Saturday 29 July 2017

Men Gurta


The towering stone on                      
The ancient downs                                        
The pulsing land crowned                                   
With archaic mounds                                         
The song of the stones is loudest here                    
On the biggest hill,                                         
The past feels near.

The Stone of Waiting, standing proud                   
Its giant form below                                                 
The scudding clouds                                  
An old meeting place,                                
A boundary zone                                                                  
In a landscape of many                             
Upright stones.

The vistas of the compass round                                                 
The highest moorland hills                              
To the east, astound                                                       
To the north and west, 
Lies the rocky shore                                            
In the south, Hensbarrow Beacon                                     
Rises to the fore.

Upon these downs where                                    
Old bones lie                                              
Beneath the earth,                              
Beneath the sky                                              
Where legend and lore                                        
Is close to see but continues                                    
To remain a mystery.

For more like this, please click the book cover, below

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Saints, Demons and Conjurors

Saints, Demons and Conjurors

  Ladock Folklore by Alex Langstone

The village of Ladock lies in the heart of the mid-Cornwall countryside a few miles to the north-east of the city of Truro. The settlement is named after Lodoca, a 6th Century Irish Abbess, who, like so many of her contemporaries, came to Cornwall to set up a religious community. She is thought to have founded her settlement close to the holy well, at Fentonladock. There is an old story associated with her and her neighbouring missionaries, Grace and Probus. One day they all decided that the boundary between their two villages should be formally marked. They would each rise at dawn, and walk towards their neighbour’s settlement, and where they met would be the new boundary. Probus set off at dawn, but Ladoca decided to brush her very long hair before she set off. By the time she had finished, Probus had almost arrived at Lodoca’s settlement, hence the current parish boundaries uneven size.                                                                                                         
Ladock Glebe holy well (pictured left) on the valley floor below the church, is where water has traditionally been collected for baptisms, and this beautiful holy well sits in an enchanting green dell amid oak, holly and beech trees, with the church tower clearly visible on the hill to the south.                                                                                                                                
The village is also home to the amazing tales of Parson Wood, Ghost layer extraordinaire. William Wood was rector at Ladock between 1704 and 1749, a time when many Cornish clergy were involved in lavish exorcisms of demons and ghosts. Rev. Wood was a skilled exorcist, astrologer and occultist and he was kept busy keeping many undesirable entities at bay. He was respected by all his parishioners and was at the heart of village life, being actively involved in the continued survival of traditional Cornish wrestling and hurling. He was the official keeper of the silver hurling ball, and encouraged the game in the parish. When out, the Parson would carry a fancy ebony walking stick. It had a massive silver finial on which was engraved a pentacle, and just below this, on the dark shaft of the stick was a band of silver, engraved with planetary symbols and mystical figures.

Parson William Wood's walking stick by Paul Atlas-Saunders. Copyright 2017.

He is famous for laying many ghosts and devils, and he was usually a match for most demons, whom he would change into animals and dispatch with his whip. However, one of his most famous exorcisms proved to be more problematic. This particular demon took the shape of a terrifying bird like figure that took the church tower as his home. The demon was very large with coal-black plumage and fiery eyes. The feathered fiend, which looked like no known bird, would make a hideous racket, which would bellow down the tower, petrifying the bell-ringers. The Parson was having trouble laying the demon by his usual methods, as he kept hiding behind the pinnacles on the tower, and Wood eventually devised a plan of exorcism using newly baptised children to rid the village of this noisy menace. He gathered nine unbaptised children to the church. Once baptised, the children were presented around the base of the tower along with mothers, who each held their children aloft, whilst Parson Wood walked around them all, muttering and cutting the air in various figures with his walking stick. The fiend eventually took flight, after one last prolonged screech, and he darted straight up flapping his dark and demonic wings, from which fiery sparks and flames of blue were seen billowing, as the demon headed for St Enoder.   The Parson was also famous for foiling an attempt by the Devil to beat local Cornish wrestling hero John ‘Jackey’ Trevail at a clandestine midnight wrestling match on Le Pens Plat Common, and it was rumoured that the devil in question may have been sent by the neighbouring St Enoder witches, who could often be seen flying on their ragwort stems during the time of the full moon or heading home after their midnight meetings in the shape of hares.                   

There is mention of a “celebrated Ladock conjuror”, in Richard Polwhele’s Traditions and Recollections volume 2, 1826. This particular conjuror is reported to have found a man who had fallen into a shaft of Creekbraw’s Mine, using some sort of remote viewing, and was able to recover stolen money by occult means. Was this conjuror Parson Wood? Maybe, but Polwhele seems to hint that it was a different person, with the following passage – 

“In the last age, some of the rusticated clergy used to favour the popular superstition, by pretending to the power of laying ghosts… I could mention the names of several persons whose influence over their flock was solely attributable to this circumstance. By far other means, we now endeavour to secure the good opinion of those who are committed to our care”

So, who was this mysterious “celebrated Ladock conjuror”? I doubt we will ever know for sure, and it is probable that Parson William Wood himself was the source for these anonymous enigmatic tales. 


Stories and folk-lore of West Cornwall by William Bottrell (1880)
Traditions and Recollections volume 2 by Richard Polwhele (1826)