Review of Secrets of East Anglian Magic by Nigel Pennick

Secrets of East Anglian Magic by Nigel Pennick

Secrets of East  Anglian Magic examines the living folklore, known as The Nameless Art, of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex & Cambridgeshire.

As an initiate of this Nameless Art, a long-time resident in Cambridgeshire and the author and illustrator of over 40 books on folklore, paganism and geomancy, Nigel Pennick is ideally suited to bring this oral-tradition into print. In the Nameless Art a written text of the lore is called a Secret Granary, in this context Pennick writes “This book is a published example of the material that might be found in a Secret Granary. The text is a version of the Nameless Art that has a specific origin in the author’s own experience” Some may call this a Book of shadows or a Grimoire, and a quick look at the contents page may confirm this. However, chapters entitled “Traditional Magical Crafts” Magical Items and Paraphernalia” “The Magic of Everyday Life” and “Remedies, Recipes & Spells” do not yield up the expected “ex-boyfriend-into-toad-spell-formula”. When did your favourite media-witch last have a pressing need for a ‘sprite-flail’? (full instructions on page 125).

Furthermore, this Secret Granary begins with an alternative history of theEast Anglia region, the magic is set against an historical context of grinding poverty & witch-hunts, civil disobedience & cultural assimilation.

Pennick emphasises the living, evolving nature of the Nameless Art as being intrinsic in its oral transmission. The East Anglian pantheon bears relation to Norse, yet there are also locally specific deities; Termagant, Wandil of Wandlebury, Tantrabolus and Rantipole. Imported Irish Fairy legends manifest as Anglia-specific Fairises, Yarthkins and Hytersprites. Traditional house decoration is shown as runic in origin.

The text also details a calendar system, directional and temporal compass, human anatomical theories, and herbalism. Mummified cats, witch bottles and witch balls also get a mention.

There seems little doubt that Pennick sees the lore of the Secret Granary as ancient wisdom that has survived into the twentieth century precisely because of its continued practical use. The rite for consecrating agricultural land (page 174 – 175) involves finding the N/S axis of the plot in order to sow the crop into optimum sunlight. Throughout Pennick identifies practical foundations that underlie folk traditions, traditions that have now been all but eradicated, not by maniacal witch-hunts but by the industrialisation of farming & land-management.

This book is fascinating, particularly for anyone living in Anglia, it gives a feeling of continuity and connection to a region that is increasingly being sold off to global shopping conglomerates or enslaved and poisoned by agri-business.


Jean Dark
printed in Libra Aries Books Catalogue

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