic over the last 10 years has certainly been an adventure.
It has been eighteen years since I was introduced to the book about George Pickingill – ‘The Pickingill Papers ‘ during my Alexandrian training, I felt a connection with the life of this intriguing ‘Cunning Man’ and eight years later the reason became apparent.
I enjoy ceremonial ritual and it has its uses, but the methods of Cunning/Folk magic (for myself) give a stronger direct connection to the spiritual essence of land and sea as the absence of ritualistic structure lessens distraction giving the focus more intensity. The strongest connection for me since working here has been with the spirits of the sea and all associated with it.
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 hasnot 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 rather like a ‘roller-coaster’ and challenging with drastic life changes, but I had the tenacity to continue which has rewarded me with some wonderful experiences within my work and performance life as well as meeting some fabulous individuals. I am intrigued to know what the next ten years will bring….