Category Archives: Cornwall

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Field of Dandelions: Contemplation


Last year, a friend suggested a special word-choice contemplation to use for the whole year.

Choose one word you want your year to be full of–such as gratitude, compassion, happiness, peace.  Or choose an abstract word that has relevance to you.

Last year I chose “greening” because it is something the mystic, Hildegarde of Bingen wrote:

Good people,
Most royal greening verdancy.
Rooted in the sun,
You shine with radiant light.
In this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely,
It surpasses understanding.
God hugs you,
You are encircled by the arms
Of the mystery of God.

For me, greening connoted life, freshness, growth, warmth, love…it reminded me of an image of my two horses laying down in their pasture in the springtime glorying in the new warmth and fresh grass.

After you have chosen your contemplative word, find an image that fits your word to put on your computer as background. Simply Google pictures and select a picture you like and open it. Next, left click on the image, and click on Set as Background

Every time you look at your computer screen you will be reminded of your resolve to contemplate and experience your life in this particular way.

The Field of Dandelions is my first image for 2014–I will not tell you what my word is but I have always loved to see dandelions blooming–they show up early sometimes in mid-winter and they have the most wonderful seeds that I remember blowing and wishing upon when I was a girl in England. I have never considered them a nuisance to be eradicated from my lawn. They brighten life, they have edible leaves, and dandelion wine is festive and fun.

You can change this photo/picture once in a while. For greening I had green fields, Japanese gardens, and more.

wishing you richness for 2014



What in the world is a cloutie? It makes me think of children getting clouted in the ear for misbehaving–and what does this clouting have to do with the image of this cross?

The cross is an ancient stone one near a place called Madron’s Well, in Cornwall. This sacred site was renowned for its healing properties. A tradition at this site persists to this day: people attach pieces of rags to the nearby bushes as symbols of appeasement to the spirits.  

The rags are called clouties.

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The Wishing Tradition

At one time there was a chapel opposite St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall built for pilgrims on their way to to the Mount. I don’t think it exists any more. Old-time pilgrimages ended in the mid-sixteenth century, but here is an image of another St. Catherine’s Chapel in Dorset (about 400 miles north).  This chapel has an interesting tradition of wishing associated with it:

“This involves using the niches (one for the knee and two for the hands) in the east jamb of the south doorway to ‘post’ prayers to the saint asking for her help.

The chapel is frequently visited by women searching for a husband, St Catherine being the patron saint of spinsters. A traditional prayer used here by these women says:

A husband, St Catherine,
A handsome one, St Catherine,
A rich one, St Catherine,
A nice one, St Catherine,
And soon, St Catherine.,_Abbotsbury

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Marazion is another beautiful place in Cornwall, opposite St Michael’s Mount.

Its strange name has one odd explanation. Supposedly it commemorates Jewish traders whe came to hold fairs, and to purchase tin. Marazion is supposed to mean Bitter Zion to help the Jewish traders remember the Sweet Zion–the Jerusalem-they’d left behind. (The Spiritual Traveler. Mahway, New Jersey: Hidden Spring. 2000. p. 207).

There is disagreement about the name’s origin: John Maidment says “Marazion [ˌmærəˈzaɪən] is a market town at the eastern end of Mount’s Bay and its name has caused an awful lot of confusion and has even led some poor souls to hypothesise that the ancient Cornish were a lost tribe of Israel!
There is no confusion about the first element maraz, which derives from the Cornish marghas meaning “market”. There are a few other names containing this element, including the wonderful Marazanvose [ˌmarəzənˈvəʊz] (“the market by the wall”) between Truro and Perranporth.”

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The Mên-an-Tol (also Men an Toll) is a small formation of standing stones near the Madron-Morvah road in Cornwall, United Kingdom (grid reference SW426349). It is about 3 miles north west of Madron. It is also known locally as the “Crick Stone”.

The name Mên-an-Tol is Cornish Language, literally meaning “the hole stone”.

It consists of three upright granite stones: a round stone with its middle holed out with two small standing stones to each side, in front of and behind the hole. When seen at an angle from one side, the stones form a three-dimensional “101” (see picture).

These stones might have been the entrance to some now vanished tomb. It is possible that they were part of some ancient calendar.

Mên-an-Tol is supposed to have a fairy or piskie guardian who can make miraculous cures. In one case a Changeling baby was put through the stone in order for the mother to get the real child back. Evil piskies had changed her child and the ancient stones were able to reverse their evil spell.

Local legend claims that if at full moon a woman passes through the holed stone seven times backwards, she will soon become pregnant.

Another legend is that passage through the stone will cure a child of rickets. For centuries, children with rickets were passed naked through the hole in the middle stone nine times. Its curative powers actually are reflected in its name.

The circular stone aligns exactly with the centre stone at Boscawen-Un and the church at nearby St Buryan. While this may conceivably be coincidental, the precision of the alignment suggests an intentional positioning of the structures in relation to each other.

Human beings have always been fascinated by stones. They symbolize something lasting, a permanent foundation. In the Bible, Jesus tells Peter he is the rock upon which the church will be built (Matthew16:18).

The church in the photo is St. Buryan’s. It is dedicated to Saint Buriana, an Irish saint, who is said to have cured the paralysed son of King Geraint of Dumnonia.

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St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall

St. Michael’s Mount is a sacred site in Cornwall about ninety miles from King Arthur’s Castle in Tintagel.  It is a small island accessible on foot when the tide is out and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. In 495 it is said hermit monks or local fishermen saw a vision of St. Michael standing on a ledge of rock on the island.

Step foot in a land where giants once walked. Legend says that a mythical giant named Cormoran once lived on the Mount, and he used to wade ashore and steal cows and sheep from the villagers to feed his gargantuan appetite. One night, a local boy called Jack rowed out to the island and dug a deep pit while the giant was asleep. As the sun rose, Jack blew a horn to wake the angry giant who staggered down from the summit and – blinded by the sunlight – fell into the pit and died.—Legends.aspx

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A Guide to the Female Sex, from the Age of Sixteen to Sixty

In the Old Post Office in Tintagel, Cornwall, there are Victorian samplers on display.  I couldn’t locate any images of the actual ones you can see there, but this mid-eighteenth century English sampler is rather interesting:

The words embroidered at the bottom: Behold the Daughter of Innocence how beauti-ful is the mildness of her, was apparently taken from “The Whole Duty of a Woman; or, A Guide to the Female Sex, from the Age of Sixteen to Sixty,” first published in 1753 (1).

At the time the author was listed as “A Lady,” but it turns out “the Lady” was in fact author William Kenrick, English novelist, playwright, and founder of the book review digest, The London Review.

His “The Whole Duty of a Woman” was his most successful work, reprinted in over 20 editions. The “Lady” who is writing is a fallen woman, now reformed, who wants to persuade other women to live a life of virtue. 

Ironic, considering Kenrick, the actual writer, has been described as one of London’s most despised, drunken, and morally degenerate hack writers in the later eighteenth century (2).

Emily Nobile, in Emily’s Shadow, admired her mother’s knitting, and kept a sweater she’d long outgrown to comfort herself over the death of her mother in the London Blitz, but personally she did not enjoy needlework, preferring instead a life of the mind.




Bodmin Moor: King Arthur’s Hall

Emily and her brother Byron, in Emily’s Shadow, mistakenly call the moor Bodwin rather than Bodmin, because many signs had been removed during war time to thwart the Nazis should they ever invade Britain. The map their father had was an old one and difficult to decipher; perhaps that’s why he got lost on his so-called short cut, much to his bride Carole’s irritation.

In the British sitcom, Doc Martin, to go Bod means to go insane.  Imagine walking around lost on a foggy day in this barren place where Druids once gathered, perhaps offering sacrifices to pagan gods beneath the monument now called King Arthur’s Hall.

King Arthur’s Hall (1) is …thought to be a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age ceremonial site.[1]

The monument consists of fifty-six stones arranged in a rectangle with a bank of earth around them and measures approximately 20m by 47m. The interior fills with water and a contemporary ground level has not been established.[2] It has suffered damage by cattle in the past and is now protected by a gated fence. It can be reached by footpaths east of St Breward.

Reference: (1)ttp://


The Old Post Office in Tintagel, Cornwall

The old post office in Tintagel is a 14th-century yeoman’s farmhouse. It was called the post office because during the Victorian period, for fifty years it held a license to be the letter-receiving station for the district.

The old decaying building was bought in 1903 by the National Trust from Catherine Johns, a local artist, who tried to save the building. She kept it up through sales of prints by local artists. She sold it to the National Trust for £200.

It is a place now open to visitors. Inside, you will find Victorian postal memorabilia and 19th-century samplers (embroidery much like cross-stitching). There is also a fire in the hearth for cold winter days when the wind howls in from the sea.

In Emily’s Shadow, the post office had crooked roofs, thatched rather than slate, and it was also a working post office.

A pretty cottage garden full of flowers is in the back rather than the bench where Emily and her brothers went to eat their fish and chips, but I caution you if you visit, you may well sense the mystery of Merlin’s magic floating through the ether, giving you goose bumps.


Merlin’s Cave

Merlin, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae, might well have been the son of a demon who impregnated a mortal woman who was a nun. Yet, Tennyson in his Idylls of the King describes ocean waves bringing the infant Arthur to the shore, where Merlin carries him to safety.

The cave, a very real one, at the base of the cliffs beneath Tintagel Castle fills with water when high tide comes in. Certainly, this is a mysterious dark cavern, nowadays a place where scuba-divers search for shells and fossils. It runs clear through the headland, constantly being eroded by the sea.

In Emily’s Shadow, Merlin’s cave is accessible from the top of the cliffs through a hole that has been boarded due to the danger of falling.  It leads to an opening above the sea, where water trickles onto sharp volcanic rocks protruding from the seabed down below. Perhaps, as surely as Merlin could shape-shift, so too could he conjure dark openings to suit his purposes. Of course, now, the hole at the top of the cliffs is no more, and the trickling stream is a fault line, running down the face of the cliff, pointing to many small caves where witches might hide.