Planet 234

Peter Stevenson
The Folklore of Cornwall: the Oral Tradition of a Celtic Nation
by Ronald M. James and
Isles of Scilly Folk Tales by Mike O’Connor

by Ronald M. James

University of Exeter Press, £45.00

About ten years ago, I was in Penzance for Golowen, the festival that celebrates midsummer with the lighting of bonfires on Mazey Day. The tradition began in 1991, based on folkloric records of similar Cornish traditions which were banned in the 1890s due to the fire risk, increased insurance payments and general rowdiness. The revived celebrations include Penglaz, a bleached white horse skull on a pole draped in a black sheet decorated with red ribbons, a night mare, darker and quicker than the Padstow ’Obby ’Oss, and freakier by far than Y Fari Lwyd. While Penglaz is the very definition of Cornish folklore, poor Mari is a gentle carthorse in comparison.

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