Monday, 20 April 2009

Cornish Magic Revisited

As a sequel to last month's post on Cornish witchcraft, I'd like to share some magic from my recent visit to Cornwall, which was enchanting indeed.

One of the highlights was the otherworldly St. Michael's Mount, pictured above. The Cornish counterpart of France's Mont St. Michel, this tidal island can only be reached on foot by a granite causeway during low tide, otherwise one has to go by boat. Legend has it that the rocky promotory received its name when local fishermen received a vision of the archangel Michael hovering over the island. A Benedictine monastery was founded and dedicated to St. Michael, attracting many pilgrims. One can still visit the 15th century chapel.

Over the centuries, the monastery became a military fortress. Held for a time by Royalist supporters in the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians took hold of it in 1646. John St. Aubyn bought the Mount in 1660 and his descendants have been living there ever since. Though still in residence, the St. Aubyns sold the Mount to the National Trust in 1964 and the castle attracts many visitors.

Further down the coast, tucked away behind a hedge not far from the road, I came across one of the numerous holy wells, associated with healing and traditional folk magic from time immemorial. The well pictured below is dedicated to St. Ruan--Cornwall is the only part of England to keep its Celtic saints--although these holy wells most likely have pre-Christian origins. St. Ruan's well was obviously well visited and well tended, a peaceful place to light a candle and spend some time in contemplation.

On the last day of my visit I stopped by the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, a beautiful village set in a rugged cove. More a testament to 20th century Neo-Pagan witchcraft and occultism than the historical witchcraft and magic, it was certainly worth a visit. I can't help thinking, though, that the real magic resides within the landscape itself.

1 comment:

Anita Davison said...

St Michael's Mount is one of my favourite places too as I lived in Cornwall for several years and visited as often as I could. The Witches museum in Boscastle is famous and survived the devastating flood they had a couple of years ago.