Friday, 4 July 2014

Cornish Bird Lore: The Robin and the Wren

There was a time when the Robin and the Wren were looked upon by Cornish people as sacred birds, and many interesting bits of folklore have gathered about them. If anyone was known to have killed either, or to have robbed its nest, he would become almost an outcast with the villagers, and I have known parents to forbid there children to play with such a boy, hence the little rhyme

"Kill a Robin or a Wran
You'll never grow to be a man"

and undersized children were often accused of having killed a robin or wren, or at least of having destroyed its nest, while if a person happened to be getting a bit of bad luck, it was said "Well, 'tes no wonder, for he was always strubbing robin's and wran's nests when he was a boy".  A commoner version of the rhyme says:

"Strub a Robin or a Wran, you'll never prosper boy or man"

"Robin, St Riddick, take care of your nuddick,
Again, the cold winter comes on
'I care not' said he, 'how cold it may be
I'll creep in some barn and keep myself warm,
And put my bill under my wing' "

It was said that a Robin gained his red breast by plucking out a thorn from the head of the crucified Christ, hence the Robin was referred to as a saint. The rhyme above was collected from Madron around 1860.

The above is from the Old Cornwall journal No.2, Summer 1930, The Robin and the Wren by Jim Thomas.

Art by Paul Atlas-Saunders.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

An Old Charm from Lawhitton

When Edward Lhuyd made his journey into Cornwall in 1700 he kept a note book which is still preserved at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In it he recorded the following version of a well known charm:

"For ye stinging of a long creple, i.e snake, or any venomous worm:-

Bragg, bragg under ye halse he lay (a halsen stick, i.e, a hazzle), where he lay full nine fold, from nine fold to eight fold, from eight fold to seven fold, from seven fold to six fold, from six fold to five fold, from five fold to four fold, from four fold to three fold, from three fold to two fold, from two fold to one fold, from one fold to never a fold, out with ye spear and away with ye pain. In ye name of ye Father ye Son and ye Holy Ghost. Amen.

You must strike your hand upon ye place, saying ye same words three times. Probatum est per Agnetam ffrost, out of an old acct. book of one Mr --Cole, now in ye hands of Mr Shute of Lawhitton"

Robert Morton Nance. Old Cornwall Vol 2 No. 10.
Art by Paul Atlas-Saunders