The Cornish piskie is arguably one of the most well-known creatures of British folklore. They’re often portrayed as cheeky and mischievous but ultimately harmless. You can find them on charm bracelets and tourist souvenirs when visiting Cornwall. You can even spot them in children’s pop culture like Harry Potter. But Cornwall’s fascination with the Pobel Vean, the little folk, is not always so winsome. There are many types of piskies in Cornwall: those in rags who dance merrily on the moors, those who conjure up storms to protect their treasure, those who dwell in the darkest places underground and those who steal away children. Like the sea itself, that surrounds Cornwall on three sides, the folklore of this land is capricious. Piskies are capable of helping humans and also causing them great harm. So, let us explore the Cornish Pobel Vean, just how harmless are they really?
Siân Esther Powell is a museum professional, podcaster and amateur folklorist from Cornwall She is Exhibitions and Engagement Officer for Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum. She recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Celtic Studies where she explored and challenged the common narrative of Cornwall’s industrial decline in the 19th century. She has a particular interest in the relationship between community and industrial landscapes. Growing up Cornish and Welsh, she developed a fascination for the folklore and mythology of both places, eventually leading to the creation of the Celtic Myths and Legends podcast. She has recently written and recorded a BBC Arts commissioned audio piece set in a fictional Cornish village where piskies, mermaids and giants exist as an everyday part of life. She likes to use folklore as a tool to explore contemporary issues in Cornwall and beyond.
Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website www.amyhale.me.