Cunning Folk

Cunning Folk by Tabitha Stanmore

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Cunning Folk:

Magic without getting burned at the stake.

Quick synopsis:

The story of benevolent magic practitioners during the medieval and early modern period.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

There used to be a food called buttocks bread. No, I won’t explain why.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Among other reasons to dislike him, Henry VIII passed the first secular act against magical practices.

My Take on Cunning Folk:

I never really thought about the fact that more palm readers weren’t burned at the stake. Ok, hear me out.

You will often read or see in historical media about a king going to see a psychic or someone who can put together a “special” potion. These people did exist. So why weren’t they tried and executed as witches? Finally, Tabitha Stanmore is here to explain why in her book, Cunning Folk. See, they weren’t tried as witches because they weren’t witches. They were cunning folk, and, at worst, their activities were frowned upon and at best, they were actively sought by many people.

Stanmore drops us into the time period of medieval and early modern Europe. We start off with a woman in London trying to find her spoons. Sure, you and I aren’t worried about losing spoons but back in the day this was no bueno. Spoons could be worth a lot and eating soup with your hands is a real pain. Stanmore follows this woman as she tries to find the right cunning folk to solve her problem because there are many different types. Don’t worry, the book also looks at some famous people who tried to kill other famous people.

There is a sole issue with the book which is not Stanmore’s fault. That woman and her spoons is the perfect example. We know she tried to find them and asked cunning folk, but we get no resolution because the records just stop. This happens with a lot of the stories in the book, and it does rob the narrative of a little magic (pun intended!). Stanmore’s research is impeccable and there is nothing she can do about it. The information just doesn’t exist anymore. Even still, this is well worth the read and it’s a lot of fun.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing.)


Delightful. Buy it here!

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