You're no more witch than I was. We are the cunning ones.
— Petrus to Tituba

A Cunning one[1] is a person with the knowledge and power to affect change by supernatural means without resorting to Witchcraft. A cunning person can be either female or male, as they connect themselves with the elements and forces of nature in order to practice magic.


Someone with enough cunning craft to counter ours
and obscure their faces from our vision.
— Mary Sibley

People versed in secret knowledge and forms of positive magic are considered cunning and powerful, hence the historical name of cunning folk widespread in English-speaking areas. Contrary to witches, who obtain their power from demonic forces and practice Maleficium, cunning people do not receive their powers from demons, nor do they worship the Devil. While every person appears to have a connection to the supernatural forces of the universe, Cunning people must rely upon natural sources of power from which to draw upon in order to perform effective spells and other feats of magic. The knowledge of the virtues of herbs and roots, as well as the use of talismans, psalms, and prayers, are additional resources to the practice of the by default called "Natural Magic," or "Cunning craft," which also includes remedies and cures for common ailments.

Throughout the Salem series

To Be Added

Notable Cunning persons

A list of Cunning people skilled enough in the practice of magic that is not linked to Maleficium, or other satanic teachings. The most powerful Cunning ones appeared so far are also Seers.

Character Description Status
Petrus was a cunning man and a very powerful Seer, respected by the witches of Salem. Driven by personal agenda, he worked with both witches and Native Americans Dead
Tituba S03 Official Photoshoot.jpg
After having swallowed Petrus' eyes, Tituba got the power of vision. In the words of Petrus she is no more witch than he was but is now one of the cunning ones. Unknown
Unidentified magic practitioners
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Dollie Trask
One of Mercy Lewis' followers, showed decent magical abilities during rituals practiced with her companions under the guidance of Mercy. Dead
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Mercy's acolytes
The gang of outcast showed some magical feats, showing an affinity for magic, although driven by the thrill of transgression rather than witch-like intent. Dead


  • Cunning people are alternatively called magicians, white witches or wizards, but the terms "cunning folks" or "cunning ones" are used academically and also by today's practitioners of various forms of Contemporary Witchcraft. Cunning person and Cunning ones are the terms used in the show, both on screen and on behind the scenes videos.
  • During an interview for ColliderVideos, Adam Simon discussed different topics, including "Magic vs Counter-magic and the history of it all," giving an interesting insight about Cunning ones: [2]

"This goes back to the issue about magic versus counter-magic. One of the most interesting things I discovered in researching on the whole realm of Witchcraft and magic. In what's called the Early Modern period. Not the Middle Ages, but not us. But let's say the 16th century. 17th century. Even to the 18th century. There was this whole realm of people who were not called witches but were called cunning men or cunning women. Who existed throughout this world and who basically were the people you'd go for all kinds of minor medical problems; or to find something you had lost. Or to ensure that your son or daughter had a good marriage. They were kind of a combination of a doctor, an advisor and a shrink and all kinds of things. There was a whole subculture of basically magic that was bubbling up. The thing interesting is this: Everybody in this world believed in magic. The only kind of magic that was even explicitly against the law was "Malice." Which was, for a while, the original title of the show before we settled "Salem" was a better and clear title. Malice is the type of magic that is used to harm someone. That was illegal and punishable by death. In part, because it implied a deal with the Devil. Every other kind of magic was being used. Everybody from the lowest to the highest in that world was having recourse to magic."

  • "Secret of Salem: The Seer" is an interview with actor Christopher Berry, who portrayed Petrus in the TV series. In reference to cunning craft, Berry said: [1]

"A cunning man, which is an actual thing from early Middle Ages up to the 18th century. They were who you'd come to if you wanted a love spell, let's say. Or if you want to combat a witch, or find a witch you would consult a cunning person to help you identify them."

  • Whilst everyone has the ability to cast spells and perform other feats of magic, witches seem to have more knowledge and understanding of the supernatural forces that permeates the universe. Having sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for powers, witches are able to perform much more powerful works of sorcery than the average person. Despite they are not witches, Cunning ones are shown to be very powerful and skilled at magic, especially what concerns herbalism and the practice of divination, although the latter may be due to the fact that the most powerful Cunning ones shown so far were also Seers.
  • It is not known if Cunning ones resort to personal emotions to fuel their power, similar to witches that use pain and lust for Witchcraft. As a matter of fact, their skills are similar to those of the witches, as they are able to perform spells and rituals.
  • Historically, Cunning folks were rural healers, folk magicians or "white witches," who provided services of midwifery, fortune-telling, healing spells for the cattle or common ailments, as well as love spells, curses, and hexes.


See Also

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