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 Arkie 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 Arkie 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 Arkie were both delighted to have experienced this.
We eventually discovered the right path to Zennor Quoit, Jason and Arkie 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 Arkie 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 Arkie 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 Arkie, 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.
I have felt a close connection with Zennor from the first occasion Cassandra took me to visit Zennor Hill in 2009. We were there for the specific reason of my spiritual connection with the land. Whilst exploring the hill I was drawn energetically to the village of Zennor that was visible below the hill.
I then learnt about the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor and have already written about on this site. See Mermaid of Zennor
It was a delight to see the mermaid carving upon the side of the pew within St Senara’s church in Zennor.
The worn pew is tucked away in a side-aisle and shows the scars of over 500 years constant use.
The curious carving of the mermaid has many interpretations from its medieval worshipers. Mermaids were a symbol of Aphrodite Goddess of love and the sea who held a love apple in one hand and a comb in the other. the quince (love apple) was later changed to a mirror which is a symbol of heartlessness and vanity. Medieval Christians viewed her as a symbol of the ‘sins of the flesh’. She was used to illustrate the two natures of Christ in the seafaring community as she was half fish and half human symbolizing that the Christ could be both divine and human. This resonated with the inhabitants of the region as their lives were intertwined with and dependent on the sea.
Recently I visited The Healing Star in Penzance where they displayed a plaster cast of the Mermaid of Zennor by Rory Te Tigo. He left it in the shop hoping they could sell it for him. Each time I visited I was entranced by it, especially as there is little memorabilia of this particular mermaid. When I eventually decided to purchase it, Rory had collected the mermaid as he planned to display her at an event. I contacted him and he kindly offered to make another for me over a period of three weeks.
Rory had the marvelous idea of producing a casting of the mermaid carving displayed in the Tinner’s Arms at Zennor and creates replicas of it using this method.
I am now the proud owner of a Mermaid of Zennor which is about the same size as the one in the church. Rory described in great detail how he created her, as you can see by John Isaac’s wonderful photographs Rory works with precision and achieves wonderful results. Her powerful presence graces our home and brings with her the blessings of the sea.
To see more of Rory Te Tigo’s work visit his website
Legend has it that many, many years ago a richly dressed and beautiful lady occasionally attended the church at Zennor. Nobody knew who she was or where she came from, but her unusual beauty and lovely voice made her the subject of much discussion.
With such beauty, the lady had no shortage of want-to-be suitors in the village. One of these local men was Mathew Trewella, a handsome young fellow with the best singing voice in the village. He took it upon himself to discover who this beautiful stranger was.
After a service one Sunday, the lady had smiled at Mathew Trewella so he had decided to follow her as she made her way off and towards the cliffs.
He never returned to Zennor.
Years passed and Mathew Trewella’s unexplained disappearance faded into the past. Then one Sunday morning a ship cast anchor off Pendower Cove near Zennor. The vessel’s captain was sitting on deck when he heard a beautiful voice hailing him from the sea. Looking over the side of the ship he saw a beautiful mermaid, with her long, blonde hair flowing all around her.
She asked him if he would be so kind as to raise his anchor as it was resting upon the doorway of her house. She explained was anxious to get back to her husband, Mathew, and her children. For it turns out that the beautiful stranger from the church was in fact one of the daughters of Llyr, king of the ocean, a mermaid by the name of Morveren.
Warey of stories of Mermaids the captain weighed anchor and headed for deeper water fearing the mermaid would bring the ship bad luck. He did, however, return later to tell the townsfolk of the fate of Mathew. It was to commemorate the strange events and as a warning to other young men of the dangers of merry maids that the mermaid was carved into the church pew.
In years gone by Padstow was an important port as it was a natural safe haven on an otherwise rocky coast. However, over the years the river mouth has become so choked up with drifting sand as to be more or less useless to anything but small craft. In the past it had been deep enough for even the largest of vessels under the care of a ‘merry maid’ (mermaid).
Hundreds of years ago, there lived somewhere near the Lizard Point a man called Lutey or Luty, who farmed a few acres of ground near the seashore, and followed fishing and smuggling as well, when it suited the time. One summer’s evening, seeing from the cliff, where he had just finished his day’s work of cutting turf, that the tide was far out, he sauntered down over the sands, near his dwelling, in search of any wreck which might have been cast ashore by the flood; at the same time he was cursing the bad luck, and murmuring because a god-send worth securing hadn’t been sent to the Lizard cliffs for a long while.
Finding nothing on the sands worth picking up, Lutey turned to go home, when he heard a plaintive sound, like the wailing of a woman or the crying of a child, which seemed to come from seaward; going in the direction of the cry, he came near some rocks which were covered by the sea at high water, but now, about half ebb and being spring tides, the waves were a furlong or more distant from them. Passing round to the seaward side of these rocks, he saw what appeared to him a fairer woman than he had ever beheld before. As yet, he perceived little more than her head and shoulders, because all the lower part of her figure was hidden by the ore-weed (sea-weed; query, is ore a corruption of mor, sea?) which grew out from the rocks, and spread around the fair one in the pullan (pool) of sea-water that yet remained in a hollow at the foot of the rocks. Her golden-coloured hair, falling over her shoulders and floating on the water, shone like the sunbeams on the sea. The little he saw of her skin showed that it was smooth and clear as a polished shell. As the comely creature, still making a mournful wail, looked intently on the distant and ebbing sea, Lutey remained some minutes, admiring her unperceived. He longed to assuage her grief, but, not knowing how to comfort her, and afraid of frightening her into fits by coming too suddenly on her, he coughed and ahem’d to call her attention before he approached any nearer.
There are several stories of mermaids from around the Cornish coast including Seaton, between Downderry and Looe Here, where now only exists a sandy beach, was once a thriving fishing town. One day a local man insulted the mermaid and she cursed the town to be swallowed by the sands.
Mermaids Rock, near Lamorna in the west of Cornwall is home to a mermaid who sits upon a rock and appears as a warning of storms. Her singing is also heard before a shipwreck. They do say that she sat upon the rock combing her hair and singing in order to lure local fishermen to their deaths.
“To you will I give as much of gold
As for more than your life will endure;
And of pearls and precious stones handfuls;
And all shall be so pure.”
Duke Magnus, Duke Magnus, plight thee to me,
I pray you still so freely;
Say me not may, but yes, yes!
“I am a King’s son so good
How can I let you gain me?
You dwell not on land, but in the flood,
Which would not with me agree.”—Duke Magnus and the Mermaid.
There are legends and mermaid sightings in places other than Cornwall, read more here