Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Saints, Demons and Conjurors

Saints, Demons and Conjurors

  Ladock Folklore by Alex Langstone

The village of Ladock lies in the heart of the mid-Cornwall countryside a few miles to the north-east of the city of Truro. The settlement is named after Lodoca, a 6th Century Irish Abbess, who, like so many of her contemporaries, came to Cornwall to set up a religious community. She is thought to have founded her settlement close to the holy well, at Fentonladock. There is an old story associated with her and her neighbouring missionaries, Grace and Probus. One day they all decided that the boundary between their two villages should be formally marked. They would each rise at dawn, and walk towards their neighbour’s settlement, and where they met would be the new boundary. Probus set off at dawn, but Ladoca decided to brush her very long hair before she set off. By the time she had finished, Probus had almost arrived at Lodoca’s settlement, hence the current parish boundaries uneven size.                                                                                                         
Ladock Glebe holy well (pictured left) on the valley floor below the church, is where water has traditionally been collected for baptisms, and this beautiful holy well sits in an enchanting green dell amid oak, holly and beech trees, with the church tower clearly visible on the hill to the south.                                                                                                                                
The village is also home to the amazing tales of Parson Wood, Ghost layer extraordinaire. William Wood was rector at Ladock between 1704 and 1749, a time when many Cornish clergy were involved in lavish exorcisms of demons and ghosts. Rev. Wood was a skilled exorcist, astrologer and occultist and he was kept busy keeping many undesirable entities at bay. He was respected by all his parishioners and was at the heart of village life, being actively involved in the continued survival of traditional Cornish wrestling and hurling. He was the official keeper of the silver hurling ball, and encouraged the game in the parish. When out, the Parson would carry a fancy ebony walking stick. It had a massive silver finial on which was engraved a pentacle, and just below this, on the dark shaft of the stick was a band of silver, engraved with planetary symbols and mystical figures.

Parson William Wood's walking stick by Paul Atlas-Saunders. Copyright 2017.

He is famous for laying many ghosts and devils, and he was usually a match for most demons, whom he would change into animals and dispatch with his whip. However, one of his most famous exorcisms proved to be more problematic. This particular demon took the shape of a terrifying bird like figure that took the church tower as his home. The demon was very large with coal-black plumage and fiery eyes. The feathered fiend, which looked like no known bird, would make a hideous racket, which would bellow down the tower, petrifying the bell-ringers. The Parson was having trouble laying the demon by his usual methods, as he kept hiding behind the pinnacles on the tower, and Wood eventually devised a plan of exorcism using newly baptised children to rid the village of this noisy menace. He gathered nine unbaptised children to the church. Once baptised, the children were presented around the base of the tower along with mothers, who each held their children aloft, whilst Parson Wood walked around them all, muttering and cutting the air in various figures with his walking stick. The fiend eventually took flight, after one last prolonged screech, and he darted straight up flapping his dark and demonic wings, from which fiery sparks and flames of blue were seen billowing, as the demon headed for St Enoder.   The Parson was also famous for foiling an attempt by the Devil to beat local Cornish wrestling hero John ‘Jackey’ Trevail at a clandestine midnight wrestling match on Le Pens Plat Common, and it was rumoured that the devil in question may have been sent by the neighbouring St Enoder witches, who could often be seen flying on their ragwort stems during the time of the full moon or heading home after their midnight meetings in the shape of hares.                   

There is mention of a “celebrated Ladock conjuror”, in Richard Polwhele’s Traditions and Recollections volume 2, 1826. This particular conjuror is reported to have found a man who had fallen into a shaft of Creekbraw’s Mine, using some sort of remote viewing, and was able to recover stolen money by occult means. Was this conjuror Parson Wood? Maybe, but Polwhele seems to hint that it was a different person, with the following passage – 

“In the last age, some of the rusticated clergy used to favour the popular superstition, by pretending to the power of laying ghosts… I could mention the names of several persons whose influence over their flock was solely attributable to this circumstance. By far other means, we now endeavour to secure the good opinion of those who are committed to our care”

So, who was this mysterious “celebrated Ladock conjuror”? I doubt we will ever know for sure, and it is probable that Parson William Wood himself was the source for these anonymous enigmatic tales. 

Recently published in Meyn Mamvro No. 93 Summer 2017.


Stories and folk-lore of West Cornwall by William Bottrell (1880)
Traditions and Recollections volume 2 by Richard Polwhele (1826)

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Ghost Ship of Porthcurno

The Ghost Ship of Porthcurno

Along the lines of antiquated communication
Within a stones throw of the
Ancient Logan Rock
Traditional place of initiations of
The ancient folk of fey
Pristine golden sand, glows in the sunlight
Illuminating the cove,
Softly sharing the space with
The sparkling crystalline granitic cliffs
Worn smooth by the insatiable tides and
Swelling waters of the alluring
Mesmerising Atlantic.
This soft contagious place
Backdrop scenery of a million pictures
Of family holidays and
Romantic canoodling couples
Honeymooning together in the warm
Cornish sun.
The bay of white sand caressing the toes of
Pilgrims and travellers and seekers of history
And mystery of the old
Hermitage and secret spring
Issuing from the clifftops from the secret abode
Of sages, priests and shamans of a golden past?

But as sunset approaches
A different mystery unfolds -
On certain nights, when the white shining moon
Peeks through scudding black billowing clouds
Sailing across the menacing
Dismal starry sky with
The feeling of a thousand
Demons watching from above
This cove is transformed,
The stage is set for another tall tale
That will terrify and astonish one and all...
For darkness has fallen, and the grey bell is tolling
The bell of the ghost-ship is ringing at sea
The phantom is coming, from the deepest dark ocean
As we observe from the shadowy tortuous
Covert corners of the
Moon-bathed village streets, with
Terrifying anticipation.
Ding, ding, ding
Tolls the bell,
Reverberating, advancing across the bay
The moon shining full lighting her way
Creaking and a groaning,
She sails closer for inspection
By the invisible deck-hands and the
Demonic admiralty
The dismal smell of decay rises above the sand.

Then at once,
She mysteriously appears
A fine ancient ghost-ship,
Close to the beach
Billowing ghostly fog abounds
Swirling and dancing
With dark ragged flags fluttering
On the deathly night air
Torn sails flapping with the
Creak and groan of deaths inevitable grasp.
The Dark Ship is with us
As she sails above the sand
Towards the village,
Crashing through unseen waters,
Seeking all who wish to hide
From this deliciously devilish scene.
Searching, hunting those souls
Whom she has left behind.

 taken from Lucifer Bridge. 
Click cover below to purchase or download.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Menhir: A poetic invocation of the Cornish landscape

I am very pleased to announce that my brand new poetry collection is now available. This little fifty-eight page anthology contains twenty-one poems, which take you on a journey into the heart of the hidden realms of Nature. The poetry explores some of the haunted coombes, enchanted woodlands, ancient sites, mysterious moors and secret coastlines of the wild and remote Cornish landscape. Enter into the liminal places where the genius loci awaits rediscovery.

The book is lavishly illustrated throughout by Paul Atlas-Saunders, and his beautiful watercolour 'From Treslea' is featured on the cover.

Below is a sample poem along with the illustration which accompanies it.


Liminal movement  
By the darkened hedge                                  
From the threshold of night,                   
Floating in time                                      
Branches dance,                                         
Teased by the forest crown                         
Eyes peering from the                                   
Dense blackness.                                
Something stirs                                              
A quickening                                               
There are no stars tonight                                   
Just a low dense mist                                             
Rising from the valley floor.

Solitary vistas give way to                     
The antlered red beast                         
As he leaps over the ancient ramparts 
Into my path.                                                 
Time slows, eyes meet                              
Infinite possibilities tonight on                     
The hilltop settlement of                               
The ancient ancestors.                                
He quickly disappears again                 
Heading back into his                         
Woodland realm                                 
Continuing his solitary                        
Journey to the river.


Perfect-bound Paperback, with black and white illustrations throughout. 10.8cm x 17.48cm
ISBN 9780956355447

£5 plus shipping

Buy now