In 1930 a correspondent writing to the Western Morning Post newspaper confidently asserted ‘We live in an age when those old twilight beliefs are disappearing’. The beliefs in question were various aspects of popular superstition and the supernatural once widely accepted by people in the West Country. In response to this assertion, a correspondent called Padely Silvanus said he lived on the border of Dartmoor and could introduce the previous writer to a haunted bridge that nobody would cross at night. He could also take him to a dell where faeries were still seen to dance, a place on the moor where an earthbound spirit dwelt and caused terrible accidents, introduce them to a ‘well-known and universally respected’ lady who had seen a pixy and heard the Wish Hounds in full cry, and take them to visit a witch in her cottage, but at the risk of them being ‘overlooked’ (ill-wished or bewitched). Silvanus’ letter encompassed the surviving belief in ghosts, faeries and witches that for centuries has given the West Country its reputation as a place where the paranormal is an everyday event.
This second volume of the Witchcraft in the British Isles series examines the Craft sorcery and folklore of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset. Rich in folklore and folk traditions, the West Country has always had an aura of mystery and magic, and this is reflected in its past and the various races and their spiritual beliefs who have occupied it down the centuries.