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Knowledge is Power: a Look at the Cunning-Folk


In the early modern age a number of individuals lived in England. These people claimed supernatural powers such as being able to heal, catch thieves, discover treasure, and cause love between people. The villagers who witnessed them thought that these individuals knew more about the world around them than anyone else, or that they possessed secret or hidden knowledge. Therefore, the term “Cunning-Folk” was applied to them. The reactions to the Cunning-Folk were varied, some actively sought their help, others condemned them for being in league with the devil. Regardless, this group would influence modern society because of the very reactions aimed against them.

Den of Thieves

Cunning folk provided an enormous amount of services to the people of England. For example, their use of thief detection. Cunning folk claimed that with their magic powers they could find lost or stolen goods and return them to their rightful owners. The problem was that more often than not an overeager Cunning-Folk would finger the wrong person. However, the more shrewd Cunning-Folk would coast by on their reputation. Interestingly, their were instances where if someone publicly claimed they were going to a Cunning-Folk to find something stolen, this would prompt the thief to secretly return what they stole to prevent magical torture.

Love’s Labors

Another service Cunning-Folk offered regarded love, sex, marriage, and childbirth. One of the major trades a Cunning-Folk offered were charmed meant to keep someone’s spouse either faithful or to prevent them from being physically abusive. A more practical service they offered was abortion. In many cases a Cunning-Folk would use herbs or various concoctions for that purpose. Not only that, but Cunning-Folk would also provide charms for obtaining one’s true love. Several of these services would most likely be popular with their female clientele.

Hi-Ho, Off To Work We Go

For the more financially minded, Cunning-Folk were treasure hunters. They would use all manner of tools of the trade to find treasure: dowsing rods, spirit conjuration, you name it! Mostly, they would come up empty. However, either the very crafty or very lucky Cunning-Folk would dig into a bronze age burial mound and strike rich. Cunning-Folk would usually make references to searching in these mounds when they would mention that the treasure was guarded by the fairies.

Witches Fighting Witches?

However, probably the most popular job for the Cunning-Folk was healing, but in most cases it involved anti-bewitchment. Cunning-Folk in general were usually called when it seemed that doctors could do nothing to help a patient. At that point the Cunning-Folk would examine the patient for witchcraft. The examination of urine happened to be a popular method back then. Once witchcraft was identified the Cunning-Folk would use different measures to defeat the witch. Sometimes it involved confronting the witch in person, which would result in several ways, a trial or bloodshed were two. A less risky way was for Cunning-Folk to use sympathetic magic, magic that involved representation (aka like effects like) as a means of attacking the witch from a distance and torturing her to release her spell. Cunning-Folk would use several different methods, written charms, herbal remedies, elaborate rituals, as a means of curing their patient. It was because of this practice in particular that many people made the distinction between Cunning-Folk and Witches.

Services Rendered

Below is a link to a map that shows instances of Cunning-Folk performing certain services

Red= Anti-Bewitchment

Blue= Thief Detection

Green= Treasure Hunting

Pink= Love Magic

Purple= Cunning-Folk reportedly hired to bewitch


Crime and Punishment

However, not all were happy with the Cunning-Folk. The clergy, for example, saw their use of magic as evil and a moral stigma on society. Traditionally, the law did not get involved until a Cunning-Folk managed to disrupt the social order. This usually happened during suits of defamation brought by the victims of the Cunning-Folk’s accusations of witchcraft or thievery. In fact, the problem with social order got so out of hand that four witchcraft acts were passed in 1542, 1562, 1604, and 1735 respectively.

 Web of Crime

This link leads to instances where cunning folk were put on trial for their actions

Red: Non-Specific

Blue: Thief Detection

Purple: Bewitchment

Green: Treasure Hunting

Light Blue: Divination

Yellow: No Punishment



For further evidence I also present these two charts

This one is a comparison of the Recorded Witch Trials in England to the Recorded Witch Trials in Four Other European Countries.

While England had a substantial amount of Witchcraft trials they pale in comparison to a few other countries, Germany in particular.


This particular graphy shows the ebb and flow of Witchcraft Trials in England from the late 16th century the the late 17th century.

If you look closely, the spikes in the graph almost coincide with the Witchcraft Acts. Also a possible reason for a dip at the end of the graph is the coming Age of Enlightenment.


While many officials cracked down on the Cunning-Folk, many of the more common people saw them as a benefit for society. They appeared well learned, knowledgeable people who were able to handle their problems for a small fee. In fact, taking a look at Heinreich Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettensheim’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, which was a tool used by some Cunning-Folk, you would find many scientific (aka knowledgeable) and benevolent terms of that day and age used.


What’s the Point?

So, how exactly did the Cunning Folk influence the progress of society. Well, the evidence states that there were a large amount of people paying attention to them, but an even more telling piece of evidence could be the chart below.


The Cunning-Folk lived at a time when Theology, Philosophy, Science, and Magic were all the same discipline. By simply plying their trade they sparked debate and controversy among several people of that age from all walks of life. The result of that debate contributed to the separation of all of these disciplines into their current form today.

Works Cited

“Bideford Witch Trial.” Wikipedia. 6/23/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Bury St. Edmund Witch Trials.” Wikipedia. 11/5/12. Web. 12/18/12

Davies, Owen. Cunning Folk: Popular Magic in English History. London: Hambledon and London, 2003. Print.

“Northamptonshire Witch Trials.” Wikipedia. 5/1/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Pendle Witches.” Wikipedia. 12/15/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Samlesbury Witches.” Wikipedia. 12/3/12. Web. 12/18/12

“St Osyth Witches.” Wikipedia. 10/10/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Witchcraft Acts.” Wikipedia. 11/28/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Witches of Belvoir.” Wikipedia. 9/9/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Witches of Warboys.” Wikipedia. 12/17/12. Web. 12/18/12

“Witch Trials in the Early Modern Period.” Wikipedia. 12/6/12. Web. 12/18/12

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The New Movable Type

The Monk’s Writing Desk

Monk Writing

Creating programs is a very interesting and complex process. However, the means of writing these programs seem very familiar. In order to write any program, the author of that program must know the language of that program in order for it to have any significance. Also, writing the program itself can be a relatively long and arduous process. This practice is fairly reminiscent to the activities of the monks of the 10th to 11th centuries. At this time the monks had to be literate, not only in the vernacular, but in Latin as well. However, it also helped if the monk was fluent in other languages, in order to translate foreign works. Then these monks created copies of these works by hand. Just like the creation of new programs from scratch, the monks work could be considered long and arduous.

From Handwritten to Printed

Movable Type

If programming is the modern form of the monks work, then what are the equivalents of programs like Scratch? I would have to say movable type. Scratch has in its system a set of minor programs that do not usually do things on their own. However, when combined together they created a larger more meaningful program. Also, just like movable type, these programs can be mixed and matched to form more relevant sequences. In my opinion, such a system could potentially be filled with a few flaws, for example, if one of the minor programs is itself of balance it could ruin the entire larger program. However, I see a great deal of potential in this new movable type.

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Preserving the Metaphysical

Scarcity or Abundance?

Roy Rosenzweig in his article reveals a growing problem in the field of historical preservation. The problem itself is twofold, first the media on which we record data is becoming less and less substantial, and second, while this may be a good thing for our new era the overabundance of information makes documenting it that much harder. In my humble opinion if we were to solve one problem several options would open to solve the other.

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The Process of Research

Google Ngram Viewer

The tool I find most interesting for this week is the google ngram viewer because with it you can view the trend of research on certain subjects. However, what I find truly interesting is by studying the usage of certain word you can learn about individual cultural attitudes.

The Data

One thing I tried to do was to look up different terms for individual cunning folk.

Comparison of the Usage of Different Terms for Individual Cunning Folk<1800-2000

Just from a brief glance at the data it would seem that Wise Man, Conjurer, and Wizard were the most popular terms from 1600-1800. It would also seem that since Wise Man is the most popular of these terms men were mentioned more as cunning folk then women at this time. Of course this is mostly speculation.

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Gettysburg: A Comparison

The Gettysburg Powerpoint

The Gettysburg Powerpoint is an excellent satire on the format of powerpoint in the field of academic discourse. It reveals that powerpoint has actually set back the academic discourse a great deal.


  1. Revealing what the Gettysburg address would have looked like in powerpoint. In essence, it emphasizes only the key concepts without any sense of nuance.
  2. Placing the actual speech at the end, therefore contrasting the two practices.


The Gettysburg Powerpoint reveals the fallacy of the powerpoint format. Powerpoints sacrifice the beauty and nuance of speech for the efficiency of a business proposal.

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The Beauty of Feltron Reports

The Feltron Report

When looking at this particular Feltron Report, two things had an enormous impression on me. First, I was impressed the amount of detail and research that went into producing this work, and second, how easily the information can be read due to the use of charts and graphs. For example in this particular link one can gain so much information with merely a momentary glancing at the subject.

The Importance

These charts reveal something revolutionary in the field of historical research. With technology we can compile and organize data much more efficiently. Not only that, but with this system of charts and graphs data and findings becomes more accessible. With the advent of the internet and the use of data charts, the study of history becomes a more widespread project.

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A Window to the Past


The history of map-making has been integral to the recording of history since the institution was established. While written accounts are quite telling, a map provides visual information that reveals the greatest concentration of the historical subject. Map-makers at the time probably used these techniques to discover problems within their own communities. This also applies to warfare, a map can make all the difference in any battle strategy. In short, maps are integral to human society.

The Evolution of the Map

When looking into the Hypercities website, I thought about how much the use and creation of maps has evolved. Now, all that is needed is a series of digital photos to create an accurate map. However, what I found most interesting about the site was it’s ability to overlay more historical maps, so that the viewer can get a greater feel for historical events at that time, and see the differences in the advancement of that particular city.


With this type of technology, comparing and contrasting historical information will become much easier to accomplish. Also, by putting it up on the internet, this information will become more accessible to the general populace.

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A Google of Complexities


Originally, Google was merely a search engine. However, as time went on more and more tools were added to the Google Family. With this in mind it is now possible to find anything you could want on Google websites.

The Tools

Google Docs

Google Docs is an amazing tool to use. Not only can you write a document on the internet, but you can instantaneously share it with everyone in the project. It makes the process of group writing simpler, which could lead to easier crowd-sourcing.

Google Chart Wizard

From what I can tell, the chart wizard is an incredibly detailed device. Not only does it allow for easier chart building, but the amount of details is astounding!

The Globe

Google Maps, Google Earth, and the KML rendering result in a greater accuracy in the field of image rendering. With the right modifications, it is easy to get an appropriate scale of the object being observed.

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Hacker’s Justification

The End Justifies the Means

“I asked Phobia why he did this to me. His answer wasn’t satisfying. He says he likes to publicize security exploits, so companies will fix them. He says it’s the same reason he told me how it was done. He claims his partner in the attack was the person who wiped my MacBook. Phobia expressed remorse for this, and says he would have stopped it had he known.”

Instead of focusing on anything technical when I worked on this blog regarding security, I decided that I was going to focus more on possible hacker psycology. The subject is of course the hacker Phobia. From what I see here, what he wants to do is basically show the flaws in security systems. In order to do this he worked his way into Mat Honen’s twitter account by means of impersonating him and using several round about tactics to get into his Apple account, which allowed him access to every other account of Mat Honen. It would seem that being able to get into a person’s account is a lot easier than most would think and this certainly did reveal security flaws in Apple’s system. However, was it worth it?

The Cost

Most of Mr. Honen’s life was on his network. As he mentioned pictures of his realitives and pictures of the first year of his daughter’s life were on there. Because Phobia tried to prove a point Mr. Honen almost lost an incredible amount of precious data and memories. Phobia’s cause did indeed seem righteous, however, it was probably not worth nearly erasing so many memories of a single human being.

Phobia’s Response

What was unusual was Phobia’s response to these questions. Mat Honen relates that when he had a live chat with Phobia he stated “‘yea i really am a nice guy idk why i do some of the things i do,” he told me via AIM. “idk my goal is to get it out there to other people so eventually every1 can over come hackers.'” Phobia’s reasoning for attack Honen was so that he could help people overcome Hackers, but he also said he doesn’t know why he hacks sometimes. Maybe, Phobia has way too much time on his hands, maybe Phobia sees himself as sort of a vigilante fighting other hackers by revealing their secrets. What is unusal is that the way he rationalizes it, he feels remorse, but he essentially feels like he is doing a good thing. Well, it probably didn’t feel that way to Mat Honen.

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All’s Fair in Love and War

Dangerous Waters

Fair Use is by far the area that is the most difficult to traverse in the world of information. Fair Use has been used on the internet for many different pieces of information, however, finding what constitues fair use could be as difficult as traversing a minefield. First, there is no standard law that defines Fair Use, so we’re already in a tricky area. Second, the definition of what constitutes Fair Use is “fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright” (Cohen). Even then we run into some problems, because even if one were to follow this definition, there is still a possibility that one could unknowingly commit copyright infringement.

The Bare Bones

Factors That Constitute Fair Use:

  1. “’The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes’ (nonprofit educational uses are more likely to be fair as are those involving criticism, commentary, and parody);” (Cohen).
  2. “’The nature of the copyrighted work’ (uses of creative and unpublished works are less likely to be fair; uses of factual, published, and out-of-print works are more likely to be fair);” (Cohen).
  3. “’The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole’ (the smaller and less “central” the portion used, the more likely it is to be fair);” (Cohen).
  4. “’The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work’ (using out-of-print works and works for which there is no permissions market is more likely to be fair)” (Cohen).

Order and Chaos

While the above factors do give us an idea of what constitues fair use, we are still in the midst of a chaotic premise. Essentially, even if a document fits one of these categories, it could still be considered copy right infringement based on whether or not it violates any of the other factors.

Knowledge is Key

The Fair Use system may seem daunting, but that is why it is worthy of study. By studying the conditions of Fair Use in conjuction with your own project, it is possible to avoid any legal mishaps. This system in of itself could be the best for the free exchange of ideas.

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