Cunning Nigromancy: Goetia & ‘Unclean’ Spiritwork in English Folk Magic

In the pre-modern European mindset, there were two main ways one could work with demonic or dangerous spirits: by compelling them with the holy names of God; or bribing them with offerings and devotion, including entering into formal bargains or pacts. Such work was considered highly dangerous to one’s body, mind, and soul – but was also one of the main sources of earthly power outside of elite institutions that was available to the desperate and the needy. The Devil at the crossroads welcomes all.

So it was that the folk magicians, village sorcerers, and “white witches” collectively referred to as cunning-folk – especially those who frequently derived their knowledge and power from questionable spirits – were regarded with both respect and suspicion, if not outright fear. Spirits don’t work for free after all, and who knows what exactly she’s summoning out there…

In this class, contemporary cunning man and historian of magic Dr Alexander Cummins will lead us on an exploration of early modern goetia: from its roots in antiquity and ancient Greek funerary ritual, necromancy, and thaumaturgy; through its denigration as a Black Art of both dodgy nigromancers and fraudulent hucksters in later classical centuries; all the way to the formation of the spirit-list/s of the Goetia of Solomon in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which catalogue various ‘unclean’ entities of an assortment of European traditions of spiritwork.

Along the way we will discuss fallen angels, infernal devils, bogeymen, elementals, tricksters, nymphs, thieving bird people, chimeras, and demonized pagan deities as well as those murder spirits who have just always been murder spirits. We will also consider various historical reports of the conjurations of these unclean spirits. Finally, we will go over some fundamental advice for making wise decisions in proceeding with such dark crafts in one’s own sorcerous work.


Dr Alexander Cummins is a contemporary cunning man and historian. His magical specialities are the dead (folk necromancy), divination (geomancy) and the grimoires. He received his doctorate on early modern magical approaches to the passions. Dr Cummins is the co-editor of the Folk Necromancy in Transmission series for Revelore Press and co-host of Radio Free Golgotha.

His published works include An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke with Phil Legard (Scarlet Imprint, 2020), A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings (Revelore Press, 2018) and The Starry Rubric (Hadean Press, 2012) as well as contributions to collections by both academic and occult publishers on topics including talismanic objects, geomancy, planetary sorcery, cunning-craft, and nigromancy.

Dr Cummins gives classes and workshops online and in person. The Good Doctor’s work and services can be found at

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

See all the events in the series – Dr. Al Cummins English Folk Magic Series