Yet another bonus episode due to an early release.
On the first pass this was the least promising chapter or Hunt’s book, but elements of it are useful as vis sources and environmental modifiers. It’s also our first introduction to Ambrose Merlyn, who we’ll need to keep an eye on.
The Cornish in Mythic Europe attribute a lot of their odd stones to druids. A modern archaeologist from our world might disagree, but there aren’t many of them around to tell the Mythic Peasantry that they are wrong. There is some recognition that cromlechs were once tombs, but many stones are just sacred because that’s their nature. Stones which are considered special are called, in Cornish “ambers” or “main ambers”. As far as I can tell this bears not relationship to the semiprecious stone of the same name. People don’t know why, or how, the stones became that way, just that some are immovable, and others will move back if you manage to shift them.
Many stones are attributed to ancient giants or the Devil. These tend to be in the west of Cornwall. Those in the East are often attributed to King Arthur. For Hunt it’s a bit of a running gag that some antiquaries see Druidic ceremonial bowls scopped out of every rock in Cornwall. That being said, water collected in such a bowl is a good way of expressing vis sources. The dew that collects into the cups carved into Arthur’s Seat at Tintagel, for example, has Rego vis. Some Logan rocks must produce Creo, Intelligo or Corpus vis.
To me, the stones which move back to their ancient spots sound like disturbed earth elementals returning to their aura. Many stones move back overnight, so they seem to reappear at their own spot first thing in the morning: that seems like a more fae or demonic timetable. Hunt also mentions a few stones which revolve three times at cock-crow. There seems to be no reason for this, and none sought, but they’d similarly tie into faerie or infernal haunts.
Hunt notes it is odd that there are so many stones marked as the Devil’s oven, coit, footstep and so on, because there’s a myth saying he never comes to Cornwall. A counter myth is that there’s a doorway to hell in the shale behind Polperro, and the lake there, shaped like a giant hoofprint, was made by his Satanic horse.
The devil never came into Cornwall, because, when he crossed the Tamar, and made Torpoint for a brief space his resting-place, he could not but observe that everything, vegetable or animal, was put by the Cornish people into a pie.
He saw and heard of fishy pie, star-gazy pie, conger pie, and indeed pies of all the fishes in the sea. Of parsley pie, and herby pie, of lamy pie, and piggy pie, and pies without number.
Therefore, fearing they might take a fancy to a “devily pie,” he took himself back again into Devonshire. — Hunt.
A particular type of rock of interest to magi is the Logan stone. Hunt notes that Logan comes from the Cornish verb “log”, meaning “to sway like a drunkard” and -an, which is the same as the English -ing. A Logan stone, as pictured through this article, is a rock which rests on a point, such that it can, with minimal effort, be rocked. The magic of each stone varies. Some test character, so that they can only be rocked by the true of heart, being immobile to cowards, or the dishonest, or to traitors, or bastards, or drunkards. The rock, pictured on the previous page is believed to cure children rocked on it, at certain times, of grave diseases. Similar rocks are scattered about Cornwall.
Another Logan rock was prophesied by Ambrose Merlin to stand until England had no king, and in the real world it was destroyed by one of Oliver Cromwell’s lieutenants. Ambrose Merlin is of interest to us, as his prophecies were first recorded in book form, so far as we can tell, late in the 11th Century, so he’s surprisingly current to magi. In the real world, a Latin version of the Prophecies of Merlin has Cornish notations in the margins, the earliest known writing in Cornish.
The Dancing Stones
There are circles of standing stones in Cornwall which Victorian gentlemen used to call druidic, but modern archaeologists are sceptical about. The peasants of Mythic Europe know where they come from, though: annoy God enough and he’ll turn you, and all of your friends, into rocks. He’s particularly fond of making rockeries on the Sabbath.
The Dancing Stones are near Burian, and are believed to be girls from a neighbouring village who were lured dancing by two demons. Their revel continued into the Sabbath, so God decided he needed a new tourist attraction and he made them into stone., The two demons, likewise, were turned into stones. That shouldn’t stop them for long, but it does mean the stones may have an infernal aura, sordid vis, or provide an arcane connection to the previous inhabitants.
There’s a similar story told at various other places, and a related story , told in rivalry at many, many sites, that the stones commemorate some dead nuns. This would give them an aura, particularly if the nuns were martyred during the invasions.
Near Cheesewring are three sets of circles called the Hurlers. Hurling is a sport, and playing it on the Sabbath is pretty common. Some suggest that faeries or demons now use the Hurlers as goals in their own games of hurley, and they are always up for a match if the stakes are right.
The lady, the prince, the kings
There’s a stone nine feet in height near Penzance, on an ancient battlefield, under which is buried the son of a king, as tall as the stone.
At Land’s End, there’s a great square of granite, eight feet long and three feet high. It’s called the Table Stone. There’s a similar stone, with the same story attached, near Bosavern. The table is meant to have been used for a conference of Anglo-Saxon kings, either three, seven or nine in number. One, more expliciti, version of the myths, names the kings, and therefore places the meeting at about the year 600. Even if this was not true, Land’s End is so packed with the Fae it must be true enough, by now, to have a mystical effect.
There’s another rock near Land’s End called “The Irish Lady” which is haunted by an Irish woman tossed onto it by a shipwreck. The local fishers could see her, but not save her, because the sea was too rough from the storm that had destroyed her ship. She perished of exposure, and now her ghost is seen, sitting tranquilly on the rock during storms, with a rose in her teeth. A related story has the woman being seized by a creature that dwelt in a cave by her rock: there is a healing well here, and she tried to find out what was the cause of the cure, dying for her curiosity. This story seems to be from a period after Ars Magica’s 1220 start date, but I wouldn’t let that stop me….
Holed rocks and crick stones
There are many holed stones in Cornwall reputed to have magical powers. The one that’s been used as the hero image through this series is of the the Men An Tol, or “holed stone” near Penzance. If scrofulous children are passed through the stone naked, then drawn on the grass three times against the sun, they are cured. This may seem like an odd thing, but curing scrofula used to be the preview of kings. Some adults have likewise claimed benefit for skin conditions and, strangest of all, people with spinal complaints have been cured by being slid through.
There’s a forked stone in Morva which has the same tendency to heal injured spines. backs, but even the people who live nbearby say the holed stone is better: it’s just less convenient to get to when you have a sore back. There are many other little tunnels, caused by falling rocks, which are said to be good for rheunmatism or back pain. Sometimes you need to crawl through them nine times for the charm to work. The stones seems to be able to cure certain types of Aging Crisis.
The Men An Tol also has oracular powers If you balance two brass pins on the edge, and ask a question, they will move to indicate the answer. I’d note that brass is a metal often associated with faeries in Ars Magica.
Hunt flags two minor other bits of folklore that could be mined for stories, but they’d need development.
He says that there’s a cave tunnel which connects Ppier’s Hole, on St Mary’s in the Scilly Islands, with a similar cave near Tresco. People who try to take the tunnel often disappear. Dogs lost from one place sometimes turn up at the other with most of theuir hair missing, and locals seem to insist on having sex in the caves, for reasons Hunt does not seem to fathom and might be mystical in Mythic Europe.
He also notes five child saints who were whisked away into an enchanted sleep by the evil sorcerer who lives in the hollows beneath the hills, and will wake when there is a pious bishop and Merlin returns to cast down all evil magicians. As prophecies go, that’s one the Order should try to find out more about. Possibly a good idea to staff the cathedral with venal men for a while, just as a safety measure, while they consider this. Or does that make them evil magicians? Predestination paradox is a problem, even in Mythic Europe.