Following in a Cunning-Man’s Footsteps

Over the last ten or eleven years I have been privileged to look at dozens of manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance in my research into the grimoires.  The results of this have been published in numerous books making these source texts available to the wider public (e.g. The Book of Gold, The Book of Treasure Spirits, A Collection of Magical Secrets, The Veritable Key of Solomon and The Goetia of Dr Rudd).  Amongst all these manuscripts, one occasionally jumped out and grabbed my attention as being particularly significant.  A particularly noteworthy example of this is the manuscript of a 17th century London Cunning-man’s book of practice, which I have edited and discussed in my latest book The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet.

This text exemplifies the cunning art, drawing together material from numerous earlier sources into an eclectic mix which includes conjurations of angels, demons, fairies and the dead, as well as a diverse range of charms.  The charms include earlier medical charms written by famous surgeons from the fourteenth and fifteenth century, herbal remedies, wax images, and charms using the Psalms, many of which are also seen in The Book of Gold.  There is a significant emphasis on the wand as the primary tool of the cunning-man in this work, including a wand consecration and several conjurations and charms.

The Book of the 7 Images of the Days, which forms part of The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, has an interesting use of the wand as part of a love charm, where the names of the man and woman are written in the heart of the image used, with the instruction to hang the Image before the Stars And smite it with a twig or wand of Olive Tree And Conjure the Image”.[1]  The use of an olive twig or wand is interesting, as it is not a native British plant and would have required some effort to gain.  However Gauntlet includes material from numerous sources, including the Arbatel, the Heptameron, the Key of Solomon, the Book of Gold, Folger Vb.26, Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, and the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, William Bacon and John Dee, as well as much material which seems to be unique, so this is not surprising.

As we know, cunning-folk, both men and women, provided a wide range of magical services to anyone who paid them.  Such services included a wide range of possibilities including healing people and farm animals, recovering lost or stolen goods, protection from witches, curses and evil spirits; gaining love, luck when gambling, and locating hidden treasure.

The book has a whole section on conjuring three angels to perform healing, for protection against witchcraft and other diverse tasks, as well as conjurations to gain a familiar spirit.  There are also numerous simple charms using herbs and apples for particular results like love and control, such as:

To make peace betwixt Enemies Go between men that are at debate having vervain about thee and say Ratifaxat and thou shalt make peace betwixt them.

The incredible spectrum of material in this work, drawing on whatever worked from incense recipes to magic circles, amulets to complex conjurations, demonstrates the pragmatic and eclectic work of the cunning-man and woman, who may perhaps be regarded as the true forefathers and mothers of the modern western esoteric revival.



[1] The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, Rankine, 2011:282.

Angelic Water anyone?

The image of the magician performing complex rituals using numerous tools is a popular one, but many people are less familiar with the wide range of ‘high magic’ rites using only the most simple and basic items, such as a glass off water.

The simple glass of water also has a long history of use as a gateway to the realms of other beings like angels and demons.  Water – the stuff of life, and in many cultures a liminal space, be it at springs, wells, rivers, lakes, etc.  During my research into the grimoires I have found examples for both angels and demons being conjured into a glass of water.  The most recent of these I found when I was working on The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, and I include it below as an example of these simple ‘high magic’ rites:


How to Call the Angels into A Glass of Water

You must have a urinal[1] Or a Crystal Beer or wine Glass very clean washed Then filled iii [3] quarters full of Spring water Then cover it with a paper wherein must be drawn these lines and characters as you see in the figure following. Then having said your prayers devoutly to God for good success in what you undertake. If it be a urinal hold it betwixt your Hands so that your fingers hinder not the light. If it be a Glass you may let it stand on his foot. Then call as followeth. ~

+ Babell + Gabriel + Rochell + Sara + Isaac + Joseph + and + Jacob + I charge you by these holy names of God + Elo + Elo + Goby + Goby + Emanuell + Emanuell + Tetragrammaton + Tetragrammaton + As you shall answer before Jesus Christ at the great and dreadful day of Judgement for to show me all that I shall ask or demand faithfully and truly within this Glass without any delusion or dissimulation I charge you and command you and bind you that you come into this Glass & bring all that do belong unto you for to show me anything that I shall ask or desire that I may plainly behold it with my mortal Eyes.[2]


[1] In this context a bottle.

[2] A similar technique is found in Sloane MS 3824, a contemporary MS. See The Book of Treasure Spirits, Rankine, 2009:156.


The Cosmic Shekinah – Mother of Angels

In my excitement and pleasure at the launch of my new book with Sorita d’Este, The Cosmic Shekinah, I decided to post some snippets to provide a flavour of the diverse material on the Shekinah we have woven together in this work. The first of these looks at the connection between the Shekinah and angels:

Considering the Kabbalistic model of creation as the result of the union of God and the Shekinah, the title of the Mother of Angels becomes entirely appropriate. The angels are the divine messengers (from angelos, ‘messenger’, Greek), and an interesting reference in The Thunder, Perfect Mind emphasises the association between the Wisdom Goddess (as Sophia in this instance) and angels, when she says: “of the angels, who have been sent at my word.”[1] Angels are also described in one of the Merkavah texts as, “Messengers of the Power and Awakeners of the Shekinah”[2]

The Zohar makes reference to the angels being born from the Shekinah, saying, “Its sparks are sparks of fire. Who are the sparks? Those gems and pearls born from that fire.”[3] It is also worth noting that the Shekinah is described as a gem and a pearl in Kabbalistic texts, demonstrating the continuity of association here.

A range of texts mention the connection between the Shekinah and angels, such as the first-third century CE Gedulath Mosheh (The Revelation of Moses), which describes:

“50 myriads of angels stand before him; they are of fire and water, and their faces are directed towards the Shekinah above; and all sing hymns”[4]

Enoch describes his own ascension to heaven in the Book of 3 Enoch, saying that:

“When the Holy One, blessed be He, took me away from the generation of the Flood, he lifted me on the wings of the wind of Shekinah to the highest heaven and brought me into the great palaces of the Arabot Raqia on high, where are the glorious Throne of Shekinah, the Merkavah.”[5]

[1] The Thunder, Perfect Mind, C3rd-C4th CE, Nag Hammadi Texts, trans. George W. MacRae.
[2] Hekhalot Rabbati, VII.154, C3rd-C7th CE.
[3] Zohar 2:114a, C13th CE.
[4] The Revelation of Moses, 9, C1st-C3rd CE, trans. M. Gaster.
[5] 3 Enoch 7:1, C2nd-C6th CE.


During my recent radio interview with Karagan on Treasure Spirits, a very relevant theological point came up, which is known to students of the grimoires, but may not be so widely publicised in the general occult community.

The point was about the fallen angel Lucifer. The perspective sometimes found in the grimoires is that Lucifer is too mighty to be conjured to manifestation unless he wishes to be, and that his role is that allotted to him by God.

From this viewpoint Lucifer then becomes seen not even as a “necessary evil”, but rather an ordained test and challenge. Lucifer is not in this context the devil, he is one of the great powers performing the work of God.

Thus in The Book of Treasure Spirits, the Invocation of Lucifer Beelzebub and Sathan begins:

“O all you Spirits of great power Lucifer Beelzebub Sathan unto whom by orders & offices, as messengers of wrath, & ministers of divine justice, the execution of God’s judgements are committed …”