First, the name of the site. - The Cunning Craft
I have never thought of myself as a 'witch' of any persuasion. I recognise the importance and significance of Gerald Gardner for breathing new life into an old way of life, but I'm certainly no wiccan!
I am more drawn to the 'traditional witchcraft' of Robert Cochrane, Even John Jones, and the Clan of Tubal Cain, but have my own misgivings, which I'd sooner not go into here.
Quite naturally I am drawn to the now famous fellow Essex magician Andrew Chumbley and have managed to acquire copies of most of his works. (Still awaiting the arrival of The Dragon Book of Essex) But since his departure from this world I've not really kept up with the releases of 'Three Hands Press' which, along with Xoanon, is the only real source of information of the works of the Cultus Sabbati (although I love the term Sabbatic craft!)
There is however an Essex character I am certainly drawn to, especially as he was born, lived and died only a few miles form me. James 'cunning' Murrell, was a truly fascinating man!
The following article has been borrow from 'Time-Travel Britian'and is by Sue Kendrick
(When I borrow articles i'll always credit and add a link to original at the end.)
If you think witch doctors lived only in remote regions of darkest African, then you obviously haven't visited the county of Essex and heard the tales of "Cunning Murrell."
Dubbed the last witch doctor in England, James Murrell was born in 1812 in the village of Hadleigh, just inland from the coastal town of Southend-on-Sea. He was the seventh son of a seventh son, which is said to confer the gift of second sight. A secretive man who travelled only by night, he was a skilled astrologer and herbalist and was often seen collecting plants by the light of the moon and suspending them from the rim of his umbrella.
It was his astrological knowledge that elevated Murrell to the status of a true "cunning man", rather than the more usual hedge witch, wizard or conjuror. Frequently of good education, cunning men (or woman) were thought to practise a form of high magic and ritual largely unknown amongst their more lowly peers. Their knowledge of traditional herbal-based medicine was generally extensive and in some cases ran parallel to orthodox medicine. Whether James Murrell had any formal medical training is unknown, but his skill as a herbalist was legendary.
Like most of his kind, his skills were not confined to humans, but were also dispensed to the animal kingdom. In fact, most cunning men were called upon to treat sick animals as often as their human counter parts. After all, in an age where the death of a pig could spell starvation or at the least a very lean winter, the life of a one child too many often carried less weight than that of the family's main food supply.
Murrell's talents, however, extended far beyond those of simple herbal cures. He had a mirror that had the useful attribute of being able to locate lost or stolen property, while his magic telescope allowed him to see through walls -- which came in very useful should an enquirer suspect his wife of unfaithfulness. The copper bracelet he wore on his wrist had perhaps the most useful function of all: the power to detect dishonest men. No doubt it contributed much to Cunning Murrell's material success.
These were by no means the extent of James Murrell's talents. He often referred to himself as the Devil's Master and claimed to be an adept at exorcising spirits, lifting curses and chastising witches. His witch bottles were well known and were used in conjunction with nail parings, blood, urine and hair. His success at dealing with witches who worked on the dark side was legendary.
One case involved a young girl who barked like a dog and was said to be cursed by a gypsy woman. Murrell made up a witch bottle, which was heated at midnight until it exploded. The next morning, it is claimed, the girl was cured and the charred body of the gypsy was found face down in her campfire.
True to form, James Murrell foretold his death to the day, dying on the 15th of December, 1860. His grave lies unmarked in Hadleigh churchyard."
Acknowledgement - http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/history/cunning.shtml
Personally I'd love nothing more than to find his grave and give it a proper gravestone!