Saturday, 18 April 2015

P is for the Patron Saint of Cornwall – St Piran - and Pixies …



Saint Piran was an early 6th century Cornish Abbot and saint, supposedly of Irish origin.  He is the patron saint of tin-miners, as well as of Cornwall … although Saint Michael and Saint Petroc also have claim to this title …

St Piran c 6th century




The Irish, in their wisdom, decided St Piran was not for them … tied him to a mill-stone ... rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea ... 





Yes - it's a weather map ... but
it shows Ireland in relation
to Cornwall's peninsula


... which immediately became calm ... and the saint floated safely across the Bristol Channel to land upon the sandy beach of Perranzabuloe … near to Perranporth and Newquay.






St Piran's Cross in the sand dunes
at Perranzanbuloe

… his first disciples are said to have been a badger, a fox and a bear … before he was joined by other Christian converts, who together founded the Abbey of Lanpiran.




Tin lode


Saint Piran’s flag is used as the symbol of Cornwall … and came about as St Piran ‘rediscovered’ tin-smelting (tin had been smelted in Cornwall before the Romans’ arrival, but the methods had been lost) …
 


Droplet of smelted tin


… at his hearthstone … the stone with the tin-bearing ore started to melt which formed a silver-white cross within the heated slab stone … St Piran’s flag.




This is not in print
- unfortunately



I expect St Piran was guarded by Pixies … the mythical creatures of folklore … they are believed to inhabit ancient underground ancestor sites such as stone circles, barrows, dolmens, ringforts and menhirs ... see my N Neolithic post .. 




Pixies playing on the skeleton of a cow -
drawn by John D Batten c 1894 (c/o Wikipedia)


There are any number of names for these legendary creatures … Pixies are generally benign, mischievous, short of stature and attractively childlike … they are fond of dancing and gather together to dance through the night.




The Cornish Flag

That is P for Saint Piran who landed at Perranzabuloe, near Perranporth, and became the Patron Saint of Cornwall and of tin-miners, guarded by the Pesky Pixie clan … from Aspects of British Cornish ...



Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

53 comments:

Clarabelle Rant said...

It must have been so frustrating to lose the knowledge of tin working and having to re-discover it. I've always wanted to visit the Pantheon in Rome. The knowledge of how to build a domed ceiling was lost for generations. I always wondered how they felt staring at the pantheon until it was re-discovered.

You can find me here:
ClarabelleRant

J Hanna said...

I am not well informed about all the patron saints, but cool to hear even tin-miners have one. Perhaps I am being silly, but is there any technologically based patron saints?

Nilanjana Bose said...

Poor guy... it seems a little rough to bundle him into the sea, with a millstone and all too. The channel looks too wide for comfort at the Cornwall end, even with super calm seas.

Funny how humans lose knowledge/skills and then revive them back again later. I wonder what people looking back at us a few centuries down the line will say we have lost, and whether it will ever be regained back?

Ciao,
Nila.

helen tilston said...

St Piran did not have an easy time. How cruel that he was sent in such a horrible way to Cornwall. I can understand why he would relate to animals better than humans.
Always interesting Hilary
Thanks

Annalisa Crawford said...

My son loves St Piran's Day, because they serve pasties at school :-)

The Cornish pixies are known as Piskies.

Carole Anne Carr said...

How wonderful, a badger, a fox and a bear. Such ideas for a book. See them in the congregation. My spiritual director is always asking me to write a 'religious' book for children and there's the beginning of an idea.

Rosie Amber said...

Lovely I didn't know anything about St Piran.

Natasha Duncan-Drake said...

I love that he had non-human disciples before he gained other followers :). I have never heard the story behind the flag before - most interesting, thank you.
Tasha
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

Zannie Shaman said...

I live in Perranporth- havent seen any bears but a neighbour did have a visit from a badger

zannierose A-Z

Sara C. Snider said...

St. Piran's story sounds very interesting, rather folkloric in nature, what with the animal disciples and pixies. Very enjoyable to read about. :)

Rhodesia said...

Just been catching up with your past posts, some great posts here. Love this story, one I have not heard before. Have a great weekend Diane

Susan Scott said...

Well, he landed up in Cornwall after being dumped in the sea by the Irish so that makes St. Piran worthy of being a saint. The photos are beautiful Hilary, thank you.

Sandra Meek Wilkes said...

I am not familiar with Saint Piran but I do love the little pixies. Thanks for broadening my knowledge. :) A to Z

Out on the prairie said...

Wonder how many stood by the bear when he spoke. LOL

Nick Wilford said...

Quite a whimsical story. Whatever he did to offend the Irish he found many friends of all shapes and sizes in his new home.

Bob Scotney said...

I have some not very fond memories of Perranporth in an army camp in 1959.
I was expecting Saint Piran to be chosen today but can't even guess what it will be for 'Q'.

Sophie Duncan said...

I did not know the origin of the Cornish flag - an interesting story :) I wonder why the Irish didn't like him? They must have been pretty shocked to see a millstone float!
Sophie
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
FB3X
Wittegen Press

Jo said...

I agree, a floating millstone must have been quite a sight for the Irish.

More new stuff to digest Hilary, thanks so much.

fabfortee said...

A very interesting story, indeed.
I would love to visit Cornwall one day. :)
Regards,
Shalijay

Chrys Fey said...

Oh my gosh! They tied him to a mill stone and threw him off a cliff? It's amazing that he survived that. Now that's a miracle!

M Pax said...

Piran had a turbulent beginning. Glad he fared OK.

Untethered Realms / MPax

Suzanne Sapsed said...

Those naughty Irish! x

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Hilary, you have so many wonderful stories! I so hope your use some of your wealth of knowledge in a book!!!

samantha mozart said...

This is all so fascinating, Hilary. I could spend much more time than I have time for at present, reading the stories on your site.

I did read a bit more than just about St. Piran today -- Cornish game hens, for one: I always wondered how Cornish game hens came about.

Glad St. Piran made it ashore safely. I grew concerned.

Cheers
Samantha Mozart
http://thescheherazadechronicles.org

Jennifer Hawes said...

Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

Gwen Gardner said...

Well, at least animals don't talk back. Except my dogs. Always talking. Thanks for another awesome post, Hilary.

Untethered Realms

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Those crazy Irishmen. Glad the pixies were there for St. Piran.

cleemckenzie said...

That is one unsinkable saint. He must have been good to have the animal following he had. As for the pixies, they're full of mischief and I love stories about them.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Piran was not going down.
Are Pixies also called Brownies?

Jeffrey Scott said...

Those pesky pixies. They certainly are found in many odd places throughout history.

Ann Best said...

Poor Saint Piran, but love those pixies. So does Jen. ((( )))

Mark Koopmans said...

This made me laugh!!

I would have expected the Oirish, my people!, to embrace the future St. Piran... but no... they tie the poor fellow up and roll him off a cliff :)

Interesting to note... St. Patrick is said to have reached Ireland in 632 A.D. ... I wonder if he and St. Piran floated past each other :)

D.G. Hudson said...

I thought you weren't supposed to 'mess with' saints, could be bad karma. AND you mentioned stone circles again, one of those things I find intriguing.

I'm not sure all pixies are trustworthy from my reading, nor fairies.

Maria said...

It's nice to know that pixies have a patron saint too! How entertaining :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Clarabelle – we just don’t know how many people were around and how the communities properly lived .. but I guess losing skills in those early days could happen through accident, disaster or just age. Domed ceilings are extraordinary .. and I love seeing how they’re built … I hope you get to the Pantheon one day …

@ J – nor am I .. but I do know about St Piran; but the early peoples needed saints for all their works etc. I don’t know about any technological based patron saint … I’d doubt it … but who knows!

@ Nila – I know it’s a funny story isn’t it .. and it’s a long way. I find knowledge interesting … and how often something that we knew about centuries before, suddenly becomes very important because it’s relevant and works with a new substance we’ve created today … I wonder what abilities we might lose in the future, only to need at some later date .. interesting but worrying thought …

@ Helen – I know poor St Piran – mind you he must have been so grateful to arrive on our shores … and then be rescued and found by animal friends ..

@ Annalisa – ah ah .. that’s a very good reason to enjoy St Piran’s day – congratulations to your son for loving pasties. Cornish piskies … have other names don’t they … I’m sure your ‘Piskies’ is the best spelling … sorry!!

@ Carole Anne – I’m glad I’ve given you an idea re a new book for children .. a great subject too …

@ Rosie – so glad you’re now aware of St Piran …

@ Tasha – I hadn’t fully known the story of St Piran, or the story behind the flag .. that I found fascinating ..

@ Zannie – what fun that you live in St Piran land .. Perranporth … I’ve spent a couple of weeks, separate years, when I went gliding on the airfield south west of the town. Badgers are around – I hope your neighbour’s garden survived the visit …

@ Sara – very folkloric in nature with the animal disciples etc .. but it brings St Piran to life somehow …

@ Diane – that’s great you’ve managed some time for reading through my posts … thank you!

@ Susan – I agree if you can survive the Irish Sea crossing tied to a millstone a sainthood is the least you’d expect. Glad the photos bring the post to light …

@ Sandra – good to meet you and so glad you enjoyed the post.

@ OOTP – poor Bear … I hope others were friendly to him ..

@ Nick – it is a whimsical story isn’t it .. but fun to think about … too many saints vying for position perhaps decided he wasn’t wanted .. I’ve no idea why he was rejected. He certainly was welcomed by the Cornish – both beast and human ..

@ Bob – ah .. you were up on the airfield, where I used to glide in the 60s … my step grandfather, who flew Tiger Moths, got it going with some friends for a gliding and flying club. You guessed right for P …. Ah ha – tomorrow all will be revealed … as Q for Q----- ? comes around!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sophie – it’s a good story isn’t it, how the flag came about. And if they waited on the cliff top .. the Irish must have been somewhat shattered to see the calm seas and that millstone floating .. I quite agree …

@ Jo – yes that floating millstone must have surprised the Irish. Glad you’re enjoying the posts ..

@ Shalijay – I hope you can get over and visit Cornwall .. it’s a lovely place – unique in its own way: with as you can see lots of stories …

@ Chrys .. I’d agree with you – a miracle of survival ..

@ Mary – St Piran did indeed have a turbulent time … but was welcomed in Cornwall ..

@ Suzanne – yes … those very naughty Irish ..

@ Monti – thanks so much … it’s things that amuse or interest me .. but I hope to do something about curating the information at some stage …

@ Samantha – thanks so much for your positive comment about the A-Z and my site .. appreciate that. I’m glad I’ve clarified the Cornish Hen scenario .. and that St Piran made it to shore …

@ Jennifer – happy to read you enjoyed the post ..

@ Gwen – yes the animals don’t squabble or want to do other things .. usually – til the dogs run off … lovely to see you here ..

@ Susan – something was wrong with the Irish that day – but Cornwall was very happy to have their saint .. and the pixies I’m sure looked after him – they sent in the animals!

@ Lee – yes, an unsinkable saint … and the animal following is rather good to know about isn’t it … It was strange I couldn’t (easily) find much about Pixies …

@ Alex – Piran most definitely was going to survive and do good works elsewhere. Pixies as Brownies … the Brownies are the name for a member of the Guiding organisation for girls 7 – 10 years … and the Pixies may well have been one of the groups within a specific Brownie pack …

@ Jeffrey – yes .. the pesky pixies and they do crop up throughout mythological history ..

@ Ann – yes poor St Piran – but he survived … and aren’t the pixies fun .. good stories for Jen .. thanks!!

@ Mark – yes I wondered what you’d think with your Oirish roots … glad it made you laugh … I see St Patrick is said to have landed at Wicklow … so they just might have waved at each other as they passed in the night … could definitely add to the story.

@ DG – well the Irish always seem to be tempting fate … and what’s their luck today? … Stone Circles keep coming up in this part of the world … and they are certainly intriguing. I agree re the good and bad pixies, fairies etc .. we need both .. as long as the good come out on top!

@ Maria – St Piran will look after all souls, pixie or otherwise, in Cornwall …

Thanks everyone – really enjoy the interaction and needing to go off and check things out … cheers Hilary

Rhonda Albom said...

You are teaching us so many interesting things. I never heard of St. Piran before today.

Sunday Visitor said...

This so interesting. I had no idea about any of it. Thank you so much for sharing these lovely nuggets of information,

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello greetings and good wishes.

Very interesting story of the Saint. There are so many saints in different parts of the world and it is difficult to keep a track of them. This is the first time I have come to know about St.Piran.

In India we have saints like Sr.Alphonsa, Fr.Kuriakose Chavara and the world famous Mother Teresa.

Best wishes

Stephen Tremp said...

Leave it to the Irish to .... ah, I'd better refrain from any Irish jokes.

Sherry Ellis said...

I had never heard of Saint Piran. I like the pixie story associated with him. Interesting!

Maria said...

I hadn't heard of this saint, thank you for a lovely informative post.

Lisa said...

this was most interesting Hilary, loved your summary

Megan Herbert said...

That was interesting. I never heard of Saint Piran before, but I liked the story of him.

Joanne said...

running late this weekend but glad to read about the Saint and Pixies. Positively interesting. I look forward to next week's letters. Cheers (and thanks much for visiting me regularly)

Margie said...

So good to know about Saint Piran and how wonderful about his first disciples being a badger, a fox and a bear ..

Thanks for another most interesting post , Hilary

Kern Windwraith said...

Perranzabuloe is a delicious name--so many wonderful place names over your way--also names of things and people. It's hard to read words like "barrows, dolmens, ringforts and menhirs" without feeling a frisson of excitement.

I love the idea of the pesky pixies protecting Saint Piran. :)

Tammy Theriault said...

I love looking at saints in catholic church's when they put them on the stained glass. So beautiful!!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Interesting story behind the flag! I also liked Saint Piran's loyal pixies. You've really packed it all in for "P," Hilary! And you've added plenty of panache!

Julie

J Lenni Dorner said...

I'm having a Harry Potter flashback. Love the post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rhonda - the St Piran story is a good one ... the lore anyway! I'm just glad you're enjoying the posts and information I sneak in to them!

@ Sunday Visitor - thanks so much for dropping in and I'm delighted you are enjoying the nuggets of info ...

@ Joseph - yes thank you for the greetings and good wishes - I shall be over to visit. You're right there are many saints in all parts of the world ... and I'm sure India has plenty of them ... I know Mother Teresa - as I should!

@ Stephen - ah yes the Oirish ... they are a league unto themselves ... but St Piran knew the millstone answer ...

@ Sherry - I doubt many outside of Cornwall have heard of St Piran ... it'd be good if the little people, the Pixies, had looked after St Piran - I expect they had somehow!

@ Maria - plenty of Saints here in the UK ... especially in those early Christian days ... and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post ...

@ Lisa - thanks and I'm glad the alliterative summary amused!!

@ Megan - I'm glad you liked St Piran's story and were interested in him ...

@ Joanne - I'm running weeks late now replying to comments! It's an interesting story St Piran his travels, the flag and the Pixies ... thanks for being so supportive ...

@ Margie - yes a lovely story about the badger, fox and bear being his disciples .. we don't have bears here - but who knows back then?!

@ Kern - Perranzabuloe is a great name isn't it ... and yes we do have fabulous place names - which tell their own story and give us their history ... as too surnames ... and then the ancient burial chambers ... what went on and what history were they making ... we have no clues ...

The Pesky Piskies were good protectors!

@ Tammy - yes the stained glass workings are always magnificent ...

@ Julie - I found that melting of the tin and then the creation of the flag - was an interesting interpretation.

I'm glad the Pixies are around to look after us. Thanks so much for the packed "P"s with plenty of panache ...

@ J - Harry Potter - those books and movies really enticed people into their world ..

Thanks everyone - sorry I'm so late getting back here to comment ... cheers Hilary

Michelle Wallace said...

Poor St Piran... at the mercy of the stormy sea... but everything turned out okay. Proved to be unsinkable.
Why on earth did they discard of him like that?
To me, pixies symbolise lightheartedness, playfulness and harmless mischief...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle - where do these fables/myths come from .. I've no idea ... but it's a good story. Exactly .. playful pixies ... cheers Hilary