A Devon Cunning Man

Charms and spells


The Hemp Seed Ritual, to find out who you will marry - Somerset
A woman should go into the garden or churchyard at midnight, throw hemp seed over her shoulder and recite:

Hemp-seed I scatter
Hemp-seed I sow;
He that is my true love
Come after me and mow.

Then the woman must glance once over her shoulder to see her intended with a scythe over his shoulder, then she should run home as fast as possible and not look back again or her legs would be cut off!
(Davies, A People Bewitched 1999)

A Love Charm
This written charm was found in England during the mid-nineteenth century. As well as the following formula, the charm also contained a magic square and planetary symbols. It was wrapped in linen along with some finger and toe nail parings, and stitched up in a silk cover. The little package had to be worn in the left armpit (Reliquary vol. 10; Mackenzie, Incantations, p. 14).

Susan Lebway to draw the affections of Theobald Young to herself, so that he shall never have any rest or peace until he do return unto her, and make her his lawful wife. Let the spirits of the planets continually torment him until he do fulfil this, my request; Cossiel Lachiel Samuel Michail Araiel Rhaphail Gabriel, I continually stir up his mind thereto. Fiat fiat fiat cito cito cito. Amen


Protection against witchcraft, evil spirits and thieves
Known as the 'Paracelsian Charm', this formula has to be written down and then secreted on one's person or above the doorways of buildings (see Davies, Cunning-folk, pp. 150-52),

Omni Spiritones laudent Dominum
habentu Mosa et Prophetores
Excugat Deus et dissipentur
Manu segas amori.
Fiat. Fiat. Fiat.

Charm against witchcraft
Conjuror Humphries of Taunton penned this charm in the mid nineteenth century. It cost half-a-crown and was used to cure the child of a woman named Bull. It consisted of the following passage poorly written on a scrap of paper [Davies, A People Bewitched, p. 61,]

In the name of the father son X and holy Ghost fiat Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from Evil fiat and from henceforth let no man nor Woman trouble me for I bear on my body the X Mark of the Lord Jesus X fiat omnis spiritu Laudet Dominum mosem habe Prophet Exerget Deum dissiparinter Inimicos 17171X Holy and blessed Jesus X save me and deliver me from my Afflictions and my enemies and trobles and thy blessed named shall have the honor and praise Amen.

This was endorsed "Female, 17171X", followed by a triangle, a circle with a dot in the centre, and a smaller circle with a cross below. The paper was put in a calico bag and placed upon the sick girl's chest.

Ailments and afflictions

For Warts
There are many cures for warts, and some involve the utterance of simple rhymes, such as the following from Somerset (Tongue, Somerset Folklore, p. 43):

One, two, three
Warts go away from me,
One, two three four,
Never come back no more

For Toothache
The following is a nineteenth-century Welsh version of an archaic and widespread formula for toothache. To be effective it had to be written down by a charmer and kept on the person of the sufferer (NLW MS 6729B; Davies, 'Healing Charms', p. 22).

A vers to ease the Tooth ake
Petter lying by the Gates of
Jerusalem, Serving greiff and
Jesus came by and said why dost
thou lye hear vexing greiff.
Petter answered and said my teeth
doth ake So that I can not Take care, no rest nor Sleep. Jesus said
thy health I will give thee
and to all that carry these lines
In the name of the Father
And, Son and Holy Ghost.

For the bite of an adder
From nineteenth-century Devon (Davies, 'Healing Charms', p. 26):

Blessing for Sting. - Ader, Ader, Ader; Lay under a Stone or Hole, he hath done this beast wrong 1 fold, 2 fold, 3 fold, in the name of the Father, of the Son, so let this sting pass away from this wretched verment if the Lord please. Amen.


The author accepts no responsibility for the efficacy or otherwise of any of the above spells or charms.


@ Owen Davies 2003

Updated 22 September 2003