Tue, Aug 22|
Cunning-Craft: A Five-Part Class Series with Dr Alexander Cummins
Time & Location
Aug 22, 2023, 6:30 PM EDT – Oct 17, 2023, 8:30 PM EDT
About the event
In The Wind & Rain: Weather Magic in English Cunning-Craft - Tuesday August 22nd, 6:30PM
The English can be said to be a people perpetually “under the weather”, and the traditional folk magics of the various wise-women, village wizards, service magicians, and local spiritworkers collectively called cunning-folk are full of weather lore: especially a huge range of regionally-specific ways of predicting weather patterns by natural magical means, omens, auguries, and ‘secrets’.
In this class, contemporary cunning-man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will guide us through considerations of such traditional weather cunning. We begin with analysing folkloric weather prognostication, demonstrating manners and means of interpreting the intricate choreographies of the seasons’ turning by bird flight, beast call, and myriad other sensitivities of nature; reading sunsets like palms, harkening to what the shifting winds whisper.
Whether practiced by almanac meteorology and astrological elections, passed on in the experiments and tables carefully copied into personal spell-books, or preserved in the rich oral traditions of nursery rhymes, charms, proverbs, and odd turns of phrase, such weather cunning does more than simply predict rain or shine: it articulates a living vital magical ecology of flora and fauna from which to learn and with which to work…
Because from reading weather patterns we can begin to discuss storm-sorcery, weather-witching, and many many operative magics of climate and sky. We will delve into comparing several grimoiric operations for making rain, early modern tales of calling storms to sink enemy armadas, and the uncertain port-town trade in ‘selling the winds’, as well as some of the infamous accounts of attempting to petition, bribe, and ‘whistle down the winds’...
The Lay of the Land: Agricultural Magic in Traditional English Cunning-Craft - Tuesday September 5th, 6:30PM
Agriculture formed an essential basis of the pre-modern economy, and while the early modern period in Britain saw increasing urbanisation, it was in the fields and country lanes that many cunning-folk remained – both in actuality and in the popular public imagination – tending animals, crops, and the humans that farmed them: from folk magical means of the cultivation of soil to the cunning husbandries of raising and caring for beasts, trees, and crops; and from astrologically-based almanac instructions on gelding lambs and coppicing woodlands to wise cattle-keeping and the talismans and techniques of making herds prolifically fertile.
In this class contemporary cunning-man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will guide us through these workings of the earth and the tending of its creatures. For we find plenty of workings for prosperity and protection of fruit and fowl alike – never mind the veiled and profound mysteries of bee-keeping. Along with the herbs to hang about barnhouses and outhouses alike to guard against witches, elves, revenants, and other malefic spirits, we will consider both folkloric and high occult philosophical considerations for gathering plants themselves: from timings of planetary hours and ‘lucky days’ to cardinal directions to face, charms to recite, and other observations of empowerment and alignment while gathering, including pacting with – even ‘marrying’ – potent plants.
We will also delve into the rich treasury of traditional English harvest lore: from feeding the plough to offerings of first fruits, sheaf-dollies, processions and pageantries of the May Queens, and even modern feminist readings of gleaning and related community field-keeping activities.
In considering such cunnings of ecology, environment, and landscape as well as the agricultures ploughed into and out of these natural magical dynamos, where wilderness rubs up against the domesticated, we may come to understand what being ‘close to the earth’ actually resembled beyond pastoral romanticism and post-modern idylls of nostalgia, and learn some fruitfully connected ways and means for our contemporary crafts.
A Cunning Spellbook: Working with the Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet - Tuesday September 19th, 6:30PM
Contained in Sloane MS 3851 is a collection of charms, rituals, and operations for calling angels, summoning visions, detecting thieves, conjuring devils, scrying in stones, and using plant, animal, and mineral materiato work sorceries of enchantment, protection, lust, and healing.
This collection is held to have been assembled by one Arthur Gauntlet, an early modern cunning-man, not as an archive of spells and occult oddities to collect on a shelf but as a working repertoire of his magical wares, sorcerous services and cunning trade secrets. This grimoire is thus a testament to the professional magical practice of a seventeenth-century London cunning-man.
In this class, contemporary cunning man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will lead us in exploring the myriad prayers, conjurations, and charms: from the unbewitchings of curse-reversal and hex-breaking with certain herbs and gestures to the consecration of a washing pot for blessing healing waters; not to mention imbibing the blessings of the psalms, bargaining for knowledge and power with devils, and the many many arcane uses of apples in works of both romance and more aggressive seduction.
Along the way we’ll consider how these practical operations relate to the treatises of occult philosophical inquiry and consideration that Gauntlet also copied into his working-book, and more broadly and deeply what it means to pick up these workings again hundreds of years after they were committed to this spellbook.
Finally, we’ll consider some means of approaching the spirit of Arthur Gauntlet himself through his works – offering some notes of caution as well as advice for those seeking to approach or deepen their work with the Cunning Dead.
To Every Beast of the Field: Animal Magic in English Cunning-Craft - Tuesday October 3rd, 6:30PM
Animals in pre-modern European understandings signified potent natural magics. Long traditions of reading passions across species barriers – from the choleric nature of the wolf to the melancholy of the cat –made proverbs and parables out of the actions and interactions of the various beasts of the field. The animals had lessons to teach us.
These lessons were heeded in various ways by the traditional folk magics of the various wise-women, village wizards, service magicians, and local spiritworkers collectively called cunning-folk: from reading meanings from these animals’ appearances in waking and dreaming life to the cunning uses of their bodies, and even the conjuration of spirits in their forms.
In this class, contemporary cunning man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will consider how animals appear and interact in the traditional English folk magics of cunning-craft. Along with close readings of the professional working-books and spell-collections of early modern practitioners, we will also consider historical and magical contexts for such animal magics.
We will examine how medieval bestiaries further embellished moral readings of the meanings and magics of animals as both living mandala and repositories of occult virtue; while medical, alchemical, and grimoiric texts experimented with animal components according to principles of sympathiaand contagion to affect positive changes as well as regulate instabilities within their patients, their magical operations, and indeed for the cunning operators and their clients. A resurgence in heraldry over the early modern period further intertwined beast in a web symbols, significations, sorceries, and solutions.
We will also explore how the Protestant Reformation re-cast the natural world in subtly more sinister lights, especially with regards to spectral hounds, diabolic horses, witches’ familiar imps, and wider religious influences on how animals were worked with (and even worked for) in pre-modern cunning-craft.
Three cunning beasts will also be given particular attention and homage: the fleet-footed fox; the cat, beloved of witches and monks alike; and the darting hoarding world-tree-climbing squirrel.
To the Fowl of the Air: Bird Magic in English Cunning-Craft - Tuesday October 17th, 6:30PM
Birds have long been considered to have things to tell the wise who can read their meanings, and to hold magical power that can be bestowed, bartered, earned, or stolen from them.
From foretelling fortunes – of mortal lives and ever-turning seasons alike – by the auguries of their flight to the chatter of their calls, the language of the birds and the meanings of their comings-and-goings have been considered magics of prognostication and prophecy. And from the feathers of their wings to the blood of their hearts, birds and their bodily components have also been employed in traditional cunning operations of baneful binding and blessed unbewitching alike.
In this class, contemporary cunning man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will lead us in celebration of the magics and meanings of birds in the techniques and approaches of the folk magics practiced by traditional British cunning-folk.
Along with observations of divinatory augury to predict weather and foretell both victories and disasters, seasonal English festivals of birds such as the hunting of the Cutty Wren will be paid respects. Grimoiric operations involving bird materia will be carefully and responsibly considered for their mythic resonances, ritual historiolae, emblematic meaning, and cultivation and deployment of occult virtues.
Three clans of cunning birds will be paid particular homage:
- The corvids of crow, raven and magpie will be celebrated in their mischiefs and their tidings, their countings and their couriered cargos: from the raven’s invention of burial to the ’pie’s deals with the Devil, not to mention the larcenous black bird spirits in the English grimoires of cunning nigromancy.
- The nocturnal owls - from barn to screech, snowy to tawny, through the night and out the other side – will be celebrated as both wise old birds and ghostly silent hunters, teachers of wisdom and omens of death.
- Finally, we will celebrate the humble city-dwelling pigeon – the doves of the gutters – their iridescent necks the exact colour of Mercury’s magics and more.
About the Presenter:
Dr Alexander Cummins is a contemporary cunning-man and historian of magic. His magical specialities are the dead (folk necromancy), divination (geomancy) and the grimoires. His published works include Nazarth: Pillars of Gladness (Hadean Press, 2022), An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke (Scarlet Imprint, 2020) with Phil Legard, The Starry Rubric (Hadean Press, 2012), A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings (Revelore Press, 2018) and several chapbooks and anthology contributions through Three Hands Press, Hadean Press and Scarlet Imprint. He is a frequent speaker on the international circuit, co-hosts the podcast Radio Free Golgotha, and is a founding editor of Revelore Press’ Folk Necromancy in Transmission series. Dr Cummins’ work, classes, and services can be found at www.alexandercummins.com and in thecauldronblack.com class archives.
THIS CLASS IS ONLINE ONLY! The class link will be emailed to you in your registration confirmation. The class recording link will be emailed to you within 3-5 business days of the conclusion of the class and will be available to you for 30 days after the conclusion of the class.
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- Ticket type
Cunning-Craft 5-Part SeriesPrice$150.00
+$3.75 service fee+$3.75 service fee