Monday, 21 March 2011

Cornish Folklore

I have begun a new sketchbook project that is based on the myths and folklore of Cornwall. The wind has carried many tales and retellings of ancient history. I aim to visit standing stones, haunted coves and fairy dells, wild woodlands and sea-lashed cliffs. I will document my findings, collect fallen treasures and work on bigger and more detailed paintings.


Pixies (piskies) are mythical creatures of folklore. They are considered to dwell in the areas around Devon and Cornwall, usually depicted with red hair and pointed ears, wearing layers of green and a pointy hat. Some say that the origin of the name pixie comes from the Swedish dialect pyske meaning wee little fairy. Others have claimed that due to the Cornish origin of the piskies the term is possibly Celtic. Pixie origins have also been connected to Puck; a mythological creature sometimes described as a fairy.

They are said to be helpful to humans, sometimes lending a hand with the housework. However, pixies are not completely harmless as they have a reputation for misleading travellers (lured astray / pixy-led), the remedy is to turn your coat inside out.
Pixies are said to be uncommonly beautiful; some have distorted and strange appearances, some have goat-like features and some are coltish in character.

Pixies are frequently confused with fairies, sprites and other creatures of the fae, but they are quite different. Most can be described as having heart shaped or angular faces, strong lines and a short stocky build (earth pixies). Air and water pixies are more slender and ephemeral. They range from child sized to a small tree dwelling size and are often ill-clothed or naked. They like to dance in the moonlight amongst the standing stones. A fairy ring of pixies, grinning from ear to ear under the haunting moon.

Excerpts from nature diary:

March 15th
Country footpaths, sunlit fields, daffodils growing on hedges, the most perfect stream with wild overgrown branches, fungi, ivy and lichen, two ponies at a fence, forty two white ducks on a pond, goats and chickens, mud streaked pathways, swans building their nest on a remote island, steps leading up to the cliff, gorse and heather, rabbit burrows, sea gazing, a mermaid cove.

March 24th
The scent of the ocean, riverfront houses, a peaceful village with narrow roads, the winding river of Helford, gulls flying the azure skies, moored boats, hidden creeks and footpaths, fifty four arduous steps that reach miles of open fields, newly planted trees, bird song, longing for boat rides on calm water to observe whales and dolphins.