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Observations placeholder

Cornwall - The Miners who saw the Pixies



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, [1911]

The Knockers or Knackers are mine-spirits, ….. They are benevolent spirits, and warn miners of danger.  Mr. John B. Cornish, solicitor, of Penzance, told me that when he once suggested to an old miner who fully believed in the 'knockers', that the noises they were supposed to make were due to material causes, the old miner became quite annoyed, and said, 'Well, I guess I have ears to hear.'

Penzance from earliest times has undoubtedly been, as it is now, the capital of the Land's End district, the Sacred Land of Britain. And in Penzance I had the good fortune to meet those among its leading citizens who still cherish and keep alive the poetry and the mystic lore of Old Cornwall; and to no one of them am I more indebted than to Mr. Henry Maddern, F.I.A.S. Mr. Maddern tells me that he was initiated into the mysteries of the Cornish folk-lore of this region when a boy in Newlyn, where he was born, by his old nurse Betty Grancan, a native Zennor woman, of stock probably the most primitive and pure in the British Islands. At his home in Penzance, Mr. Maddern dictated to me the very valuable evidence which follows:--

Miner pixies, called "knockers", would accept a portion of a miner's croust (lunch) on good faith, and by knocking lead him to a rich mother-lode, or warn him by knocking if there was danger ahead or a cavern full of water; but if the miner begrudged them the croust, he would be left to his own resources to find the lode, and, moreover, the "knockers" would do all they could to lead him away from a good lode. These mine pixies, too, were supposed to be spirits, sometimes spirits of the miners of ancient times.'

William Shepherd, a retired miner of Pendeen, near St. Just, where he has passed all his life, offers us from his own experiences under the earth the evidence which follows:--

Mine Piskies.--'There are mine-piskies which are not the "knockers". I've heard old men in the mines say that they have seen them, and they call them the small people. It appears that they don't like company, for they are always seen singly. The "knockers" are spirits, too, as one might say. They are said to bring bad luck, while the small people may bring good luck.'

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps