The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet
A 17th century London Cunning-man's book of charms, conjurations and prayers
Edited by David Rankine
|Publisher:||Avalonia Books 2011|
Reviewed by Frater U.I.F.
During the Renaissance, the witch persecution and hysteria that had started in the Medieval era, was still alive and well in England. One group of practitioners who managed to avoid this persecution time and time again was the Cunning-folk. these common men and women practiced ceremonial Magick, divination and alternative medicine their tradition, which began before the 15th century, continues to this day by people who use folk magick to assist other people in need. While the church and state were both on a rampage to eradicate witches and witchcraft, clearly antagonistic to esoteric practices, the Cunning-folk always managed to remain untouched by the authorities. the practice of Magick in any form was illegal and for a time punishable by death. the general opinion was that witches were malefic and did nothing but cause harm, yet the cunning-folk practiced only works that were helpful to others. this public opinion, in addition to the willingness of the cunning-folk to modify their practices, ensured the continued and open existence of this ancient tradition.
These Cunning-men and Cunning-women were called upon by the populace to solve innumerable problems. those with family issues, lost jewelry, sickness, want of love or any other such need would call upon the Cunning-folk to provide a solution, or ask them to do work in their favor to increase wealth, health and happiness. As these practitioners were requested to assist in such a variety of problems, they were diligent in recording large collections of spells, charms and recipes. the range of styles and methods used in this tradition is staggering, and it is a great boon to have a compilation of this material in our possession today.
The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet is a "17th century London Cunning-man's book of charms, conjurations and prayers" as the sub-title describes. It contains many wonderful examples of planetary, zodiacal, spiritual and other workings. this is not a "complete system" type of Grimoire. In contrast it is an amalgam of many different systems and includes material from the Heptameron, the Arbatel, the writings of Agrippa and others. It is also quite heavily laden with Christian overtones, quoting the Psalms quite heavily as ritual text and calling upon the various names of God in both Christian and other Abrahamic traditions.
David Rankine, the editor of this volume, has done an incredibly detailed job of introducing this set of source materials. His introduction covers a background on the cunning-folk tradition and several well known practitioners. It also compares this manuscript with several other source documents and outlines the history of the Grimoire itself including its ownership over the centuries. the book is filled with copies of the sigils, symbols and written notes from the original source documents and manuscripts which contribute much to understanding the text in general. Such a well documented and wonderfully presented work is a treasure to anyone who is passionate about the Grimoire Tradition.