Bufonite

Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. William Shakespeare – “As You Like It” Toads have made their mark on culture by nestling in a curious space between medicine and magic. In the middle-ages the toad was thought to be as common a witches’ familiar as the cat. The French lawyer and demonologist Jean Bodin noted in his 1580 work De la démonomanie des sorciers (Of the Demon-mania of the Sorcerers) that while certainly incriminating, the presence of toads should not, in itself, be sufficient evidence …

reformations and malformations

‘Mooncalf’ is an old name for the malformed, abnormal offspring that livestock occasionally produce. Usually still-born or short-lived, mooncalves were thought to be a result of lunar influence and were sometimes considered to be magical creatures, or hybrids thereof.  Although the word is closely associated with cows, mooncalves from other animals are also recorded and it’s likely that the ‘calf’ element of this word comes from the Old Norse kálfi ‘swelling’, which is also the origin of the ‘calves’ of your leg. One particular mooncalf, born in Freiburg, Germany, on December 8th 1522, became an unlikely pawn in an escalating …

Tolmens, dolmens and lumbago

Tolmens are stones that are both objectively holey and subjectively holy. When they were found by prehistoric peoples in what is now Devon and Cornwall, the neat circular holes in these river stones would have been impossible to explain, and this imbued the tolmens with mystery and the possibility of magic. Healing rituals involving these stones persisted into modern times, often having been co-opted by Christians from pre-existing pagan rites. Here’s an account from William Bottrell’s Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall published in 1873: IN a croft belonging to Lanyon farm, and about half a mile north of …

Why you weigh less in Cornwall

The Cornubian Batholith sounds like it could have been the thirteenth labour of Hercules but is in fact a mass of granite formed around 300 million years ago from magma that pushed it’s way up through the earth’s crust. Rather than erupting as a volcano the magma collected, a bit like a blister, just under the surface, cooling and solidifying as it did so. Since then the surface layers have been worn away, revealing areas of underlying granite. The bulk of it is still under the surface, beneath layers of the surrounding rock. The full extent and shape of the …