The Cunning Wīf is the project and moniker of Heidi Hall, a South Central Appalachian witch, polytheistic animist, and amateur folklorist. She worships local Gods, as well as some Gods first worshiped in Europe, and attends to the spirits of her ancestors, her household, and others she meets. Her folk witchcraft is comprised of divination, spirit journeying, and magical work inspired by folk traditions and lore.
To be cunning means to know, to be subtly shrewd. It suggests knowledge of things beneath the surface and an aptitude for submerging oneself beneath that surface. Wise women skilled in many forms of magical practice in Scandinavia were called “Fjollkunnigrkonar,” full-cunning women. The cunning folk of Britain in the early modern period were similarly natural and magical specialists: herbalists, spirit workers, witch doctors, fortune tellers, and more. While the word “wife” now indicates a married woman, the oldest known ancestor of the word is wīf, pronounced “weef” and simply meaning “lady.” To be a cunning wīf, then, is to be a woman who delves deeply into mystery and rolls up her sleeves to work with it.
The modern English word window stems from the Proto-Germanic vind-auga, “wind-eye.” Windows are openings, breaks in barriers that let in light and give us a view of the world beyond our immediate surroundings. Like doors, they are liminal spaces that grant us perception and communion from a distance. They are the eyes of structures.
Wind is invisible to us but always, to some degree, present. It is similar with other spirits: they are always with us, though we may not always perceive them. Work with and for spirits requires sensitive perception, and my work here is a window into my own experiences, practices, and beliefs.
This is a space for looking more closely and considering more carefully that which surrounds us — both what we can see and what we can’t — and discerning our place and our roles within the greater web of existence. Where do we belong? Who or what moves among us, just out of mundane eyesight? How can we build better relationships, which is the foundation of power? These are the kinds of questions that this blog explores. I hope you’ll explore them with me.