Thursday, 15 December 2016



Divine heavenly host
Sent from above
Beyond the veil of dreams
Helena, ghostly instiller of beauty
In this green and beautiful
Valley, whence
The quicksilver river flows -
Camel of the west
Great snaking river
Moving through the
Sacred enclosure
Of your divine intervention
Landscape Sovereign of
Ancient place
The elbowed river
Travelling towards the north
Silver-singing artery of life
Running from the misty upland moor
To Atlantic rollers crashing
Against the massive darkened
Sea-stained craggy serrated cliffs
This secret celestial valley
Sanctified, soft and peaceful
Hidden site of blissful repose
Fed by the old straight track
From other places, abodes and realms
Lady of dreams
Light up the morn with
Your ancient light
Oh Lady of sunrise
Goddess of sunset
Take us to your eternal home
The secret space from
Whence you perpetually reside
By the flowing river, where the reindeer hide
In your esoteric time-spun enclosure
At the edge of the wild gorse-tangled upland
Of the arcane sea-clad Celtic fringe!
Holy Helena, treasure seeker
Truth inspirer, love desirer
Nature's finest resurrection
Autumn leaves glow introspection
Natural spirit come to me
Eternal quester, confider, jester
Nature's soul-womb eternally,
Quietly found in this
Iconic medieval landscape
By mill and trackway
You travel by half-light
Manifesting through dreams
Where once you were queen
O'er the bridge which spans
Your waterway bright
Sylvan spirit
Light of light!
The cosmic dance of river flow
Elfin track and wind strewn rain
Find us, teach us
Take us back
From whence you came -
Our landscape lady Elen ran
Through the ancient roads where life began.
Oh Helland Goddess of the
Green-track, guardian of the antlered ones
Show us your story, your mystic ray
Spreading light and joy through the endless day!

from Lucifer Bridge by Alex Langstone

Folklore of Looe Island

 The Folklore of Looe Island, Cornwall

by Alex Langstone

Looe Island was once central to the illicit operations of local smugglers and is home to some little known folklore and legend. The island was originally called St Michael’s Island, and an ancient chapel once stood at its summit. The folklore of the isle suggests romantic tales of lost caves and a secret tunnel linking it to the mainland. Some years ago sisters Roselyn and Evelyn Atkins, famous owner-residents of the island, received an astonishing letter from a clergyman in Cumbria explaining that he was in possession of what appeared to be a genuine treasure map, with a clear ‘X’ marking the spot. He sent the map to the Atkins sisters and for years they kept the map, eventually deciding to try to dowse the spot. They did receive some powerful indications that something was buried there and when excavated a large stone was found buried at the spot. Maybe the stone itself is the real treasure?        

On the 15th of September 1900 The Cornish Times reported that a 'Remarkable discoveries at Looe Island' had been made, giving a description of the findings and promising a full detailed article in the next issue, but no such report ever appeared - fuelling conspiracy theorists and treasure hunters curiosity in what, if anything, was actually found beneath the ancient islands rocky shores.                   

The original report that appeared in the newspaper told the story of two young men who had become excited and intrigued with stories of smuggling and treasure whilst on holiday in Looe. Having nothing to occupy their time, these two gentlemen (Mr R. Lawson and Mr F.A. Somers) gained permission to visit the island to investigate further. What they allegedly found was described at the time as astonishing. Hidden deep underneath the island was a huge cave and shortly after this initial discovery an adjoining one was discovered, which was described as resembling the celebrated Etruscan caves at Clusia in central Italy. The investigators quickly suspected that they had accidentally stumbled on a discovery unknown to even the old smugglers themselves and it was decided to make further excavations, where the most remarkable results were obtained, according to the newspaper report of the time. 
Lawson and Somers went on to describe what they had found in more detail. At a distance of about 18ft below the surface, Looe Island was nothing but an extensive ramification of caves. Everything pointed towards the fact that these caves were originally above the ground as many of the larger ones - of which there were said to be dozens - were built of brick, similar to that used on the Hannafore Estate and probably obtained from the same source. They were evidently very ancient, probably prehistoric structures, several having collapsed over there long history. The style of their 'architecture' was said to be that of a very early pre-mesopelagic or Etruscan design (around 800BC). The last paragraph of The Cornish Times article stated that further important developments were expected, and that the excavations and finds would be thrown open to the public, and that a follow up, more detailed article was to be produced in the next edition of the paper. However, this never materialised, and nothing was ever heard of these extravagant claims again. It is a complete mystery and one that has entered the folkloric records of the islands mysterious past.
The island has its own ghost stories too, though these may have been invented by the smugglers to keep the people of Looe town away. One of the ghosts is that of a dark-skinned man, seen wondering the island with blood covering his face. One of the houses on the island is reputed to be haunted by an aristocratic gentleman with grey hair and beautiful hands with very long fingers, which materialises from an ominous blue glowing light. This apparition was first documented in the mid nineteenth century and first appeared after a local dressmaker was visiting and had spent the day sitting on an old seat on the top of the island. The seat was backed by furze and had a wonderful view. However, whilst sitting there sewing, she had some very strange sensations of restlessness and unease. Some years later a skeleton was unearthed by the seat. It was the remains of a tall man with long fingers. Many visitors have reported witnessing a glowing blue light, which manifests after dark and glows eerily before suddenly disappearing, as if it was never really there. 

The ecclesiastical history of the island has a persistent legend that Joseph of Arimathea visited with the young Jesus. It is said that Joseph left Jesus on the small beach whilst he traded with Cornish Tin Merchants on the mainland. It is highly likely that this legend came from the monks at Glastonbury Abbey, as the island was in its possession from 1144 to 1289, and a similar story is told of Jesus and Joseph visiting there. 

Previously published in Meyn Mamvro no. 91 Autumn 2016. Taken from my forthcoming book 'From Granite to Sea: the Folklore of Bodmin Moor and East Cornwall'. Due out sometime soon, watch this space...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Folklore of Bassenthwaite Lake

The romantic and much visited Lake District of northern England has many legends and folkloric tales to tell. To celebrate the release of my book Spirit Chaser as an audio book, I have delved  into my archives to have another look at some of the folklore from the Bassenthwaite Lake area  that is featured in the book.

Folklore of Bassenthwaite
by Alex Langstone
Bassenthwaite Lake, a portal of psychic activity? Pic: Alex Langstone

Bassenthwaite Lake is a magical place in all seasons. Home to the only breeding pair of Ospreys in England, it has gained an excellent reputation for ornithologists and other natural history enthusiasts. Less known however, are some of the areas more mysterious creatures.

Hidden in the murky depths of Bassenthwaite Lake maybe a creature from an
other time or place? This slimy amphibious creature known as the Bassenthwaite Eachy has scared many visitors over the centuries.

                                                             Is this the Eachy of Bassenthwaite? 

An Eachy is a name given to a species of lake monster from a variety of locations in northern England and Scotland. An Eachy was typically a large humanoid being of gruesome and slimy appearance seen to occasionally emerge from the lake. An Eachy was reported from Windermere in 1873 and at Bassenthwaite Lake as late as 1973, when a Mr. Stavenglass reported seeing something strange i n the water. The following photograph was taken, which seems to show a creature in the lake, however it looks more like "Nessie" from Loch Ness or "Mawgawr" from Falmouth Bay than the Bassenthwaite Eachy?

The eye witness at the time is reported saying: "Resting near to Bassenthwaite Lake I saw something that made me both exited and intrigued at the same time. Something strange was swimming in the lake. It ducked below the surface and reappeared some distance away. The speed that the animal moved was amazing. I have never been able to find out what it was I saw, and my story has been met with some ridicule."

Close to Bassenthwaite Lake are two reputed fairy sites. The first, Castle How Fort (NY202 308) stands just off the main A66, on the banks of the lake itself but the second, Elva Hill (NY 177 317) is by far the more impressive. The hill itself is reputed to be a fairy hill and, according to some, hides a secret gateway into the otherworld, which only opens at certain times of the year. The name, like that of King Eveling, may be of Viking origin, meaning the home of elves, though this is not certain. On the southern slopes of the hill stands a Late Neolithic stone circle, an almost perfect ring some 125ft in diameter, though today comprising around half of the original 30 stones. In reality, the site was almost certainly associated with the trade in stone tools produced locally and taken through Borrowdale and over the hills to the east. This may go some way towards explaining the connection with fairies; the Stone Age flints found in the area passed into folklore as "elf arrows" which were supposedly crafted by the fairies and subsequently often used by later generations of witches as powerful magical charms.

Elva Plain stone circle, gateway to another world?

Rising above the southern end of the lake is The Dodd a small heavily wooded fell of 502 meters. The summit is reputed to be haunted and discarnate voices have been heard at the summit at dusk and shadowy figures have been seen after dark amongst the trees on the summer solstice.

All of these stories packed into a very small geographical area may point to Bassenthwaite Lake being seen as a "thin place" - a spot in the landscape where the veil is easy to penetrate through to other existences. The area is very beautiful and is worth a visit, especially if you are looking for magic and mystery.

For more of the strange and mystical goings on in the Bassenthwaite Lake area see my book Spirit Chaser out now as an audio book from Circle of Spears

Eachy picture copyright Gunnar Jacobsen Used with permission.