Cassandra and I were Celebrants for a Handfasting three days after the Spring Equinox. This occasion was particularly unusual, as the couple had discussed having a ceremony for some time and then the bride decided to arrange the ceremony as a surprise for the groom. This meant the preparations were not as straightforward as the ceremonies we were accustomed to.
The venue chosen was the ATV Centre in Blackwater near Truro. There is an area of woodland next to the race track where we were able to perform the ceremony. We arrived to set up the space during early evening while there was light and soon after that darkness fell.
To conduct a Handfasting ceremony in woodland on a dark evening can be quite a challenge, although lights were hung within the trees and one of the guests offered to turn on his car headlights.
The ceremony however went well and our excellent professional photographer John Isaac managed to capture some wonderful images in somewhat challenging circumstances.
We wish the lovely couple every happiness for the future.
“Hi guys it was amazing and a huge huge thank you for a wonderful evening and for recommending john he is such a great guy. All of my friends commented on what an amazing ceremony it was. Thank you so much for being so understanding and being so professional and carrying on with the ceremony despite the difficulties. As for the honey moon drink……
This year I took on extra responsibility in organizing the All Hallows Dark Gathering assisting Cassandra Latham Jones when the managers of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic informed us they were leaving. We worked closely with Simon Costin the Museum owner informing and updating him on all arrangements.
Many people enjoy this event each year, but have no idea how much work goes into the organizing of it. As well as caring for the performers, Cassandra goes the ‘extra mile’ in caring for the community ensuring they know where to find accommodation and refreshments. She also arranged with village residents a ‘park and ride’ scheme so that disabled folk would find it easier to make their way to Boscastle. Cassandra has huge support from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, the Chamber of Commerce and other members of their local community.
When 2018 began, I sensed there would be significant changes to our lives and this has proved to be so.
At the Dark Gathering this year our special guest was Wolfshead and Vixen Morris. It has been 15 years since I danced with this team and I was excited to see them once again.
Their first dance performed by Wolfshead is known as ‘Four Seasons’. A person is often chosen to stand in the centre of the space while they dance around them and I was delighted to be chosen. It brought back fond memories of the previous time this happened outside the King Arthurs Arms in Tintagel in 2001.
Later that afternoon, I was invited by the Squire of Vixen to join them in my favourite dance Gemini. It’s a dance I have not forgotten and it is also one that Beltane Border Morris particularly like.
I had no time to practice it with them, but they performed it once and invited me to join them the 2nd time. As soon as the dance began, the 15 years apart from Vixen seemed to disappear and I performed every move as precisely as I had all those years ago.
Here is video footage of their dance and them inviting me to join them at the repeat performance.
The members of Vixen were amazed I remembered it so well and were pleased with the performance. It was wonderful to receive a hug from each of them when the dance was over.
The last time I performed with them in Boscastle outside the Museum was 17 years ago on the 12th June 2001 for the 50th anniversary of the Witchcraft Repeal.
Participating in this gave me a wonderful and positive new memory of my final Morris dance at the All Hallows Gathering and it is the best and most satisfying Morris dance I have ever performed at this event. I cannot thank them enough for this moment.
The Dark Gathering goes from strength to strength and has a protective energy surrounding it. Long may it continue.
Yesterday evening we attended the Harvest Home auction in our wonderful pub the St Buryan Inn. We arrived early to dine there, Cassandra reserved a table along with Vanda our Rector. While having our meal we were able to update one another on recent work as Vanda takes great interest in the varied spiritual events that occur in all areas of Cornwall.
It was not long before we were joined by other friends and local residents within the village before the auction began.
Local produce filled the table and it was wonderful to see three pumpkins as they have been absent for the past two years.
Our local resident Pauline bakes wonderful Cornish pasties, she provides a few smaller ones, but the giant pasty is awaited at the end of each auction as it is understandably purchased at a high price.
The pub was full of locals and there was a happy friendly atmosphere within our community.
I also purchased my first pumpkin from the auction as Cassandra usually does so each year if any are available.
Barry our wonderful caller does well each year and Penzance Food Bank will receive £354 from this superb event.
Our final workshop for 2018 was the Dark Arts. This one was introduced this year and proved to be popular as both of these workshops were fully booked. In all our workshops the women usually outnumber the men, but on this occasion it was quite the opposite.
Our Friday introduction evening was unique, in the past we had one or two group members who did not partake of alcohol for their own personal reasons. On this occasion the group were all staying at local accommodation so all of the group partook of alcoholic beverages. This lead to an extremely interesting evening of discussions and debate on the subject of the Dark Arts, Christian beliefs and ethics. I was impressed how each individual point of view was listened to by others even though they were not necessarily in agreement.
During Saturday afternoon, Cassandra spoke about the subjects of Curse Breaking, Curses, Spirit Possession, Image Magic, Dark Deities, Haunting, Psychic Vampirism and Psychic/Magical Protection. Cassandra knows her Craft well particularly when it comes to Curse Breaking and Curses. She is indeed an adept and gifted person to learn from.
It is important that people receive the correct information on these subjects particularly if they have reason to utilise these methods. Movies, books and some Occult Practitioners can be trapped in the world of fantasy which can mislead many and provide incorrect information. At least there are practitioners like Cassandra that one can approach who deals with reality and provides insight to others on their level of understanding. There are a multitude of aspects to this subject and it would be easy to spend a whole weekend if not longer discussing them as the hours passed quickly.
We then spoke of mischievous spirits and the need for ‘spirit house’ constructions. Spirits have a fascination for intricate objects which can be a distraction from ‘mischief making’.
At our last Dark Arts workshop group members attempted to construct a framework for their spirit house by using wire, but trying to use wire cutters and dealing with the sharp edges could be hazardous. On this occasion we provided them with a small ready-made framework and various threads,ribbons, beads, stones etc so that they could begin constructing a small spirit house.
I guided the group through their personal constructions, offering suggestions if they had difficulties and checking they had everything required.
Due to the intricacy of the spirit houses group members could only begin their designs in the time available, so they would need to continue their work on them at home.
During the evening we prepared a group spell for crossroads magic. We then visited a haunted location: Carn Kenidjack. You can read the folklore legend of it here.
On our previous visit to the site during our June Dark Arts workshop, it was dusk and we could still see the various paths to it despite the thick mist that appeared on our arrival. This time it was extremely dark and cloudy, plus we were in the dark of the moon phase, as you can see by the following photograph.
It was a cool breezy evening, we stood for a while looking out over the moor and the distant lights upon the horizon over the sea. Each member of the group sensed various spirit presences that accompanied us.
On leaving the Carn, we were seriously ‘Piskie led’ and taken along various paths within the darkness by Cassandra only for them to lead us further away from our destination. We then followed the tracks made by vehicles until we reached a farmhouse gate and discovered we were on the opposite road to where we needed to be and then walked at least 2 miles to return to the North Road. Our group members were in good spirits, joking about the situation as we walked.
The crossroads were also extremely dark (above photo), the group were still eager and full of the energy to complete the spell we prepared earlier. Conjuring a spell at a crossroads especially when the road is busy with traffic, adds to the intensity of the work.
We returned to the cottage for libations while discussing the group’s impressions and thoughts on the Carn and spell work.
It was a most enjoyable workshop with deep minded experienced group members that I hope we will meet again in the future.
“Going on the dark arts course was very interesting. Laetitia and Cassandra have great knowledge. We made a spirit house and learnt how spirits enjoy puzzles. The walk in the evening was amazing and my favourite activity as I love nature. I felt really connected. Overall a fantastic weekend of good people and I left with a better understanding.” P.O.
“I really enjoyed our couple of days and got a lot out of it. It was great to spend time with you and Cassandra and also to meet others and hear their different perspectives on the craft. In particular, I loved our night-time walk and crossroads spell, working on our spirit houses and learning about the different levels of psychic protection – several of which I have used before. I’ll also keep an eye out for the next series of workshops which I’d like to attend. Look forward to seeing you again soon” A.C.
“This was a great workshop I met some awesome people. Cassandra and Laetitia were amazing hosts. I learnt a lot from the discussion during the first half of the afternoon. Later I learnt how to make a spirit house and how they work. The evening was awesome, we were taken to a breath taking location. On the way back we were ‘piskie led’ and thought it funny. Thanks again ladies you are amazing!” N.W.
“Perhaps it is an understatement to say how wonderful it was to be in the company of Cassandra and Laetitia again on the Friday evening of the workshop; getting to know them again, getting to know new travellers on the path and rekindling acquaintances with some old faces. In the relaxed yet haunted atmosphere of their cottage, we heard each other’s story and began to build the group egregore that would carry us through a weekend of intensive learning and experience.
The Saturday afternoon began with a conversation that centred on the nine levels of psychic self-defence with practical examples provided both from history and from the current practice of the cunning folk. Such material is learned in the hope that one never has to put such knowledge into practice. And yet, as a practitioner, I am glad to have such techniques as part of my “tool kit” of the trade.
This was followed by a demonstration on how to build a spirit house. Like most folk, house spirits get bored, and when they get bored they can get up to mischief. A spirit house provides them with a safe space where they can work out their mischief in a controlled environment. In return they provide safety and protection for the house’s other occupants (human and non-human). Metal frames and other materials were provided and despite my complete lack of crafting ability I was able to come up with the rudiments of a spirit house – a work in progress that will continue to evolve for some time yet!
Dusk gradually made its presence felt. And it was in the gloaming that we began preparations for a crossroads banishing ritual. We gathered our intent and poured it into the materials of the spell in the sacred hearth space before heading out into the night.
We walked into the night, deep into the Penwith moors and began climbing a hill to a dark rocky outcrop of granite boulders. “What can you feel”? “What can you see”? were the questions that ran through the experience? In the darkness of the black moon, I stretched forth my senses and saw flashing lights, here and there; so brief that one could almost doubt their willow-the-wisp existence. I saw moving shapes and running forms; some humanoid in appearance, some not so distinct. And when I touched the granite of the Carn, I felt a power, ancient, wild and free; and I knew that this was his land.
The walk down the hill was less determinative, more meandering, more uncertain; a delicious “being lost” and “abandonment” as we lost our way, being (mis)lead by the mischief of the Piskie Man and ending up miles from the cross roads where we were to complete our rite.
Yet find it we did, and in that most in between of places we raised our energy and called our power and shattered the vessel of our desire; its energies racing forth into the dark night to do our will.
And back by the sacred hearth we learned of the local lore of Carn Kenidjack; of the Man-in-Black who chases the night wanderer until he or she reaches a certain stile, of the Piskie Man who misleads and of the witch who guards a well that is sometimes present and sometimes absent. And it is in this ‘between the worlds’ of space and time; this experience of “the hedge”, the crossroads, that magic is alive and powerful.
And then it was time to say farewell to our two friends and guides. A farewell – yes- but a farewell with a promise to return to this most magical of hearths and its two wise guardians who will always have a place in my journey. T.N”
Sunday was a day of fierce winds and rain, but fortunately the August Bank Holiday Monday brought calmer and drier weather for our Wise Woman walk.
Two energetic and enthusiastic young men had journeyed from Chicago U.S. to spend a week in Cornwall. They had visited Glastonbury before continuing their journey here. They spent some time in Boscastle and Tintagel and were fascinated by the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and St Nectan’s Waterfall at Rocky Valley Tintagel.
Jason had previously purchased Cassandra’s book and stated he was ‘beyond excited’ to meet her and experience one of our walks.
We usually invite our clients to Cassandra’s cottage and discuss the locations they wish to visit. Jason had a particular interest in the Logan Stone, so Cassandra decided that Zennor Hill would be the site to visit. Its an energetic climb to the top of Zennor Hill but Jason and Archy were in their 20s, full of energy and therefore prepared for a challenge.
As we walked towards the hill Cassandra asked them if they would like to visit Zennor Quoit first. The vegetation on the moorland had grown considerably and in some areas it was chest height for the vertically challenged. We had given Jason and Archy prior warning about the possibility of being ‘Piskie led’ and the path to the Quoit was particularly complicated with copious amounts of gorse and it was no surprise that on this occasion it occurred. Jason and Archy were both delighted to have experienced this.
We eventually discovered the right path to Zennor Quoit, Jason and Archy were intrigued by the formation of the stones and how one can climb inside to enter the heart of it for meditation and ritual purposes.
Here is information about the site:
The remains of this hillside Neolithic chambered portal tomb are quite difficult to find, but can be reached via a footpath from the B3306. The capstone which is over 5 metres long and weighs over 10 tons has collapsed and all traces of the mound which would have covered the tomb has disappeared although much surrounding cairn material was recorded by William Borlase the vicar of Zennor in 1769. It is Borlase we have to thank for the continuing existence of Zennor Quoit as he once paid off a local farmer the sum of 5 shillings to stop him dismantling the tomb to build a cow shed. It is unclear whether it was the farmers attempt at remodeling or the ‘excavation’ of the tomb with explosives in the 19th century that caused the capstone to fall. At various times cremated bones, a whetstone, flints and Neolithic pottery have been found within the chamber, while the 5 small upright stones just beyond the tomb are thought to be part of the aborted cowshed.
The site may look to be in a sad state of disrepair, especially on a wet, windy day, but this could be said to add to its beauty and melancholy, and it is still well worth a visit. Like many other sites legend says it was built by a giant, hence its other name of Giants Quoit and also that the stones are unmovable, or if they are moved they will return to the hillside on their own. Nearby, the church at Zennor contains a 15th century bench-end carved into the shape of a mermaid that is claimed to have visited the village and fallen in love with the churchwarden’s son. The two of them are then said to have returned to the sea, where the unfortunate lad can still be heard singing beneath the waves. stone-circles.org
Cassandra and I sat with Jason and Archy by the stones and she related the history of the site. We also discussed the variety of Fae folk and their roles within Cornish folklore. The young men were well prepared with notepads and wrote down all the information.
After a while, we continued our walk to Zennor Hill. Jason and Archy were fascinated by the house nearby where some say Alastair Crowley had worked magically there. Zennor HiIl is a powerful site so it would indeed be an ideal place to work in that way.
At the top of Zennor Hill we reached the Logan Stone. Cassandra instructed Jason on where to place his feet and the correct way to move the stone.
Here is some information on the site:
This extraordinary set of stone outcrops holds many unusual features, from rock basins to zoomorphic forms – deep fissures, runnels, voids, chamber-like enclosures and holed stones, that it would be difficult not to believe that it would have held an important place in pre-historic cosmologies. Some rock formations are uncannily like the quoits that occupy the flat land between zennor hill, carn zennor and sperris croft.
Tilley observes in an archaeology of supernatural places. ‘slabs that have toppled from the top of the rock stacks… rest horizontally or vertically against their sides, creating slanting roofed chambers large enough to enter and walk through.’ the proximity of Zennor and Sperris quoits raises the possibility that these dramatic rock formations were deliberately mimicked by the builders of these early monuments.
Tllley again ‘The tors were not only their source of inspiration, but they were constructed in the form of tors. In elevating large stones, these people were emulating the work of a super-ancestral past. Furthermore, the stones from which they were built were taken from the tors. The dolmens, in effect, were the tors dismantled and put back together again to resemble their original form. Once constructed, they could themselves be tors, something emphasized by the landscape setting of some of them on hills that lacked tors.’ Megalithic Sites
After their exploration of the site, we visited Zennor village so that they could see the church and explained the legend of the Zennor Mermaid.
The following information is about the church:
The church of St Senara in the small Cornish village of Zennor is one of the historic delights of the St Ives area. The present church dates to the 12th century, but it is thought to stand on the site of a cell founded by the 6th century saint, Senara, whose name has been altered over the centuries to become ‘Zennor’.
Senara may have been a Breton princess named Asenora, a devout Christian, who was married to a king named Goello. When Senara became pregnant the king’s mother falsely accused here of infidelity, and the king cast into the sea. According to the tale, she was put in a barrel, which was then nailed shut and allowed to drift on the waves. The barrel drifted to Ireland, and she was rescued by an angel. after her son, Budoc, had grown, they both set out to convert the natives to Christianity.
Alternative versions of the story say that she was washed up at Zennor, where she founded a church, before continuing on to Ireland, or that she came ashore in Ireland, and only later visited Cornwall and founded a church here. In either event, her husband heard of her good work and invited her to return to Brittany as his queen, and named her son as his heir. Alternatively, the church may have been founded by Irish or Breton missionaries and simply dedicated to Senara. The churchyard follows the oval outline of an Iron Age enclosure, which itself is built atop earlier Stone Age and Bronze Age field boundaries. Britain Express
We also visited the Tinners Arms for a well deserved drink.
It was a pleasure to spend the afternoon with Jason and Archy, their energy, enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge of the Old Ways is heartening to see in younger folk. We are pleased they enjoyed their time in Cornwall and we are sure that it wont be the last we see of them.
Today Cassandra and I had the pleasure of escorting a lovely couple and their two dogs on a Wise Woman Walk. They had been Handfasted and are going to have their legal ceremony while they are in Cornwall.
We began by visiting Alsia Well:
This delightful spring is situated on Lower Alsia Farm near St Buryan. It is at the lower end of a field, in a hedge, a short distance south-west of a public right of way from Alsia to Bosfranken – the old church path to St Buryan. The well is enclosed behind metal railings and consists of a small stone-lined recess in the hedge with a granite capstone, and a copious supply of clear, cool water. Adjacent is a slate slab with the words ‘Alsia Well’ carved on it. Although by no means impressive, this is a charming little well, especially when seen in Spring or early Summer when surrounded by wild flowers. A cross is supposed to have once stood nearby and the water is reputed to have cured rickets, particularly in children. It has also been used as a divining well by girls, the number of bubbles rising from a pebble or pin when dropped in signifying the number of years before a lover would be found.
Mayze the dog sensed the spirit energy at the well. The air was still and the site had a peaceful ambience.
Shaun was interested in historical places and archaeology so we thought he would also enjoy visiting Carn Euny:
Among the best-preserved ancient villages in South West England, Carn Euny was occupied from the Iron Age until late Roman times. It includes the foundations of stone houses from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, with walls up to a metre high in places. At the heart of the village is its most intriguing feature – a stone-walled underground passage known as a fogou. This mysterious type of Iron Age monument is found only in the far west of Cornwall. The earliest houses on the site were Iron Age ‘round houses’, probably built of timber and turf sometime between 500 and 400 BC. These were replaced with stone houses probably between about 50 BC and AD 100. The last phase of settlement, between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, saw several earlier buildings replaced with larger, stone ‘courtyard’ houses. The visible ruins above ground mark the remains of these later houses. Old field boundaries nearby show that the inhabitants farmed some 40 acres of land around the village. They grew oats, barley and rye and kept animals such as sheep or goats and probably cattle. The villagers are likely to have been traders, perhaps dealing in local tin. The village appears to have been abandoned in about AD 400, although we do not know why.
Shaun and Dawn were fascinated by the fogou.
They also marveled at the phosphorescent moss on the stone walls.
We gave them time to explore the site alone before moving on.
Our final visit was to Boscawenun Stone Circle as Shaun wished to visit a place that has ley lines:
The stone circle at Boscawen-ûn is considered to be one of Cornwall’s most popular prehistoric ceremonial centres as well as one of extreme aesthetic beauty. It lies beneath the southern slopes of Creeg Tol, enclosed by a later raised circular bank which, built-in the 19th century to replace an earlier boundary that went straight through the circle, is an early example of archaeological conservation. The circle appears to have been carefully positioned within the landscape in such a way as to relate with key prehistoric landmarks, both natural and contemporary. The circle is slightly oval in shape and consists of nineteen large upright stones, all of granite except for one of quartz. Just off-centre within the circle lies a tall stone said to resemble an axe cutting into the earth with two axe carvings of low relief on its north-east face. These carvings are the only known examples of stone axe carvings in Britain and the closest parallel for them lies in the Neolithic ritual sites of Brittany which suggests that the central stone at Boscawen-ûn predated the circle and was erected as a monument for axe-related ritual; possibly in conjunction with woodland clearance. The stone leans towards the north-east sector of the circle where an arrangement of stones may represent an earlier, possibly contemporary cairn or cist. That this feature also pre-dates the circle is apparent in the spacing of the circle uprights at this point. When the circle itself was erected, the quartz stone was placed on the south-west side of the circle in alignment with the central stone and the cairn-like structure to the north-east. It is thought by some that the central stone with its axe carvings represents the phallic masculine whilst the quartz stone represents the feminine powers of the ring. The south-west position of the quartz stone also marks the direction of the full moon during mid-summer.
Beside the stone circle stands a magnificent Elder tree. Cassandra advises people to use a chant whenever they take anything from it.
Give me of thy wood
And I will give thee of mine
When I too become a tree.”
It was an enjoyable afternoon and hope that the newlywed couple have a wonderful future together.
Feedback: Thankyou very much for a fantastic afternoon spent with you both the dogs enjoyed their walk too. It is difficult to pick a favourite site but I think Alsia well was really special and Mayze found it interesting too!
In May this year we were invited by Channel 5 to take part in their programme Celebrities go Caravanning. We hoped the selected celebrities would have an open mind and respect the work we do.
Squeezed into Cassandra’s tiny cottage was a camera crew of four with all their equipment and two of the celebrities, Colin Baker and Sherrie Hewson. There was limited room for man-oeuvre! My familiar Clutterbuck has become accustomed to many photographers visiting the cottage and no longer makes a hasty retreat via the cat flap. He was indeed the star of the show on this occasion!
A huge thank you to Chris Neno for the photographs above.
Channel 5’s camera crew portrayed the subject well and showed utmost respect for Cassandra’s property. It was a pleasure to work with them and also Colin Baker and Sherrie Hewson who were fabulous people to converse with. The chants and incantations we used are for public situations and not for our personal working.
I recorded the following footage of this programme from our television: