Thursday, June 26, 2014

Celtic Legends of Giants and Fairies in Cornwall, England

Celtic Legends of Giants and Fairies in Cornwall, England


In Cornwall the legends of giants, of saints, or of Arthur and his knights, the observances and superstitions connected with the prehistoric stone monuments, holy wells, mines, and the like, the stories of submerged or buried cities, and the fragments of what would seem to be pre-Christian faiths, have no doubt occasional points of contact with Cornish fairy legends, but they do not help to explain the fairies very much. Yet certain it is that not only in Cornwall and other Celtic lands, but throughout most of the world, a belief in fairies exists or has existed, and so widespread a belief must have a reason for it, though not necessarily a good one. That which with unconscious humour men generally call ‘education’ has in these days caused those lower classes, to whom the deposit of this faith was entrusted, to be ashamed of it, and to despise and endeavour to forget it. And so now in Cornwall, as elsewhere at that earlier outbreak of Philistinism, the Reformation,
From haunted spring and grassy ring
Troop goblin, elf and fairy,
And the kelpie must flit from the black bog-pit,
Robert Hunt, in his Popular Romances of the West of England, divided the fairies of Cornish folk-lore into five classes: (1) the Small People; (2) the Spriggans; (3) the Piskies; (4) the Buccas, Bockles, or Knockers; (5) the Brownies. This is an incorrect classification. The Pobel Vean or Small People, the Spriggans, and the Piskies are not really distinguishable from one another. Bucca, who properly is but one, is a deity not a fairy, and it is said that at Newlyn, the great seat of his worship, offerings of fish are still left on the beach for him. His name is the Welsh pwca, which is probably ‘Puck’, though Shakespeare’s Puck was [Pg 165]just a pisky, and it may be connected with the general Slavonic word Bog, God; so that if, as some say, buccaboo is really meant for Bucca-du, Black Bucca, this may be an equivalent of Czernobog, the Black God, who was the Ahriman of Slavonic dualism, and Bucca-widn (White Bucca), which is rarer, though the expression does come into a St. Levan story, may be the corresponding BielobogBockle, which personally I have never heard used, suggests the Scottish bogle, and both may be diminutives of buccabogbogie, or bug, the last in the sense in which one English version translates the timor nocturnus of Psalm xc. 5, not in that of cimex lectularius. But bockle and brownie are probably both foreign importations borrowed from books, though a ‘brownie’ eo nomine has been reported from Sennen within the last twenty years.And the brownie must not tarry.