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.


Who was Arthur Gauntlet?

The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is a fascinating example of a Cunning-man’s book of practice, but who was Arthur Gauntlet? The only known published literary reference to Arthur Gauntlet was by the famous astrologer William Lilly (1602-1681) in his autobiography, written around 1668.[1] The quote from Lilly provides some significant peripheral information which can help us create at least a sketchy picture of Arthur Gauntlet.

“I was very familiar with one Sarah Skelhorn, who had been Speculatrix unto one Arthur Gauntlet about Gray’s Inn Lane,[2] a very lewd fellow, professing physick. This Sarah had a perfect sight, and indeed the best eyes for that purpose I ever yet did see. Gauntlet’s books, after he was dead, were sold, after I had perused them, to my scholar Humphreys: there were rare notions in them. This Sarah lived a long time, even until her death, with one Mrs. Stockman in the Isle of Purbeck, and died about fifteen years since.”[3]

It seems curious that Lilly should describe Sarah Skelhorn (called Sarah Shelborne in the introduction) so positively as such a good seer, and yet be negative about Arthur Gauntlet.  Lilly’s single reference to him as a ‘lewd fellow’ stands out and labels Gauntlet without allowing any opportunity for defence of his character or further consideration. However it is clear from Lilly’s writings that he was quick to denigrate anybody who he felt was not a respectable practitioner of astrology or the magical arts by his standards. I suggest that the fact that Arthur Gauntlet should have such a good speculatrix or seer combined with the heavily angelic and moral nature of Gauntlet’s manuscript may mitigate Lilly’s unqualified negative remark about his character.

We can deduce something more about Arthur Gauntlet through another mention of his name, in MS Laud Misc 19.  This manuscript contains an early ownership inscription of Arthur Gauntlet, and was in William Laud’s possession in 1636.  This manuscript includes a “Treatise, based on and including extracts from Hilton‘s Scale, describing the way of meditation and the mystical experience”.[4]

Considering the nature of Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection offers some revealing insights.  Hilton (c.1343-1396) discusses such topics as the form of spiritual visions and how to induce contemplation through meditation, prayer and Scripture.  The Scale of Perfection was written as an instructional guide for women who had taken vows or committed to a religious life, and as such may have been of interest to, for example, a female skryer such as Sarah Skelhorn.

If we make the tentative assumption that MS Laud Misc 19 passed directly from Arthur Gauntlet’s hands, being sold on after his death, and that it went directly into William Laud’s possession from Gauntlet, then it suggests a date of death around 1636.  That a book containing spiritual material belonging to Arthur Gauntlet should end up in the hands of William Laud (1573-1645) is very interesting.  William Laud was the Bishop of London from 1628-33, and it may be possible that he and Arthur Gauntlet met or even knew each other.  This would provide a possible explanation for why Laud should end up with one of Gauntlet’s books, particularly considering the religious nature of its contents.

There are some clues in the text which suggest that Arthur Gauntlet was a very capable practitioner, who did not just rely on material from earlier sources, or had access to someone else who was.  The magic circles found in this work have some very interesting features which are not seen in other grimoires, and which would seem to be the result of experience being applied.  Thus we see the circles having a larger and more spacious diameter of fourteen foot, not the standard nine foot found in many grimoires drawing on the Heptameron.

It is also significant that in light of his conjurations being largely of angels; Gauntlet uses a second smaller circle for the crystal to be positioned in, and for angelic manifestation.  The shape of this is in contrast to the constraining triangle used with demons found in the Goetia, or the pentagram used with faeries found in Sloane MS 3824.  However a circle would make sense for angels as a perfect shape representing the divine and not seeking to dominate them as one would need to do for demons.

Another interesting feature of this manuscript is that the one magical tool emphasised is the wand.  There is a consecration of a wand given, as well as charms which require the use of a wand.  Considering the emphasis on the sword in many grimoires, this suggests a more practical and simplified approach with a more transportable and inconspicuous tool.

[1] “Wrote by himself in the 66th year of his Age”, The Life of William Lilly, Davies:1774:1.
[2] This street is now called Gray’s Inn Road.
[3] The Life of William Lilly, Davies, 1774:149.
[4] The Index of Middle English Prose Handlist XVI, Ogilvie-Thomson, 2000:1.

The book is available from Amazon, B&N, occult stores and directly from ourselves (with free p&p)

How to live a magical life – Aphorism 39 of the Arbatel

The Arbatel is an excellent text for anyone who ponders the question of ethics and moral behaviour in magic.  For this reason it is not surprising that it should have been translated by Arthur Gauntlet and included in his book of practice, as found in The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet.


There is a sevenfold preparation, That we may learn the Art of Magick.

  1. The first is That we may day and night meditate how one should ascend to the true knowledge of God. As well by the revealed word from the beginning As by the seal of creation and Creatures and by the wonderful effects which visible and invisible Creatures of God do show.
  2. Secondly it is required that a man descend into himself and that he study especially to know himself, what mortal thing he hath in himself and what immortal And what is the property of every part, what the diversity.
  3. Thirdly, that he learn by his immortal part to worship love and fear the Eternal God and to adore him in spirit and truth, And to do those things with his mortal part which he knoweth to be grateful to god and profitable to his neighbour.

These are the three chief and first precept of Magick to which whosoever shall prepare himself, unto true Magick or divine wisdom to the coveting and following of the same that he may be counted worthy the knowledge thereof, whom the Angelical creatures shall obey not only obscurely but also manifestly and face to face.

  1. Fourthly Seeing that everyone is called from the womb of his mother that he should be occupied in a certain kind of life, Therefore it is requisite that everyone should thoroughly know whether he be born into Magick or no And into what kind of Magick which everyone shall perceive which readeth these things and judged them easy and by experience shall find in himself good success. For such and so great gifts are not given but to the poor in Spirit & humble.
  2. Fifthly he must note whether he can perceive the Spirits assisting him manifestly in the greatest businesses that are to be undertaken. Because if he shall find them to be such assistants, It is manifest he is made a Magician by the ordinance of God, that is, such a person which useth the ministry of the spirits unto the effecting of excellent things. But here he may sin, either by negligence or by ignorance, or by contempt, or also by too much superstition. Also he may sin by unthankfullness towards God whereby many excellent men have drawn upon themselves destruction, and he may sin by rashness and stubbornness.  And lastly he may sin when the gifts of God are not had in that honour and esteem as is required and as they ought to be.
  3. Sixthly, A Magician hath need of faith and silence that no secret especially may be made which the spirit revealeth to him as Daniel was commanded to keep secret secrets.[1] For some things are sealed that is not brought forth into public. So neither was it lawful for Paul to utter those things he saw in Revelation.[2] No man would believe how much is placed in this one only precept.
  4. Seventhly, very great righteousness is required in a Magician to come, that is, that he should not undertake anything that is either ungodly, irreligious or unjust, yea that he admit not any such thing into his mind. And by the holy of God he shall be defended from all evil.


[1] Daniel 8:26.

[2] II Corinthians 12:4.

Cunning Magical Rhymes from Arthur Gauntlet

I love manuscripts which surprise me, or remind me of things I had forgotten, or best of all, open up new panoramas to me. The manuscript which forms the basis of my most recent work The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, managed to do all three of these. One of the little engaging surprises was the use of rhyming couplets in some of the charms.
Whilst the use of rhyming couplets has become commonplace in Wicca and Neopagan, people often do not appreciate their earlier use in traditions such as those of British Cunning-folk, who used heavily biblical references for much of their magic. The following charm to return stolen goods is from The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, an early 17th century London cunning-man’s book of practice. An interesting inclusion in the charm is two of the demon bishops, Matherion and Botherion, who are found in other charms in the book, and also in the Folger Vb.26 manuscript (c. 1580). The charm, which is quite extensive, reads as follows:
In Bethlehem was Jesus born
And Christened in the flood Jordan
Between two beasts was he laid
In that shed was neither wolf nor thief
But the blessed Trinity
The self same God that there was born
Defend me and my goods from harm
In the name of the Father And of the Son And of the Holy Ghost Amen
Matthew Mark Luke and John
Four Evangelists all in one
As you write the Trinity
Of our Saviour most truly
My Good which in this Circle be
I wish they might be safe with me
And that such Thieves as will me wrong
Be they weak or be they strong
Matherion before And Botherion behind
So those thieves you do them bind
As St Bartholomow bound the Devil
To defend him from all evil
With the hairs of his grey head
And also eke his hoary beard
So you Thieves see you stand still
As the spindle in the Mill
That from hence you do not start
Until I say you shall depart
By Alpha and Omega height
The first of day the last of night
And by that blessed Trinity
Three in one One in three
See you Angels with me tend
That my goods you safe defend
Until the morrow Morn of day
I bid the Thieves to part away
So Thieves Thieves Thieves stand you still
And be obedient to my will.
Fiat fiat fiat amen.

The popularity of such techniques has endured, as indeed has the magic practised by cunning-folk, or its derivatives. There is still so much to learn from our past!

The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet: Now Available

I am delighted to announce that The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is now available for pre-order from Avalonia. This London Cunning-man’s book of practice has been one of the most rewarding and revealing books I have worked on, and presents a new range of insights into 17th British century magic.

The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is an outstanding example of a seventeenth century London Cunning-man’s book of practice. Cunning-folk were practitioners of magic and herbal medicine who dealt with problems in their local communities. Cunning-man Arthur Gauntlet was based in Gray’s Inn Lane in London, and his personal working book contains a fascinating diverse mixture of herbal remedies, prayers, magical and biblical charms, with previously unseen angelic conjurations and magic circles, in an eclectic blend of practical magic for health, wealth, love and protection.

This unique manuscript demonstrates both the diverse and spiritual nature of such Cunning-folk’s books of practice, as well as their magical emphasis on Biblical scripture, particularly the Psalms, and their opposition to witchcraft, found in charms and conjurations. Arthur Gauntlet worked with a female skryer called Sarah Skelhorn, and drew on numerous preceding sources for his craft, including the Arbatel, the Heptameron, Folger Vb.26, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, the Book of Gold, the writings of the German magus Cornelius Agrippa, the astrologer William Bacon and Queen Elizabeth I’s court astrologer Dr. John Dee, as well as other London Cunning-folk.

In his introduction, the author provides fresh insights into the hidden world of seventeenth century magical London, exploring the web of connections between astrologers, cunning-folk and magicians, playwrights, authors and church figures. These connections are also highlighted by the provenance of the manuscript, which is traced from Arthur Gauntlet through the hands of such notable angel magicians as Elias Ashmole (founder of the world’s first public museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford), Baron Somers (the Lord Chancellor), Sir Joseph Jekyll (Master of the Rolls) and Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum), as well as the astrologer John Humphreys and the cunning-woman Ann Savadge.

This is a unique work which draws attention to the often neglected place of women in seventeenth century magic, both as practitioners (such as skryers and Cunning-women), and customers. It also emphasises the vital and influential role played by Cunning-Men and Women in synthesising and transmitting the magical traditions of medieval Britain into the subsequent centuries, as well as their willingness to conjure a wide range of spiritual creatures to achieve results for their clients, including angels, demons, fairies, and the dead.