Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fairies, Pixies and Giants In Cornwall, England


Fairies, Pixies and Giants In Cornwall, England

Strikingly like Brittany in physical aspects, Southern and Western Cornwall is a land of the sea, of rolling plains and moorlands rather than of high hills and mountains, a land of golden-yellow furze-bloom, where noisy crowds of black crows and white sea-gulls mingle together over the freshly-turned or new-sown fields, and where in the spring-time the call of the cuckoo is heard with the song of the skylark. Like the Isle of Man, from the earliest ages Cornwall has been a meeting-place and a battle-ground for contending races. The primitive dark Iberian peoples gave way before Aryan-Celtic invaders, and these to Roman and then to Germanic invaders.
]Nature has been kind to the whole of Cornwall, but chiefly upon the peninsula whose ancient capital is Penzance (which possibly means ‘the Holy Headland’), and upon the land immediately eastward and northward of it, she has bestowed her rarest gifts. Holding this territory embosomed in the pure waters of Ocean, and breathing over it the pure air of the Atlantic in spring and in summer calm, when the warm vapours from the Gulf Stream sweep over it freely, and make it a land of flowers and of singing-birds, Nature preserves eternally its beauty and its sanctity. There are there ruined British villages whose builders are long forgotten, strange prehistoric circular sun-temples like fortresses crowning the hill-tops, mysterious underground passage-ways, and crosses probably pre-Christian. Everywhere are the records of the mighty past of this thrice-holy Druid land of sunset. There are weird legends of the lost kingdom of Fair Lyonesse, which seers sometimes see beneath the clear salt waves, with all its ancient towns and flowery fields; legends of Phoenicians and Oriental merchants who came for tin; legends of gods and of giants, of pixies and of fairies, of King Arthur in his castle at Tintagel, of angels and of saints, of witches and of wizards.
On Dinsul, ‘Hill dedicated to the Sun,’ pagan priests and priestesses kept kindled the Eternal Fire, and daily watched eastward for the rising of the God of Light and Life, to greet his coming with paeans of thanksgiving and praise. Then after the sixth century the new religion had come proclaiming a more mystic Light of the World in the Son of God, and to the pious half-pagan monks who succeeded the Druids the Archangel St. Michael appeared in vision on the Sacred Mount.[8] And before St. Augustine came to Britain the Celts of Cornwall had already combined in their own mystical way the spiritual message of primitive Christianity with the pure nature-worship of their ancestors; and their ]land was then, as it most likely had been in pagan days, a centre of pilgrimages for their Celtic kinsmen from Ireland, from Wales, from England, and from Brittany. When in later times new theological doctrines were superimposed on this mysticism of Celtic Christianity, the Sacred Fires were buried in ashes, and the Light and Beauty of the pagan world obscured with sackcloth.
But there in that most southern and western corner of the Isle of Britain, the Sacred Fires themselves still burn on the divine hill-tops, though smothered in the hearts of its children. The Cornishman’s vision is no longer clear. He looks upon cromlech and dolmen, upon ancient caves of initiation, and upon the graves of his prehistoric ancestors, and vaguely feels, but does not know, why his land is so holy, is so permeated by an indefinable magic; for he has lost his ancestral mystic touch with the unseen—he is ‘educated’ and ‘civilized’. The hand of the conqueror has fallen more heavily upon the people of Cornwall than upon any other Celtic people, and now for a time, but let us hope happily only for this dark period of transition, they sleep—until Arthur comes to break the spell and set them free.