15. 2001 The 50th Anniversary of Witchcraft Repeal

Our next visit to Cornwall was for our Handfasting ceremony on 12th June 2001. This date was also the 50th anniversary of the Witchcraft repeal. Our tutors had kindly agreed to be celebrants for the Handfasting and members of the Morris team also accompanied us as we had arranged with the Witchcraft Museum to perform there at Boscastle and also Tintagel. 

Image - Camper Van Hire Holidays

Image – Camper Van Hire Holidays

My husband purchased a Volkswagen camper van from the woman I met at the first Pagan moot. Unfortunately the van broke down soon shortly after our journey began and we returned home to collect our car.  We performed with the Morris team at a Devon folk festival that weekend and then continued our journey to Cornwall. As we had no tent at the festival my husband attached the camper van awning to the side of our car to provide shelter. Unfortunately the first night was extremely cold so I moved to the car for warmth. I heard that many Morris dancers could not sleep as they too felt the cold temperature. 

On our arrival in Cornwall, my husband hired a static caravan at a site opposite Bossiney camping park where the rest of the team were.

Image - Sacred Landscape

Image – Sacred Landscape

We were eager to show the Morris team St Nectan’s Waterfall so that the tutors could survey the area where the Handfasting would be. Our team members were fit and we quickly covered ground through the glen. My Welsh pen-friend who had travelled to Cornwall to meet me for the first time and attend the Handfasting accompanied us.  In my eagerness to reach the waterfall I did not realize she had difficulties keeping up and she sat on one of the rocks to rest, her face flushed and breathing heavily As one of the Morris men passed me he jokingly asked if I was trying to kill her off.  She then decided it was time to improve her level of fitness.

King Arthurs Arms. Image - Tripadvisor

King Arthurs Arms. Image – Tripadvisor

The evening before our Handfasting we danced outside the King Arthur’s Arms in Tintagel. I bought my pen friend a ‘straight’ brandy and she drank it immediately which surprised me. The Morris team performed my favourite dance. Our female tutor usually stood in the centre of the space playing a haunting tune on her melodeon and the men danced around her. When the dance was performed on special occasions a person or something of significance would take the place of the musician in the centre. On this occasion my husband and I stood back to back in the centre and the men danced around us.  I heard the occasional squeal from my husband as the male dancers poked and playfully hit him as they passed. On our return to the camp-site, two of our new female members were given initiation tasks which they handled well considering the amount of alcohol that had been consumed.

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We were due to perform outside the Witchcraft Museum at midday on the 12th June. The sun shone and it was a warm day. We were surprised no other events were arranged by the Museum for the 50th anniversary of the repeal. The Morris team were pleased they had the opportunity to perform for this important occasion. We gathered at the beautiful stone bridge and walked in procession to the solitary beat of a drum towards the Museum. The villagers observed us and the Museum owner heard our drumbeat and knew we were on our way. He was once a Morris dancer and he enjoyed the folk music too as he played a concertina.

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The spectators enjoyed our performance and my son danced well with the male team at only nine years of age. My pen friend thought it an emotional experience. We invited the owner to our Handfasting ceremony and he declined the invitation but presented us with two protection charm pendants as a Handfasting gift which was a thoughtful gesture.

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The shop opposite the Museum opposed it and displayed anti witchcraft leaflets.  When my husband and I returned to the Museum a few days later, the owner was delighted with the reaction our performance had caused. Apparently, the following day the church choir were asked to sing hymns standing in the space where the team had performed!  

In the evening we prepared to visit St Nectan’s waterfall for our Handfasting ceremony. The owner of the site had offered to drive the celebrants, a male Morris member and I to the waterfall with the altar table and accoutrements.  I emerged from the car and as I walked towards the entrance gate, my friend from college accompanied by her son and mother were there waiting for me. They were in Cornwall for their vacation but I did not expect them as they were quite a distance from Tintagel. I entered the meditation room to change my attire while the celebrants took the altar and accoutrements down to the waterfall and set up the space. They purchased fresh flowers to construct a crown and also decorated our broomstick.

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I stood at the altar of the shrine and thanked the Gods for their assisitance in making this possible. My friend from college stood beside me and we shared an emotional moment together. My husband walked through the glen with the rest of the Morris team and when he arrived we made our way to the bottom of the waterfall.

St Nectan's waterfall. Image - Marhum church

St Nectan’s waterfall. Image – Marhum church

As we descended carefully down the last slate steps the celebrants stood near the waterfall surrounded by candlelight with the altar in the centre. Two large fallen trees were either side of them and a row of ‘tea light’ candles created a pathway to the altar. The space was sublime and the work they had done was impressive.

St Nectans Waterfall. Image - Wikipedia

St Nectans Waterfall. Image – Wikipedia

The members of the Morris team stood outside the sacred space upon a higher ledge and observed the ceremony from above. My pen friend held my bouquet within the circle standing beside my friend from college and her mother. The ceremony was beautifully done and our tutors were warm, friendly and happy. I had memorised my words and did not need to read from the book. Before the ceremony began, a kingfisher flew across the circle and when the circle closed, two small birds flew around it in unison and then flew away. The female celebrant tied our wrists together with a short thin red cord and instructed we remain tied together for the rest of the evening. After the ceremony we returned to the top of the waterfall where the owners had prepared a sumptuous buffet. We purchased a plain iced cake and the ex boyfriend of our former Priestess used an icing pen to decorate it with Celtic symbols.  As the Morris team feasted, they sang  and played drums until late in the evening. Before we returned to the camp-site my husband removed his hand from the Handfasting cord as he needed to drive. An opportunity arose for me to speak to the male Morris member who assisted in our Handfasting as he was the remaining member off our former magical group.  Our ex Priestess no longer worked with him after moving away, but kept in contact and tried teaching him via email correspondence. He had enjoyed being with us in a magical circle again during the ceremony. I told him I was contemplating joining our tutor’s coven and he was supportive, expressing that he too was reviewing his own spiritual path. 

There were more celebrations at the campsite before we returned to the caravan.  invited my pen friend to stay overnight in our caravan as I had not spent time with her. On reflection it may not have been such a good idea on our wedding night, but we already had our son with us and had been married for 12 years. During her stay, we purchased drinks for my pen friend and I bought her a bracelet as a present. We let her stay in our caravan to save her paying for two nights at the bed and breakfast. She had little money and told us that she was unable to buy a present for our Handfasting, but she later showed me an expensive statue of Isis she purchased for herself in Boscastle. My pen friend seemed a strange person who said  little when I was with her, but she could write so much about her life in intimate detail. This visit to Cornwall was indeed memorable for so many reasons.

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