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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cornish Cunning Folk

Cunning men and cunning woman form part of Cornwall’s rich history of mythology and folklore. They were known as skilled seers and those of high reputation were in high demand. People would seek them out in order to help find lost items and heal illnesses. They were in high demand during the 'Witch Trials' that swept most of Europe, despite being magical practitioners themselves. As much as witches were painted as evil beings seeking to cause harm and chaos, cunning folk were seen as the positive side of magical practices. Often if someone believed they had become a target of a witch, they're first port of call would be to a cunning man or cunning woman. They were also employed by the authorities to help find witches and other criminals.

The type of magic practised by cunning folk often consisted of charms and amulets. One of the best known being Charm Bags which were small sewn bags containing written charms or magical powders. There is also Stroking Stones, that were special charmed stones that were used for healing. Of course there is a long list of artefacts connected with cunning folk, ranging from Snail Beads to Cauldrons and everything in between. There are a few good sources of further information of these online.

There have been some very well known cunning folk throughout history, arguably the best known being Granny Boswell. She was born in 1813 (though some believe this date is incorrect) in Ireland, but spent most of her adult life in Helston, where she lived with her husband Ephraim. She was well know for her foresight and the magical skills she acquired through her Romany heritage. She was also known as a troublemaker. During some elections a car was being used to ferry voters to the local polling station. As it was driving down the street an elderly and somewhat drunk Granny Boswell wandered into the road. The driver beeped the horn and loudly shouted at her to get out of the way. She didn't take kindly to this and stood in the middle of the road cursing the car and throwing verbal abuse at the driver. When she finished her rant she stepped out of the road and the car pulled away. The car made it only a few yards before coming to a halt, the car that had been running perfectly minutes before was found to have a very badly damaged engine and had to be towed away.

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