The Mythology Of Lyonesse


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Residing on the south- westerly tip of the United Kingdom, Cornwall stands sublime and majestic amidst the turbulent waters of the Atlantic. It is a land rich in mystery, folklore, myth and legend. For thousands of year's romantic tales have been told of pixies, fairies, mermaids ; Arthurian legends; smugglers, pirates and shipwrecks, spiritual ley lines, sacred stones, circles and ancient ceremonies.

In Cornwall everything is alive, a patch work landscape of fertile farmland; infinitely deep pools; bubbling brooks; ethereal moors; granite cliffs; abandoned tin mines; golden sands; sun-drenched beaches; sepulchral caves; rocky inlets all shaped by natural forces. Everything has its own beauty, harmony and inspiration.

But beyond Cornwall there lies further legends, of lost lands submerged beneath the ocean. The Land of Lyonesse, the land under the sea. There is a tenacious legacy that the lost land of Lyonesse once stretched from the Scilly Isles to Land's End. There lay a realm of fine cities and churches, said to be around 140 in total.

On November 11th 1099 a devastatingly ferocious storm assimilated the south west and the marauding sea swept over Lyonesse, drowning the luckless inhabitants and submerging the kingdom beneath the waves, until all that remained in view were the mountain peaks to the west, known to us now as the Isles of Scilly. Legend whispered that only one man survived. His name was Trevilian and he rode a white horse up to high ground at Perranuthnoe before the waves could engulf him. It is said that his ancestry lives on in the Cornish Trevelyan family.

The capital of Lyonesse was named the City of Lions and was founded around the hill which is now the treacherous reef off the Seven Stones at Lands End. A 16th century writer tells us that Land's End once stretched far to the west with a watchtower at the farthest point to guide seafarers. In folklore the Seven Stones were called “The Town" by sailors, who told of hauling up windows, doors and other domestic items in their nets. They also related how they had heard the church bells of Lyonesse ringing beneath the waves.

It was noted in the 1930's that a journalist from the News Chronicle, Stanley Baron who was residing in the area, was awoken in the night by the muffled ringing of bells and was told by his hosts that he had heard the bells of Lyonesse. A former mayor of Wilton, Edith Oliver, claimed she had twice seen towers, domes, spires and battlements beneath the waves whilst standing on the cliffs at Land's End.

The Legend of King Arthur reveals that after his death his followers fled from his enemy Mordred across the ancient land of Lyonesse. When King Arthur's men had safely reached the Scillies, Merlin caused Lyonesse to be flooded and Mordred and his followers were drowned. And some have proposed that these islands are in fact the Isle of Avalon.

The Isle of Scillies embodies 55 islands, of which only 5 are currently inhabited. Positioned 28 miles south-west of Land's End they boast a sub-tropical climate; exotic white sands and exquisite flora. Prior to the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago when the sea level was so much lower, the Isles of Scilly were one large island. This island formerly called ‘Ennor’ would have been settled from nearby Cornwall with the early inhabitants bringing their culture and beliefs with them. Written accounts by the Romans also indicate that they visited the single island of Sullia and other historical data suggest that the main islands did not become separated until as late as 400 or 500 AD. Today the remains of field boundaries show up at low tide along the sands of the Sampson Flats between the isles of Tresco and Sampson in the Scilly Isles.

A multitude of historical evidence co-exists alongside the mythology of the region. Cornwall, The Scillies perpetually affiliated to the sea; in its tempestuous, stormy waters many a mariner has met his doom there, so it is not hard to believe that, like most legends an element of truth still prevails and breathes life into the fanciful. Believe what you will?


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