Tamsin Blight and the Cornish Witches

The first time I saw the name Tamsin Blight, I was fascinated with it. Generally speaking, one doesn’t want to have a last name that Merriam-Webster defines as “a disease that makes plants dry up and die,” but it seems perfect for a witch.

Which is what she was.

Tamsin Blight

Tamsin Blight

Born Thomasine Blight in Cornwall, England, in 1898, her name was usually shortened to Tamsin Blight, and sometimes even Tammy Blee. And despite her forbidding name, she was known as “the White Witch of Helston.”

She is reputed to have had enormous powers of healing and protection. She is also said to have raised the spirit of a man’s relative from its place in the Stythian Graveyard so he could find out about his inheritance.

Tamsin Blight and the Pellar of Cornwall

A pellar is a witch from the folk traditions of Cornwall, England. Two famous 19th century pellar are Tamsin Blight and Granny Boswell. Granny Boswell, who lived from 1817-1909, also has a wonderful name, and a terrific photo (see below) of a jaunty her smoking a clay pipe.

Granny Boswell

Granny Boswell

Granny has a spicy history. She was born in Ireland of Romany blood. She married Ephraim Boswell, who was known as the King of the Gypsies. Together they moved to the rocky, coastal point of Cornwall, an area often referred to as “The Lizard.” There she gained a reputation for being a witch and an “ill-wisher.” Neither her marriage to the king nor her witchery served Granny well in the end, however. She died a pauper in the Helston Workhouse in 1909.

Being a pellar was a trade, and they would sit in their homes, receiving clients and dispensing charms and divinations. Clients were given small leather pouches to wear around their necks. These might contain grave soil, bones, teeth or charms written on paper and folded up in clever ways.

One such charm is:

Pellar 3

This charm was considered to be of great power because it reads the same forward as it does backward.

15 miles from Helston where Tamsin Blight and Granny Boswell lived is the hamlet of Saveock where archaeologists have discovered small, rectangular pits used in what they believe are magic rituals to aid a woman in conception. It is not clear how many of these sites were hidden among reeds on land near the hamlet. So far, they’ve uncovered 40 of them and suspect there are more. The burial pits are often lined with feathers and the skins of cats and dogs, the heads of goats and pigs, or contain eggs of chicks that were just about to hatch. In one case, the pit included a swan that had been killed and turned inside out.

Although the pits date back as far as 1640, some are from as recent as the 1970’s. The lead archaeologist, Dr. Jacqui Wood, surmises that the witchcraft—and the lore of the pits—have been secretly handed down from mother to daughter, generation after generation. She believes a coven still exists and practices beneath the quaint hamlet’s surface today.

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