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Since the mid-nineteenth century, when the railway first made mass tourism possible, Cornwall has enjoyed a reputation as a ‘land apart’ – a legendary kingdom inhabited by piskies, giants, fairies, and witches. Cornwall continues to be regarded as a particularly ‘witchy’ place, yet far from being the preserve and fancy of folklore, a considerable body of evidence suggests that belief in witchcraft formed a serious part of the way Cornish people over the past 500 years viewed their world, offering a means to understand misfortune and illness and a way to measure moral conduct.

By the middle ages, ancient beliefs in the efficacy of sorcery and enchantment had become mixed with Christian notions of the Devil and of Evil, leading to the idea of the power of witchcraft to inflict harm and spread disease by Satan’s aid. It was believed possible to be ‘overlooked’ or begrudged by an ill-wish from a witch, resulting in misfortune or illness. Fears surrounding the prevalence and incidence of witchcraft centred on the home and work. Relations between friends and neighbours could be affected in close-knit village societies if witchcraft was suspected, also in cottage industries or farming; cattle dying mysteriously, milk failing to churn properly, crops blighted: there were many varied opportunities for a witch to inflict misery and hardship upon village economies that depended upon the land.

Read the original article at: Cornish Witchcraft

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