Traditional Cornish Wytchcraft

This comes to us from Darroch, a Cornish Pellar:

 Recently due to publications such as “Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways,” and “Devon Witchcraft” there has been a upsurge of interest in traditional wytchcraeft and more so in the craeft of the Cornish pellar.  For those who are not familiar with ‘The Crooked Path’ these traditions predate Wicca and modern pagan-centric traditions alike. ‘The Crooked Path’ focuses on witch-lore, Sabbath mythology and imagery employed by the cunning folk or pellar of West Country.

In fact, the most notable mention of the cult of Bucca and the pellar was recorded in William Bottrell’s “Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall,” where the Bucca is referred to as a ‘folk devil’ of craefters but in fact was a well known sea and fertility deity of Cornwall. Also, note the aforementioned work was published in 1860, which predates Gardner’s work by at least 100 years.

The craeft of the pellar or village wytch on the most basic level emerges from the ancestor cultus of Cornwall. William Bottrell stated, “...the old people dwelt on the Selena Moor and were not of religion but were star-worshipers,” which illustrates that the so-called ‘sidhe’ were the spirits of the ancient dead, our pagan ancestors, who dwelt in the land and it is this netherworld reality that the pellar works with and ultimately comes from. Also, the pellar or the village witch works with places of power where the sprowl of the ole serpent is worked with unlike modern traditions that opt for creating sacred space for ritual work.

These sacred spaces include their own cottage, the village, the churchyard, crossroads, and many more. By working and drawing up the sprowl it allows them to connect with the spirits of the land and work ‘the craeft’. It is interesting to note that the sprowl has morphed into a virtue-like concept when in reality this ‘sprowl’ is the remains of a serpent deity found at Kynance Cove where animal bones and human fragments have been found. Also, there is a slight difference between the working tools of the pellar and other modern traditions. These tools include walking sticks, simple working knives, sweeping tools, stones, bones, and the collem gam just to name a few. The important part is that the tools of the pellar were things commonly used; i.e. for simple charm making and healing but most of all for practicality because in antiquity the average pellar was illiterate and improvised.

Unlike modern pagan-centric traditions and Neo-Wicca ‘The Crooked Path’ focuses on the male aspect if not nearly exclusively and in particular the pellar works with a sea and fertility deity called ‘The Bucca’, which is both male and female. Although, there is no separation in gender the deity is dualistic where the darker half called “Bucca Dhu” rules the dark half of the year while the lighter half called “Bucca Gwidder” rules the light year. In addition there is a deity called Ankow, which more or less is the creatrix or Ole Hag. Lastly, there is the sprowl whose true name has been lost to to antiquity but seems to be connected to Kynance Cove as a local fertility deity and often is honored at the local Montol festival in Penzance.

In ritual practice ‘The Crooked Path’ differs from Neo-Wicca and Pagan-centric faiths. For example, there is a traditional practice of ‘laying the compass’, which is animalistic in nature, focuses on lore for directions, and ultimately is about hedge crossing while in contrast Wicca has a process called ‘casting a circle’ (which can include calling the quarters and ‘The Cone of Power’), which were borrowed from Heka, or ceremonial Egyptian magick. Basically, the latter is about creating so-called sacred space rather than hedge crossing. Also, there is a difference in high days or as they are called in Cornwall “Furry Nights”. Unlike Neo-Wiccans those who practice ‘The Crooked Path’ observe only six high days which include Candlemas, May’s Eve, Golowan, Guldize, Allantide, and Montol. The reason why the equinoxes are not observed is because traditionally those days were unknown to West Country people. It is only after Roman conquest that these Holy Days were introduced to the Celtic and Saxon tribes.

As far as the artes of the pellar are concerned there are no ethical epitaphs such as ‘The Wiccan Rede’, which paraphrased states, “…An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” Although, there is no colour in craefting for pellars Gemma Gary, a Cornish wytch from Penzance, states “…The colors of witch-magic are red, green, and black. Red magic is ruled by the serpentine fire of the land and is used in the laying and directing of protective forces. Green is ruled by physicality and of the land. Herb craft and monetary gain are acts of green magic. Black magic is ruled by the unseen and ethereal forces. Acts of black magic are ancestor communication, necromancy, hexing, uncrossing, and bindings.”

Working magic is simple and most of the time the compass is not laid but rather a simple conjuration of the hearth is done. Most spell craeft includes paper charms, pystri-powders, satchels with herbs and other apothecary , as well as simple stoking and candle magic. I, also, practice this way myself but also I add in what Sarah Lawless terms as “…a path within traditional witchcraft,” which includes Sabbatic Craeft and Hedge-craeft.

Hedge-craeft is a tradition of working with anism ,which includes animal totems and plants, to commune and learn arcana from ethereal spirits and bring back knowledge to the material world. Often hedge-craeft uses etheogens, drumming, and other methods to ‘cross the hedge’. Also note that hedge-craeft should not be confused with the so-called ‘hedge witchcraft’ that is presented by authors such as Rae Beth, which are more closely related to Wicca and Kitchen Witchery. Likewise, Sabbatic Wytchcraeft is, as Andrew Chumbley defined it, “…The Traditional Craft is the Nameless Way of the Arte Magical. The Sabbatic craft draws upon witch-magic, medieval griomoire lore, and occultism.

Note

I do not have ownership of the images used in this post. These come from Nigel Jackson’s “Masks of Misrule“. All rights reserved. Also, quotes on Andrew Chumbley, Sabbatic Craft, and Hedge Witchcraft are intellectual properity of Sarah Lawless of Witch of Forest Grove.

 

If you have any queries or questions about traditional cornish wytchcraft, you can e-mail Darroch directly at carregcoth@yahoo.com

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