VISITING SPIRITUAL CORNWALL
I last visited Cornwall in 2001 along with the authors Ron Ellis (Ears of The City) and Professor Joe Cooper (The Case of The Cottingley Fairies). We were meeting with the philosopher and writer Colin Wilson (The Outsider) at his home in Goran Haven to discuss, among other matters, metaphysical poetry. I was struck then by the almost otherworldliness of the land. There is a subtle but discernable eerie essence in the air. As one enters the rugged Cornish landscape with its craggy coastline and strangely silent sleepy villages, a sense of the supernatural begins to creep into ones subconscious. February of this year my wife Mary I set out to explore the spiritual heart of Cornwall. We could feel the paranormal power as we drove deep into this kingdom by the sea. It is not quite tangible, yet we both felt just a little uneasy as we stopped to study the map by the side of a wild misty moor land some distance north of Bodmin. We were close to our destination, a hotel inland from the town of Newquay. Our quest to discover the preternatural power of Cornwall was about to commence.
The spray from the Atlantic Ocean was quickly caught by the westerly wind and blown across the rocks of Land’s End, giving me a wet welcome to the edge of the country we call Britain. This was Cornwall; the original Celtic name is Kernow, considered to be a mystical kingdom of which the author Thomas Hardy wrote: ‘It is pre-eminently the region of dreams and mystery’. I had arrived with my dear wife Mary to tune in to this ancient landscape, where some say the legendary King Arthur was born and died. As I stood for some time looking out over the turbulent waves, out to the far horizon beyond which lay the continent of America, I let my mind drift open to the deeply atmospheric environment. There, where the salt sea heaves and the wild gulls call, where the wind is like a whetted knife, I fleetingly experienced a vision of life as it would have been countless centuries ago. Legend has it that there once was another land stretching out from this lonely place over twenty eight miles adjoining the distant Isles of Scilly to the far west. They say this land had many towns and churches, thousands of people lived there, before the deep Atlantic staked its watery claim. As I stared across the waves in my mind I saw a far away spire and heard a distant bell tolling. Then a blustery ozone heavy blast of wind captured my hair and blew me instantly awake.
Some few miles east of Land’s End by the town of Praa Sands there are the remains of a castle. That castle is what many consider to be the most haunted in Britain. Pengersick castle stands somewhat forlornly with what remains of its old grey stone tower surrounded by an overgrown garden. Its history is indeed bleak, the original owner, Henry Pengersick, is reputed to have murdered numerous individuals there most notably a monk visiting from Hailes Abbey who called to collect tithes. There have been numerous sightings of a ghostly hooded monk in and around this castle and grounds. Henry Pengersick was considered to be of a psychopathic nature and when he took a bride, the very beautiful Engrina Godolphin, he proved to be a villain and destroyed her will to live. There have been many reports of her spirit haunting the interior of Castle Pengersick. On the day that I visited the castle was quiet, almost malevolently silent, stark against the billowing white cumulus clouds scattered in the otherwise cornflower blue Cornish sky. I took a moment to contemplate the remains of this darkly ominous castle and gazing at the upper windows saw what I took to be the light of a candle. This side of the stone walled tower was in shadow yet I saw something glimmering, a brief yellow light in the cold darkness there. As I looked there came a slight subtle tingling sensation at the back of my neck and a quiet voice spoke to me: ‘Something wicked this way comes’. I wasn’t waiting to find out what that something was in a matter of seconds I was back in our car with Mary and we drove off at a reasonably rapid rate, away from the grim malevolence of Castle Pengersick and the ghosts that haunt within.
Some two miles south of the village of St. Buryan in Cornwall off the B3315 there stands a Neolithic stone circle known as ‘The Merry Maidens’. According to legend these stones are the petrified remains of a group of young women who broke the holy Sabbath day by dancing on a Sunday and as punishment were turned to stone. There are in total nineteen stones, granite megaliths and they form an almost perfect circle. On the day Mary and I visited the sun was high in an almost cloudless sky and a sense of peace pervaded the area. Placing my hands on the surface of the stones I used psychometry in an attempt to gain insight into the history of this ancient stone circle. Standing there hand to stone I closed my eyes and allowed what visions may come to enter my mind. Within moments I had a brief image of a man dressed in rough stitched animal skins, a thick black belt around his waist and long unkempt hair. There seemed to be many people around him, carts loaded with sacks, the circle was full and noisy like a market. Shouting rough voices in a language I did not know, cattle, horses and a feeling of vitality, of happiness. ‘John, your hat’ Mary said handing me the black fedora that had blown off my head and I was back in 21st century Cornwall. I could not say with any degree of certainty that what I saw at The Merry Maidens stone circle was an accurate vision of a scene from ancient times. However I do know that there exists a theory that these ancient stone circles were in fact meeting places where the hunter-gatherer tribesmen and women would meet to exchange foodstuffs and animal skins, axe heads and hand made tools etc. So it is quite possible that my vision was of a long ago market day from a time when the ancient Cornish people lived by hunting wild deer and other animals.
In next month’s column I will continue with my account of the exploration of Cornwall with details of a visit to the extremely haunted jail at Bodmin and much more.