Plural: cunning men
- (now historical) A wise man or wizard ; a magician . A village seer, healer and enchanter - a country shaman.
The Cunning Folk were practitioners of folk medicine, folk magic, and divination within the context of the various traditions of folklore in Christian Europe from at least the 15th Century up until at least the early 20th century.
The term Cunning Folk was used for both "cunning men" or "cunning women" and most widely in southern England and the Midlands, as well as in Wales.[Such people were also frequently known across England as "wizards", "wise men" or "wise women", or in southern England and Wales as "conjurers". In Cornwall they were sometimes referred to as "pellars", which some etymologists suggest originated from the term "expellers", referring to the practice of expelling evil spirits. Folklorists often used the term "white witch", though this was infrequently used amongst the ordinary folk as the term "witch" had general connotations of evil. From our current perspective - because of the Cunning Folks use of Hedge Riding - journeying astrally into the Other World of Faery - we might also consider the Cunning Folk as the country shaman.
Certain Christian theologians and Church authorities believed that the cunning folk, being practitioners of magic, were in league with the Devil and as such were akin to the more overtly Satanic and malevolent witches. Partly because of this, laws were enacted across England, Scotland and Wales that often condemned cunning folk and their magical practices, but there was no widespread persecution of them akin to the Witch Hunt, largely because most common people firmly distinguished between the two: witches were seen as being harmful and Cunning Folk as useful - plus the fact that many Cunning Folk incorporated prayer and the invocation of Saints and Angels into their practice.
Whilst across England, many people were accused of witchcraft by members of their local communities and put on trial, the Cunning Folk very rarely suffered a similar fate. It was unusual for a Cunning Man or Woman to actually be accused of witchcraft; in the county of Essex for instance, whereas around four hundred people had been put on trial for witchcraft, only four of those were identifiably Cunning Folk. However, many of the professional witch-hunters and theologians continued to proclaim the cunning craft as being the same as witchcraft, with them both being caused by the Devil.
With the decline in the witch trials in the latter part of the 17th and early 18th centuries, partly due to the rise of the Enlightenment amongst the educated elite, a new law was introduced, the Witchcraft Act of 1736. Unlike earlier laws, this did not accept the existence of magic, and took the opinion that there never had been any witches, and it therefore came down heavier on the cunning folk, who were claiming to perform genuine magical spells. It portrayed the cunning folk as practitioners of "explicitly fraudulent practices designed to fool the credulous" in order to gain money off of them.
Edwin identifies as a Cunning Man as his spiritual path is and has always been distinctly Pagan, however because he works with Angels and Ascended Master (New Age Saints) and because he works as a trance channel in order to bring their messages to Earth (a practice frowned upon in traditional Wicca/Witchcraft), plus his practice as a seer and his more recent work as a Hedge Rider he sees the term Cunning Man as being a better fit for his practice and way.
Edwin is also a Valkadour - a Norse word which means Spell Singer - possibly the root word of the word Warlock which amongst other things came to refer to a male witches. Spell Singers use the power of their voice in song, through mantras, chants and affirmations - as well as in spoken meditations or path workings - to channel magical energy to call spirits, heal, manifest, protect and cleanse.