Legendary Chalice Well of Glastonbury

Cover of the Chalice Well – Theangryblackwoman at en.wikipedia – CC BY 2.5

Chalice Well is a natural spring surrounded by gardens situated at the foot of Glastonbury Tor near the town of Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset.  Today it is managed by the Chalice Well Trust which was founded in 1959 by Wellesley Tudor Pole and is a grade 1 listed building.  In 2009, the the Exeter University School conducted research which revealed the well was fed by an aquifer.

Joseph of Arimathea

According to legend when Joseph of Arimathea came to England He brought along with him the cup Christ used at the Last Supper to serve his followers wine.  Immediately after Joseph had hidden the chalice the waters of the spring were sad to have turned red.   The Holy Chalice became associated and eventually interchangeable with the Holy Grail which originated in Arthurian legends.  Read more Continue reading

Joseph of Arimathea in English tradition

Joseph of Arimathea by William Blake (1757-1827)

Joseph of Arimathea holds a peculiar place in the mythology and traditions of England. He was a wealthy Jewish merchant from Judea who was also a contemporary follower of Jesus Christ.  As a member of the Jewish council, or Sanhedrin, he was a man of considerable influence in his  own country.  Joseph of Arimathea is so named because he came from Arimathea in Judea.  He was mentioned in all four gospels and from these we know he was a good and righteous man

Joseph’s legacy

Joseph  was believed to have converted thousands of people to the Christian faith, including Ethelbert, a local king of the time.  He was also said to have founded Glastonbury Abbey. At his death at the age of 86, it is said that he was so respected that six kings bore his coffin.   His life and actions in Britain remains enigmatic and whatever the truth is we will probably never know but Joseph of Arimathea remains an important figure in English and Christian tradition.  Read more …. Continue reading

The Breton legend of the drowning of the city of Ys

According to Breton folklore there once was a beautiful and famous city named Ys, which was also known as Ker-is, or Is. A legend tells of the fall of this once great city through the pagan practices of a princess named Dahut and her followers.

The legend of Ys

There are many versions of the legend. Most have Gradlon, or Galon as the king who built the city. The oldest versions say the city was originally located in in an area of the Bay of Douarnenez that was just above the waterline and was built 2,000 years before King Gradlon. But by the time of King Gradlon’s reign the land had become so eroded that the sea was inundating the city at high tides. To keep the sea at bay huge walls were built around it with massive gates placed in them to control the flow of the sea.  Read more

The Welsh legend of the sunken realm of Cantre’r Gwaelod

According to Welsh legend, Cantre’r Gwaelod was land inhabited by humans that became flooded by the sea through human neglect and folly. It was situated in what is now an area of sea in Cardigan Bay, Wales. There are many different versions of this legend which attempt to explain how a once rich and fertile land succumbed to the sea. There are also similar versions that exist in the British Isles referring to different locations. Another famous one originating outside of Britain comes from Brittany, France concerning the once beautiful city of Ys and of course there was Atlantis.

Gwyddno Garahir of Cantre’r Gwaelod

The ruler of the land was Gwyddno Garahir. In Welsh legend there are many rulers named Gwyddno but this one was said to be the sire of Elffin ap Gwyddno, who was the foster father of Taliesin the legendary Welsh bard.  Gwyddno Garahir, or Gwyddno Long-Shanks in English, was also reputed to be the keeper of one of the Thirteen Treasures of Island Britain which was said to be a magic basket which caused any food placed in it to multiply one hundred times. His main fortress was Caer Wyddno or Fort of Gwyddno and said to be situated to the northwest of the modern seaside town of Aberystwyth. According to this version around 600 AD a great storm blew out of the south west one night forcing the tide against the sea walls of the dyke.  Read more Continue reading

The legend of the drowned town beneath Lake Bala in Wales

Llyn Tegid is the Welsh name for Lake Bala in Gwynned which is the largest lake in Wales. It is nearly four miles long and covers 1,084 acres and is up to 136 feet deep. Although it is 529 feet above sea level it is situated in a rift valley lying northeast to southwest sloping down to meet the sea at Tywyn. The River Dee flows through the lake which is part of the river’s regulation system. Legend says the waters of the Dee never mix with the waters of the lake, though this has not been confirmed. The modern town of Bala is situated on the northern banks of the lake.

Like other Welsh deluge legends such as Tyno Helig and Cantre’r Gwaelod there is the legendary submerged town of old Bala unLder the waters. This legend differs because Lake Tegid is a freshwater inland lake while the kingdoms of Tyno Helig and Cantre’r Gwaelod were located under what is now sea. Nevertheless, all three were the victims of a catastrophic deluge and they do have some common factors. This work will focus on Lake Bala. and discuss the two different legends which tell how the old Bala town was flooded and the lake was created.  Read more Continue reading

Wishing Wells in folklore

In European folklore a wishing well is a term that is used for a well that is believed to have the power to grant any wishes. These wishes may be spoken or expressed in another way such as mentally, or in writing, or a by using a symbol or votive offering of some kind.  This work briefly discusses the evolution of wishing wells from the past to modern times.

The residence of divinities

In ancient times Celtic and other cultures often believed natural springs and wells were sacred places. In those days a permanent supply of drinking water could be difficult to find so when a source of pure, clean drinking water was found it would be come a place that people visited for necessity. Water being an essential commodity for the subsistence of life the ancients believed divinities or spirits resided in such springs, or that they were the doorway to the underworld.   Read more …

Jack the Giant-killer versus Cormoran the Giant!

Cormoran the Giant has many legends associated with him but he is probably best known as the giant who some say, with the aid of his wife, Cormelian, created the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount which lies a few hundred yards off off the coast of Cornwall, near the town of Marazion. He is said to have built the island by carrying blocks of white granite across the sea from the mainland. Cormelian was said to have helped by carrying the granite blocks in her apron.

Public Domain

From here he would wade across the short stretch of sea to the Cornish mainland to steal the sheep and cattle of the local farmers. In one version of the legend Cormorant grew weary carrying the blocks and took a rest falling asleep. His wife carried on working but decided to fetch green stones instead of white granite because they were nearer. Cormoran woke when she was halfway across. Seeing she was bringing different blocks of stone he grew angry and kicked her. This caused her to let go of her hold on her apron which allowed the stoned to fall into the sea forming Chapel Rock.  Read more Continue reading

The Cornish folktale of Jan Tregeagle

Jan Tregeagle is a name that is known all over Cornwall. In Cornish folklore he is considered the wickedest man that ever lived. His cries and wails can be heard when the wind howls through the trees and woods, across the bleak, cold moors and along the rugged coasts as he struggles to complete the task allotted to him. Like the Wandering Jew who is doomed to an eternity of endless, restless wandering, Tregeagle must work to complete hopeless tasks until Judgement Day when he will be brought before the Almighty for for release, or endless condemnation as the Lord shall see fit.

The Faustian Pact

Around the world there are many legends and stories from diverse cultures that tell the story of how a person sells their soul to the devil in return for riches, power or long life. To begin with things go well as the seller reaps the benefits of the Faustian pact. However, the devil does not forget and there comes a time when he has to be paid. The story of how of Jan Tregeagle, a Cornishman, sold his soul to the devil is one such story. As is often the case with legends there are a number of different versions that vary by location and who is telling the story and this version is influenced by others. Even so the Faustian theme of a person selling their soul to the devil and the reluctance of the seller to honor the bargain when the time comes remains, as well as the setting of a series of impossible tasks to keep that person on earth until the Judgement Day. Many people think Jan Tregeagle was a real man who was a magistrate who may have lived and worked in 17th century Cornish town of Bodmin. By evil means, including cheating an orphan from their rightful inheritance, he had acquired great wealth and to help him fulfill his desire for riches he made a pact with the devil.

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The Cornish Legend of the Mermaid of Zennor

Cornwall in the extreme west of England is a peninsula with a long, rugged coastline with many towering cliffs, hidden coves, harbors and small fishing villages. The Cornish people around the coast for centuries made their earthly living from the sea and took their spiritual guidance from the church and these two themes often mix with old pagan beliefs which became woven into local folklore and legend.

By H.J. Ford, illustrator – Public Domain

Is there a hidden meaning?

The legend of the Mermaid of Zennor is certainly quaint with more than a touch of romance, but could any part of it be true? There are many folktales and legends from around the British Isles that have deeper meanings than often seen apparent. They often have a hidden moral or warning of some kind hidden in the symbolism and have parallels or links to other legends from other parts of the world. Is there a hidden meaning in the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor?  Read more

Legends about Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Bedivere throwing Excalibur into the lake – Public Domain

Dozmary Pool is a small lake hidden away in the bleak wilderness of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is a wild, remote and desolate place that is associated with a number of Cornish and British legends.

King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake

This is a place of ancient legend and traditions that tell of great people and great events and evil people who must pay their dues to the devil.  This is the place where the Lady of the Lake received Excalibur from Bedivere after the mortal wounding of King Arthur, after the Battle of Camlan his last battle.

Jan Tregeagle

It is also the place where the evil Jan Tregeagle was committed to endless toil until the Final Judgement Day after making a Faustian pact  with the Devil.   Read more … Continue reading