Hunt notes that he has never heard a person called a “wizard”. This note seems incongruous because he uses it himself for Merlin, but what he seems to be saying is that folk witchcraft is practiced by men and women, and that there is no separate title for the male and female types. He does say there is some gender differentiation: male witches can work out how a person was cursed, or which person stole something, but they usually suggest remedies to the friends of the injured. Female witches seem to break spells and throw curses personally, rather than through intermediaries.
Cornish curses seem small by Hermetic standards. People do not believe in witches with the full panoply of Satanic powers necessarily, but they believe in ill-wishing, which is a variant of the Evil Eye virtue. For example: a fisherman’s catch is always poor when a woman wishes him luck, until he sees a male witch and “does what he tells him to”. The woman then apologises and never ill-wishes the fisherman again. One woman ill-wishes another’s cat, and it dies.
A well-known counter-charm, and the problems it causes, are listed. If cattle in a herd keep dying due to ill-wishing,, the farmer mus collect up every drop of blood of one of the dead animals on straw, and then burn the straw. The witch, or her shadow, will be seen in the smoke. In both examples Hunt gives, a female neighbor turns up to see why there’s a bonfire raging in a field, and is badly treated by the farmer until rescued by other members of the community. Burning some of the blood of a witch seems to have protective effects as well: it’s one of the things male witches often send the friends of an ill-wished person to do.
Hunt mentions a more powerful magician, called the Peller. This is treated as a title, but he only mentions the one. He has charms which can scare off faeries and possessing demons. The demons need somewhere to go, and oddly he does not send them to the Red Sea as is so common in Cornwall, he chains them under great and distant rocks. Given that Hermetic magi tend to live secretly in wastelands, this may lead to some difficulty. Also, the Cornish tendency to mine wherever there’s a good chance of ore makes this planting of demonic landmines seem injudicious.
He also let others perform magic. As an example he tells a cursed woman to buy a bullock’s heart and pierce it with as many pins as she can. The person who placed the curse feels every pin, until the curse is lifted. That’s a little like voodoo, but note that the person doing them magic and the person doing the physical actions associated with the spell are separate.
A quote from Hunt:
“HOW TO BECOME A WITCH.
TOUCH a Logan stone nine times at midnight, and any woman will become a witch. A more certain plan is said to get on the Giant’s Rock at Zennor Church-town nine times without shaking it. Seeing that this rock was at one time a very sensitive Logan stone, the task was somewhat difficult.”
Although Hunt has never heard of a man being called anything but a witch, sorcerers are a different sort of thing, apparently. The power of sorcerers tends to come from evil sources, and be passed from father to son. The most notorious family in this regard lived at Castle Pengerswick. The Lord of Pengerswick turns up in stories often enough that I’m surprised he isn’t a faerie.
When this is turned into a gazetter, he’s going to get his own section so, I’m going to take huge excerpts from Hunt here. I note in advance as plot hooks that the two witches fighting for the love of a nobleman couled be replicated in any saga.
How Lord Pengerswick Became a Sorcerer
‘The first Pengerswick, by whom the castle which still bears his name was built, was a proud man, and desired to ally himself with some of the best families of Cornwall. He wished his son to wed a lady who was very much older than himself, who is said to have been connected with the Godolphin family. This elderly maiden had a violent desire either for the young man or the castle it is not very clear which. The young Pengerswick gave her no return for the manifestations of love which she lavished upon him. Eventually, finding that all her attempts to win the young man’s love were abortive, and that all the love-potions brewed for her by the Witch of Fraddam were of no avail, she married the old lord mainly, it is said, to be revenged on the son.
The witch had a niece who, though poor, possessed considerable beauty ; she was called Bitha. This young girl was frequently employed by her aunt and the lady of Godolphin to aid them in their spells on the young Pengerswick, and, as a natural consequence, she fell desperately in love with him herself. Bitha ingratiated herself with the lady of Pengerswick, now the stepmother of the young man, and was selected as her maid. This gave her many opportunities of seeing and speaking to young Pengerswick, and her passion increased.
The old stepdame was still passionately fond of the young man, and never let a chance escape her which she thought likely to lead to the excitement of passion in his heart
towards her. In all her attempts she failed. Her love was turned to hate ; and having seen her stepson in company with Bitha, this hate was quickened by the more violent jealousy. Every means which her wicked mind could devise were employed to destroy the young man. Bitha had learned from her aunt, the Witch of Fraddam, much of her art, and she devoted herself to counteract the spells of her mistress.
The stepmother failing to accomplish her ends, resolved to ruin young Pengerswick with his father. She persuaded the old man that his son really entertained a violent passion for her, and that she was compelled to confine herself to her tower in fear. The aged woman prevailed on Lord Pengerswick to hire a gang of outlandish sailors to carry his son away and sell him for a slave, giving him to believe that she should herself in a short time present him with an heir.
The young Pengerswick escaped all their plots, and at his own good time he disappeared from the castle, and for a long period was never heard of. The mistress and maid plotted and counter-plotted to secure the old Pengerswick’s wealth ; and when he was on his death-bed, Bitha informed him of the vile practices of his wife, and consoled him with the information that he was dying from the effects of poison given him by her.
The young lord, after long years, returned from some Eastern lands with a princess for his wife, learned in all the magic sciences of those enchanted lands. He found his stepmother shut up in her chamber, with her skin covered with scales like a serpent, from the effects of the poisons which she had so often been distilling for the old lord and his son. She refused to be seen, and eventually cast herself into the sea, to the relief of all parties. Bitha fared not much better. She lived on the Downs in St Hilary ; and from the poisonous fumes she had inhaled, and from her dealings with the devil, her skin became of the colour of that of a toad.
The Lord of Pengerswick came from some Eastern clime, bringing with him a foreign lady of great beauty. She was considered by all an ” outlandish ” woman ; and by many declared to be a “Saracen.” No one, beyond the selected servants, was ever allowed within the walls of Pengerswick Castle ; and they, it was said, were bound by magic spells. No one dared tell of anything transacted within the walls ; consequently all was conjecture amongst the neighbouring peasantry, miners, and fishermen.
Certain it was, they said, that Pengerswick would shut himself up for days together in his chamber, burning strange things, which sent their strong odours, not only to every part of the castle, but for miles around the country. Often at night, and especially in stormy weather, Pengerswick was heard for hours together calling up the spirits, by reading from his books in some unknown tongue. On those occasions his voice would roll through the halls louder than the surging waves which beat against the neighbouring rocks, the spirits replying like the roar of thunder. Then would all the servants rush in fright from the building, and remain crowded together, even in the most tempestuous night, in one of the open courts.
Fearful indeed would be the strife between the man and the demons ; and it sometimes happened that the spirits were too powerful for the enchanter. He was, however, constantly and carefully watched by his wife ; and whenever the strife became too serious, her harp was heard making the softest, the sweetest music. At this the spirits fled ; and they were heard passing through the air towards the Land’s-End, moaning like the soughing of a departing storm. The lights would then be extinguished in the enchanter’s tower, and all would be peace. The servants would return to their apartments with a feeling of perfect confidence. They feared their master, but their mistress inspired them with love.
Lady Pengerswick was never seen beyond the grounds surrounding the castle. She sat all day in lonely state and pride in her tower, the lattice-window of her apartment being high on the seaward side. Her voice accompanying the music of her harp was rarely heard, but when she warbled the soft love strains of her Eastern land. Often at early dawn the very fishes of the neighbouring bay would raise their heads above the surface of the waters, enchanted by the music and the voice ; and it is said that the mermaids from the Lizard, and many of the strange spirits of the waters, would come near to Pengerswick cove, drawn by the same influence.
On moonlight nights the air has often seemed to be full of sound, and yet the lady’s voice was seldom louder than that of a warbling bird. On these occasions, men have seen thousands of spirits gliding up and down the moonbeams, and floating idly on the
silvered waves, listening to, and sometimes softly echoing, the words which Lady Pengerswick sang.
Long did this strange pair inhabit this lonely castle ; and although the Lord ot Pengerswick frequently rode abroad on a most magnificent horse which had the reputation of being of Satanic origin, it was at once so docile to its master and so wild to any other person, yet he made no acquaintance with any of the neighbouring gentry. He was feared by all, and yet they respected him for many of the good deeds performed by him. He completely enthralled the Giants of the Mount ; and before he disappeared from Cornwall, they died, owing, it was said, to grief and want of food. Where the Lord of Pengerswick came from, no one knew ; he, with his lady, with two attendants, who never spoke in any but an Eastern tongue, which was understood by none around them, made their appearance one winter’s day, mounted on beautiful horses, evidently from Arabia or some distant land.
They soon having gold in abundance got possession of a cottage ; and in a marvellously short time the castle, which yet bears his name, was rebuilt by this lord. Many affirm that the lord by the force of his enchantments, and the lady by the spell of her voice, compelled the spirits of the earth and air to work for them ; and that three nights were sufficient to rear an enormous pile, of which but one tower now remains. Their coming was sudden and mysterious ; their going was still more so.
Years had rolled on, and the people around were familiarised with those strange neighbours, from whom also they derived large profits, since they paid whatsoever price was demanded for any article which they required. One day a stranger was seen in Market-Jew, whose face was bronzed by long exposure to an Eastern sun. No one knew him ; and he eluded the anxious inquiries of the numerous gossips, who were especially anxious to learn something of this man, who, it was surmised by every one, must have some connection with Pengerswick or his lady ; yet no one could assign any reason for such a supposition. Week after week passed away, and the stranger remained in the town, giving no sign. Wonder was on every old woman’s lips, and expressed in every old man’s eyes ; but they had to wonder on. One thing, it was said, had been noticed ; and this seemed to confirm the suspicions of the people.
The stranger wandered out on dark nights spent them, it was thought on the sea-shore ; and some fishermen said they had seen him seated on the rock at the entrance of the valley of Pengerswick. It was thought that the lord kept more at home than usual, and of late no one had heard his incantation songs and sounds ; neither had they heard the harp of the lady. A very tempestuous night, singular for its gloom when even the ordinary light, which, on the darkest night, is evident to the traveller in the open country, did not exist appears to have brought things to their climax. There was a sudden alarm in Market-Jew, a red glare in the eastern sky, and presently a burst of flames above the hill, and St Michael’s Mount was illuminated in a remarkable manner. Pengerswick Castle was on fire ; the servants fled in terror ; but neither the lord nor his lady could be found. From that day to the present they were lost to all.
The interior of the castle was entirely destroyed ; not a vestige of furniture, books, or anything belonging to the ” Enchanter ” could be found. He and everything belonging to him had vanished, and, strange to tell, from that night the bronzed stranger was never again seen. The inhabitants of Market-Jew naturally crowded to the fire ; and when all was over they returned to their homes, speculating on the strange occurrences of the night. Two of the oldest people always declared that, when the flames were at the highest, they saw two men and a lady floating in the midst of the fire, and that they ascended from amidst the falling walls, passed through the air like lightning, and disappeared.
The Witch of Fraddam and the Lord of Pengerswick
Again and again had the Lord of Pengerswick reversed the spells of the Witch of Fraddam, who was reported to be the most powerful weird woman in the west country. She had been thwarted so many times by this ” white witch,” that she resolved to destroy him by some magic more potent than anything yet heard of. It is said that she betook herself to Kynance Cove, and that there she raised the devil by her incantations, and that she pledged her soul to him in return for the aid he promised.
The enchanter’s famous mare was to be seduced to drink from a tub of poisoned water placed by the road-side, the effect of which was to render her in the highest degree restive, and cause her to fling her rider. The wounded Lord of Pengerswick was, in his agony, to be drenched by the old witch, with some hell-broth, brewed in the blackest night, under the most evil aspects of the stars ; by this he would be in her power for ever, and she might
torment him as she pleased. The devil felt certain of securing the soul of the witch of Fraddam, but he was less certain of securing that of the enchanter. They say, indeed, that the sorcery which Pengerswick learned in the East was so potent, that the devil feared him. However, as the proverb is, he held with the hounds and ran with the hare.
The witch collected with the utmost care all the deadly things she could obtain, with which to brew her famous drink. In the darkest night, in the midst of the wildest storms, amidst the flashings of lightnings and the bellowings of the thunder, the witch was seen riding on her black ram out over the moors and mountains in search of her poisons. At length all was complete the horse-drink was boiled, the hellbroth was brewed.
It was in March, about the time of the equinox ; the night was dark, and the King of Storms was abroad. The witch planted her tub of drink in a dark lane, through which she knew the Lord of Pengerswick must pass, and near to it she sat, croning over her crock of broth. The witch-woman had not long to wait ; amidst the hurrying winds was heard the heavy tramp of the enchanter’s mare, and soon she perceived the outline of man and horse defined sharply against the line of lurid light which stretched along the western horizon. On they came ; the witch was scarcely able to contain herself her joy and her fears, struggling one with the other, almost overpowered her.
On came the horse and her rider : they neared the tub of drink ; the mare snorted loudly, and her eyes flashed fire as she looked at the black tub by the road-side. Pengerswick bent him over the horse’s neck and whispered into her ear ; she turns round, and flinging out her heels, with one kick she scattered all to the wild winds. The tub flew before the blow ; it rushed against the crock, which it overturned, and striking against the legs of the old Witch of Fraddam, she fell along with the tub, which assumed the shape of a coffin.
Her terror was extreme : she who thought to have unhorsed the conjurer, found herself in a carriage for which she did not bargain. The enchanter raised his voice and gave utterance to some wild words in an unknown tongue, at which even his terrible mare trembled. A whirlwind arose, and the devil was in the midst of it. He took the coffin in which lay the terrified witch high into the air, and the crock followed them. The derisive laughter of Pengerswick, and the savage neighing of the horse, were heard above the roar of the winds. At length, with a satisfied tone, he exclaimed, ” She is settled till the day of doom,” gave the mare the spurs, and rode rapidly home.
The Witch of Fraddam still floats up and down, over the seas, around the coast, in her coffin, followed by the crock, which seems like a punt in attendance on a jolly-boat. She still works mischief, stirring up the sea with her ladle and broom till the waves swell into mountains, which heave off from their crests so much mist and foam, that these wild wanderers of the winds can scarcely be seen through the mist. Woe to the mariner who sees- the witch! The Lord of Pengerswick alone had power over her. He had
but to stand on his tower, and blow three blasts on his trumpet, to summon her to the shore, and compel her to peace.
The witches’ rock at Trewa
Anyone touching this rock nine times at midnight was insured against
To the south of the Logan Rock (near Trereen) is a high peak of granite, towering above the other rocks ; this is known as the Castle Peak. No one can say for how long a period, but most certainly for ages, this peak has been the midnight rendezvous for witches.
Many a man, and woman too, now sleeping quietly in the churchyard of St Levan, would, had they the power, attest to have seen the witches flying into the Castle Peak on moonlight nights, mounted on the stems of the ragwort and bringing with them the things necessary to make their charms potent and strong.
This place was long noted as the gathering place of the army of witches who took their departure for Wales, where they would luxuriate at the most favoured seasons of the year upon the milk of the Welshmen’s cows. From this peak many a struggling ship has been watched by a malignant crone, while she has been brewing the tempest to destroy it ; and many a rejoicing chorus has been echoed, in horror, by the cliffs around, when the witches have been croaking their miserable delight over the perishing crews, as they have watched man, woman, and child drowning, whom they were presently to rob of the treasures they were bringing home from other lands. Upon the rocks behind the Logan Rock it would appear that every kind of mischief which can befall man or beast was once rewed by the St Levan witches.
Madgy Figgy’s Stories
Again a quote from Hunt:
All those who have visited the fine piles of rocks in the vicinity of the so-called ” St Levan,” Land’s-End, called Tol-Pedden-Penwith, and infinitely finer than anything immediately surrounding the most western promontory itself, cannot have failed to notice the arrangement of cubical masses of granite piled one upon the other, known as the Chair Ladder. This remarkable pile presents to the beat of the Atlantic waves a sheer face of cliff of very considerable height, standing up like a huge basaltic column, or a pillar built by the Titans, the horizontal joints representing so many steps in the so-called ” Ladder,”
On the top is placed a stone of somewhat remarkable shape, which is by no great effort of the imagination converted into a chair. There it was that Madgy Figgy, one of the most celebrated of the St Levan and Burian witches, was in the habit of seating herself when she desired to call up to her aid the spirits of the storm. Often has she been seen swinging herself to and fro on this dizzy height when a storm has been coming home upon the shores, and richly-laden vessels have been struggling with the winds. From this spot she poured forth her imprecations on man and beast, and none whom she had offended could escape those withering spells ; and from this “chair,” which will ever bear her name, Madgy Figgy would always take her flight.
Often, starting like some huge bird, mounted on a stem of ragwort, Figgy has headed a band of inferior witches, and gone off rejoicing in their iniquities to Wales or Spain. This old hag lived in a cottage not far from Raftra, and she and all her gang, which appears to have been a pretty numerous crew, were notorious wreckers. On one occasion, Madgy from her seat of storms lured a Portuguese Indiaman into Perloe Cove, and drowned all the passengers. As they were washed on shore, the bodies were stripped of everything valuable, and buried by Figgy and her husband in the green hollow, which may yet be seen just above Perloe Cove, marking the graves with a rough stone placed at the head of the corpse.
The spoils on this occasion must have been large, for all the women were supplied for years with rich dresses, and costly jewels were seen decking the red arms of the girls who laboured in the fields. For a long time gems and gold continued to be found on the sands. Howbeit, amongst the bodies thrown ashore was one of a lady richly dressed, with chains of gold about her and not only so, but valuable treasure was fastened around her, she evidently hoping, if saved, to secure some of her property. This body, like all the others, was stripped ; but Figgy said there was a mark on it which boded them evil, and she would not allow any of the gold or gems to be divided, as it would be sure to bring bad luck if it were separated.
A dreadful quarrel ensued, and bloodshed was threatened ; but the diabolical old Figgy was more than a match for any of the men, and the power of her impetuous will was superior to them all. Everything of value, therefore, belonging to this lady was gathered into a heap, and placed in a chest in Madgy Figgy’s hut. They buried the Portuguese lady the same evening ; and after dark a light was seen to rise from the grave, pas^ along the cliffs and seat itself in Madgy’s chair at Tol-Pedden.
Then, after some hours, it descended, passed back again, and, entering the cottage, rested upon the chest. This curious phenomenon continued for more than three months, nightly, much to the alarm of all but Figgy, who said she knew all about it, and it would be all right in time. One day a strange-looking and strangely-attired man arrived at the cottage. Figgy’s man (her husband) was at home alone. To him the stranger addressed himself by signs, he could not speak English, so he does not appear to have spoken at all, and expressed a wish to be led to the graves.
Away they went, but the foreigner did not appear to require a guide. He at once selected the. grave of the lady, and sitting down upon it, he gave vent to his pent-up sorrows. He sent Figgy’s man away, and remained there till night, when the light arose from the grave more brilliant than ever, and proceeded directly to the hut, resting as usual on the chest, which was now covered up with old sails, and all kinds of fishermen’s lumber.
The foreigner swept these things aside, and opened the chest. He selected everything belonging to the lady, refusing to take any of the other valuables. He rewarded the wreckers with costly gifts, and left them no one knowing from whence he came nor
whither he went. Madgy Figgy was now truly triumphant. “One witch knows another witch, dead or living,” she would say ; “and the African would have been the death of us if we hadn’t kept the treasure, whereas now we have good gifts, and no gainsaying
;em.” Some do say they have seen the light in Madgy Figgy’s chair since those times.
Hunt also gives a story about the same witch who gains a pig through a curse. She offers to buy it, and when the owner will not fix a price she ill-wishes it, so that runs around crazily when on a lead, and gets thinner the more it eats. Eventually it eats the owner out of house and home, and he gives her the pig for a twopenny loaf.
He then gives a very similar story, about a witch and some chickens. Madam Noy, the owner of the chickens refuses to sell the witch some eggs, and the witch refuses to leave. Noy throws a stone at the witch and hits her in the face, making her jaws rattle.
She responds with a curse in ryhme, which was sung by the person telling the story. A “coppie” is apparently a chicken with a certain type of comb.
” Madam Noy, you ugly old bitch,
You shall have the gout, the palsy, and itch ;
All the eggs your hens lay henceforth shall be addle ;
All your hens have the pip, and die with the straddle;
And ere I with the mighty fine madam have done,
Of her favourite ‘coppies’ she shan’t possess one.”
The pip, here, is a respiratory disease which leaves white scales on the tongue. It’s the origin of the English phrase “having the pip”. Pip begins in English meaning annoyance, but eventually changes to mean unique, individual and valued. The straddle is what we’d now call splayed legs. Addled means “rotten” in this case, not “mixed”.
The next Cornish witch takes the form of a hare to travel swiftly, and s4eems to be able to carry burdens in that form. She has a familiar with can take the forms of a hare, cat and black, demonic shape. These forms can issue a blood curdling howl.
Hunt then tells two stories of witches who send a toad familiar to curse enemies. While it is present the people sicken, but when the toad is thrown in the fire, its owner is burned according to its wounds. Arguably this isn’t a familair at all: it might be a nightwalker’s phantasticum.