As a resident of Cornwall, and being half Cornish–probably the left half, although there is also a chance of it being the bottom half–and today, March 5th, being St Piran’s Day, I felt I should write something about how I am celebrating our Cornish patron saint.
Although I have lived in the place for some time now, I was brought up in… ssshhh… East Devon, just a few miles t’other side of the river Tamar, which forms the Cornwall and Devon border for the most part.
However, my mother and her side of the family were proper Cornish, hence the ‘half’. I felt it was high time to pick a side (or a bank of the river) and so, with Devon fading away and rapidly becoming more and more just ‘where I used to live’, I have fully embraced my Cornishness and shall mark the upcoming 2021 national census data collection as being such.
Therefore I have done some research into how the official marking of St Piran’s day is meant to be carried out.
There is little description of specific traditions associated with this day apart from the consumption of large amounts of alcohol and food during ‘Perrantide’, the week leading up to 5 Marchhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Pirans_Day
Well, it doesn’t look too tricky to follow all the protocols and traditions authentically.
This may have something to do with St Piran himself, with him said to have come from Ireland originally, where the celebrations of their patron saint on St Patricks Day is… well…
I am not a religious man, so really I’m not in any need of having any sort of saints, patron or not, to somehow look out for me if I believe enough that they are there doing so. And I do find nationalism difficult to get fully on board with as well, with various parties willingness to divide and accentuate national differences where really there are more similarities between us all.
And, as is usual of course with traditions based on the telling of tales over centuries, probably with many tale-tellers enthusiastic embellishments throughout hundreds of years, the mixture of fact and fictions about the man himself, and even who he really was, are difficult to pin down even if you wanted to.
He was hard enough to sink, let alone pin down, according to the legends of how he got to Cornwall after leaving Ireland in somewhere around the 5th century.
The heathen Irish tied him to a mill-stone, rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea, which immediately became calm, and the saint floated safely over the water to land upon the sandy beach of Perranzabuloe in Cornwall. His first disciples are said to have been a badger, a fox, and a bear
Well, there you go, there was a Bear there, so everything ties in nicely. But do note that I am not personally recommending a mill-stone’s use as a buoyancy aid.
But he was also the bringer of the methods of smelting tin (or at least a reminder), according to another legend, and with Cornwall’s mining history, that was enough to have the legends and the Saint embraced by the tin miners to also be their patron.
St Piran ‘rediscovered’ tin-smelting (tin had been smelted in Cornwall since before the Romans’ arrival, but the methods had since been lost) when his black hearthstone, which was evidently a slab of tin-bearing ore, had the tin smelt out of it and rise to the top in the form of a white cross (thus the image on the flag)
So anyway, seeing as how the celebrations are largely within my level of ability to partake (apart from the generally drum banging and flag waving parades on foot through many Cornish towns, including my local ones, but they are cancelled this year) and largely harmless, if not even legless, I can generally make an exception for St Pirans Day and I’ll even bedeck my blog with a Cornish St Piran’s flag and write this post before I get started.
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