Book Club: The Preface

NOTE ON THIS RECAP: For those reading along at home, first names are given for members of the Executive Board; all others are referred to by first initial. Unless within quotation marks, all notes represent a paraphrasing of what was said, not a direct quotation. I’m taking notes as we discuss and I’m not a court reporter!

Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, by Emma Wilby. Preface: pp viii-xv.

Opening Question: Have people read this before?

Kate: Wilby is looking at these witch trials as an indigenous shamanism that was being stamped out, more than continental witchcraft

Cat: Seems reasonable, Christianity stamping out competition

Kate: moving into industrialization, Early Modern Period

Cat: historical reference timeline plz?

Aleja: I probably can. 


Kate: Cultural shift in Britain causing these folks to be targeted.  Different from the continental trials.

Kate: First part is infodump original research, second part is a literature review, third is drawing comparisons and conclusions.  We’ll want to take a close look at part 3 to see if we agree, from our perspectives.  Will come back to the trial in the prologue throughout.

Agreed to do one chapter at a time (plus intro) for part 1 and part 3, but will do part 2 all together in one month.  Can adjust our speed as we go along.

K: Is Tom actually a human spirit, or a fairy?

Aleja: Likely both.  Morgan Daimler says:

Fairies and the Dead:

Fairies, Human Dead, and Nature Spirits Venn Diagram:

Aleja: Also, Bessie Dunlop refuses to do this:

Selling your soul to the fairies:

Aleja: And the Fairyland/Fairy court at the time would have been understood to be the Seelie, as it was seen pretty black/white, in regards to their attitudes towards humans.

Cat: The book appears to have a good index.

Kate: Don’t forget to read the endnotes.

L: Profs and Pints did a thing on Witch Trials

Kate: We could ask for slides, or maybe they’ll do it again and we’ll share the event post to the Fellowship page.

Not a lot to be discussed in the transcript since it’s going to be discussed in depth later, but does anyone have any questions?

Kate: Text is modernized but still odd or uncertain in places.

Cat: Important to keep in mind that this is a modernization of a 19th century copy of a handwritten record, likely written by the interrogators themselves – not exactly a solid primary source.

K: Question, 3 babies died or 1 baby mentioned 3 times

Aleja: 1 baby, 3 times

K: (kinda triggering)

Cat & Kate: some of this is going to be hard to read, it gets graphic, and may be triggering for some

Kate: take it in context.  Some people find these folks callous or unsympathetic, but

[crosstalk about big families, survival, subsistence farming turning into talk about the American Academic calendar, Kate’s personal experiences, cultures who don’t name children until they’re a few years old. Discussion of feudalism as compared to the widening wage gap in America, violent revolution that follows inequality and famine, the movie “Gangs of New York”, life expectancy sped everything up.]

Aleja: actually, marriage still close to 18 most of the time because of the timing of the onset of puberty.  Not as early as it is now.  Super young marriages pretty much only betrothals, only the upper class.

Kate: Oh, interesting, sources for further study?

Aleja: Sure thing!

Turns out, the sources I remember from college are either deep in books or behind a paywall, but there’s actually a decent discussion of this on Wikipedia:

[More discussion on farm life, then and now, misconceptions, gender bias, women doing “men’s work”.  Changing gender roles and beauty standards, to imitate wealth.]

1 thought on “Book Club: The Preface”

  1. Pingback: Book Club: Intro to Part One, and Ch. 1 – The Fellowship Beyond the Star

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