‘Cunning Histories: privileging narratives in the present’

Cornish, Helen. 2005. ‘Cunning Histories: privileging narratives in the present’. History and Anthropology, 16(3), pp. 363-376. ISSN 0275-7206 [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

Examining contemporary British witchcraft necessitates representing its historical context, currently a highly contested arena. Both magical practitioners and scholars have heavily critiqued the “orthodox” histories of unbroken lines of tradition reaching back to the distant past that were prevalent in the early to mid‐twentieth century. However, continuities of knowledge and skills based on the practices of rural cunning folk and folk magic continue to be mobilized by some practitioners as a way of connecting to ideas about the past, a narrative that is also critiqued by others. What is at stake is not only the conflicting foundational histories for contemporary witchcraft, but the ways in which the same textual and material evidence is deployed to substantiate competing accounts: they hinge on the ways evidence is contextualized. Interrogating “context” is not limited to the histories we aim to represent, but is embedded within anthropological writing and knowledge.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



History, Context, Witchcraft, Cunning folk, Museum of Witchcraft

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Jun 2015 09:12

Last Modified:

16 Jun 2017 11:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



Edit Record Edit Record (login required)