"The cunning-man, Ned Kelley"

Edward Kelley and John Dee conjure a spirit, 19th century drawing
Public DomainEdward Kelley and John Dee conjure a spirit, 19th century drawing - Credit: Sibly
A cunning-man or cunning-woman was a person who practised magic and divination professionally. They were not persecuted in the same way as ‘witches’, as they were commonly regarded as useful rather than dangerous or evil. However, religious authorities believed them to be in league with the devil, and their practices were often frowned upon.

 

Ned (Edward) Kelley was a real historical cunning-man, not to be confused with the 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Also known as Edward Talbot, he claimed to be able to commune with spirits and angels by using a crystal ball. He worked with John Dee on various magical experiments, and was completely trusted by him. After his death, Kelley became associated with the figure of the typical charlatan magician.