Friday, 28 October 2016

Spooky Cornish folkore

Piskies and Spriggans and Knockers, oh my! Retell these these eerie Cornish tales to spook your friends this Halloween

Written by Cat Baker
Cornwall is the setting for a plethora of haunting tales and if you've ever been there this probably won't surprise you, with its many abandoned ruins and the husks of mines.
One particularly Cornish entity makes a regular appearance in popular culture, even having been included in the Harry Potter franchise, but aside from an often slightly cruel sense of humour, the Cornish piskie has a dark side too that often gets forgotten despite making an excellent addition to any Halloween story.

There are plenty of tales of Cornish Piskies whisking away wandering children, but they usually end with the child being returned to the same spot a few days later.

One story, of Betty Stogs, (The Cornishwoman after whom the stout is named) even recounts how a neglected child was taken from its lazy parents to be washed and cared for then returned safe and sound. It was subsequently looked after far better, the child's disappearance having frightened its parents into action lest it be taken again.

A far less well-meaning story of piskie abduction, however, outlines how a healthy little girl was stolen and replaced by a piskie changeling, one who was withered and fussy and only lived to be twenty, during which period she never seemed to grow an inch.

It was said, however, that if a parent passed a changeling child through the hole of the Men-An-Tol (A Neolithic landmark comprising of several stones that stand near Morvah) then the benevolent piskie that guards it would reverse the wicked magic.

It was once held that piskies were fond of fresh milk as well, and that if you were to circle your cow with salt it would keep them from stealing it. The phrase, 'piskie-led,' describing unfortunate souls who were lured into losing their way and ending up applying to most of the miserly individuals who laid out salt in this manner.
Even seeing the piskies held danger, according to one tale of a woman bathing her baby. Unbeknown to her, the same water had been used by the wee folk for bathing their own children, and upon getting it into her eyes she was granted the ability to see them. When they realised this, though, it's said that she was threatened with the removal of her eyes.

These are but a few tales of many and don't include the many other related beings that lurk in Cornish folklore, such as Spriggans or the Knockers of the mines, the former of which was believed to be very foul-tempered indeed.

If you happen to be in the West Country this Halloween, then, pay your respects to the wee folk unless you wish to end up piskie-led away into the mizzle on the moors...

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