St Gennys

Just a quick mention of St Gennys, whose feast day on Friday I missed.

St Gennys of course is just a few miles south of Poundstock, and is part of our Week St Mary Circle of Churches.

Almost nothing is known of St Gennys but he was obviously a single hermit monk as his hut wasn’t big enough for a community. The current church is still very tiny and worth going to see, if only for its spectacular view of Crackington Haven!

Well Blessing

Cornwall is well known for its sacred ancient wells.

The wells, undoubtedly of pagan origin, established way back in time immemorial, were later ‘baptised’ as Christian sacred places and the well at Tregorlann is dedicated to the saint Neot, although the church is accepted to have been established by the much earlier St Winwaloe.

Saint Neot was a saint of the 9th century who lived for a time as a monk in Cornwall, and the villages of St Neots in Cornwall and Cambridgeshire are named after him.

The tradition of well dressing at this time of year is also undoubtedly of pagan origin as well (see previous post), but it still serves the purpose of bringing the community together to remember all those who have gone before us.

Walpurga and The Cornish Revel


Walpurga was an 8th century Anglo-saxon saint, so she’s not really a Celtic saint, ethnically speaking, but I thought I would mention her as she was a missionary saint born in Devon (which at that time would have been Cornish) and she was educated in Dorset before she went to Francia (now Germany), and so she is most remembered there and in Sweden, Finland and Latvia, Estonia and Lithauania, where’s it is celebrated with traditional pagan bonfires and partying.

Many villages including Tregorlann hold their traditional Cornish ‘Revel’ at this time of year.

I mention her also because she has become associated, due to the date of her canonisation, with the cross-quarter pagan spring festival of Beltane, May Day. She is also pictured holding grain, which identifies her with the pagan ‘grain mother’. Like Brigid, she became identified with an earlier, pagan deity.

The pagan festival usually co-incides with the Christian festival of Pentecost (also known as Whitsun) but with Easter being around its latest possible date this year, it has all gone a bit out of sync, so Pentecost will be in early June this year.

More information on Walpurga can be found on Wikipedia:

Saint Endellion

St. Endellion or Endelienta was one of the many children of Brychan of Wales from the 6th century, and one of the few female Celtic saints. Brychan himself is considered a ‘Patriarch’ of the early Celtic church rather than a saint, since no churches are named after him.

There are several legends attached to the story of Endellion.

Endellion settled at Trenkeny, where she lived a very austere life, sustained by the milk of one cow only.

Her cow was said to have been killed by the lord of Tregony because it trespassed on his land. Her godfather, a great man, had the lord killed for this offence, but Endellion miraculously brought him back to life.

There is a lovely quote by the late Sir John Betjeman, poet laureate, who wrote

“Inside the church gives the impression that it goes on praying night and day, whether there are people in it or not.”

The little village of Endellion near Port Isaac is on the north coast of Cornwall. There may also have been another church bearing her name on Lundy Island, which is opposite Hartland over the Devon border, where her brother St. Nectan is buried.

Endellion is remembered on 29th April.

Balancing Traditions

Apparently, over the Easter period, one visitor left a message in the visitors’ book criticising the church at Tregorlann.

The visitor’s criticism centred on the fact that St Winwaloe’s, which had once been a high Anglo-Catholic church, has fallen to rack and ruin with an empty ‘tabernacle’ (which as I understand it is a sacred cupboard for storing consecrated wine and bread for the Eucharist), and there were no ‘kneelers’ (prayer cushions).

Winwaloe’s has an average of 10-15 faithful members, a handful of whom work hard to ensure that the church keeps open and well run. It’s a big job for such a small number of people and such a big building.

The church wardens are doing a great job and they’re to be commended that the church is still open and running. And in fact, its numbers are slightly up on what they were in the ’70s.

Winwaloe’s is pretty middle of the road as far as worship and service structure is concerned. That’s obviously not traditional enough for some, and probably too traditional for others.

How does a rural church, that’s inherently resistant to change, find a balance that will meet everyone’s needs?

Most importantly, I think, Winwaloe’s is a very warm, friendly and welcoming congregation that is as much about community as church.

Gwener an Grows

Good Friday in Cornish is ‘Gwener an Grows’, Friday of the Cross.

According to Cornish Culture, the traditional Cornish view of Good Friday was not as a solemn day of mourning, but as a feast, called ‘Goody Friday’ – perhaps misunderstanding (or having a different understanding? of) the English name, which refers to the fact that Jesus’ self-sacrifice is viewed as ‘good’ for us. It’s traditionally a day when cakes, buns and spiced cakes are consumed in Cornwall. The English have to wait until Easter day 😉

Interestingly the Cornish form of the word cross, ‘Grows’ which mutates its first letter from Krows in certain cases, also means gooseberries, so gooseberry pudding would seem appropriate. 🙂

celtic cross simple

For more information about some of the Christian traditions surrounding Easter, see our page at the Celtic Order.