Cunning Folk

Life in the Era of Practical Magic

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Pub Date 2 May 2024 | Archive Date 1 Jun 2024

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‘A brilliant book, written with wit and vigour’ MALCOLM GASKILL
‘Absolutely fascinating’ IAN MORTIMER

Tabitha Stanmore transports us to a time when magic was used to navigate life's challenges and solve problems of both trivial and deadly importance.

It’s 1600 and you’ve lost your precious silver spoons, or maybe they’ve been stolen. Perhaps your child has a fever. Or you’re facing trial. Maybe you’re looking for love or escaping a husband. What do you do?

In medieval and early modern Europe, your first port of call might have been cunning folk: practitioners of ‘service magic’. Neither feared (like witches), nor venerated (like saints), these people were essential: a ubiquitous presence at a time when the supernatural was surprisingly mundane and a cherished everyday resource.

We meet lovelorn widows, selfless healers and renegade monks; we listen in on Queen Elizabeth I’s astrology readings and track treasure hunters who try to keep peace with fairies. Much like us, premodern people lived in bewildering times, buffeted by forces beyond their control – and their faith in magic has much to teach us about how we accommodate ourselves to the irrational in our allegedly enlightened lives today.

Charming in every sense of the word, Cunning Folk is an immersive reconstruction of a bygone world and a thought-provoking commentary on the beauty and bafflement of being human.

‘A brilliant book, written with wit and vigour’ MALCOLM GASKILL
‘Absolutely fascinating’ IAN MORTIMER

Tabitha Stanmore transports us to a time when magic was used to navigate life's challenges and...

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ISBN 9781847927316
PRICE £20.00 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Fascinating, well researched and detailed book on both historical and modern stories about people relying on Cunning Folk.
The author has clearly done the leg work for this book and it shows, setting the scenes for many of the tales very well and you become immersed in it all very quickly.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read and review this book.

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A veritable treasure trove of historical research, mostly related to magic. I didn't expect this level of detail and I am pleasantly surprised by it. The author even tells of an event that occurred in modern times, when a fortune teller who charged 3 pouns for short readings and 7 pounds for long ones had a queue stretching right around the block in London, around 140 people long. The author was one of the people who queued. Also I learned that the demand for psychics went up during the early days of the covid pandemic and the financial crisis of 2008.
However most of the book was historical and I learned that aristocrats as well as commoners were involved in magical practices, some of the names I already knew but I did not know of others suspected of magic.
An excellent guide to magical practices and other things associated with magic, such as alchemy, which laid the foundations for modern chemistry.
I would give this book more than 5 stars if I could for the sheer level of detail and research that went into it.

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