Folklore Tapes is an open-ended research project exploring the vernacular arcana of Great Britain and beyond; traversing the myths, mysteries, magic and strange phenomena of the old counties via abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals. The driving principle of the project is to bring the nation’s folk record to life, to rekindle interest in the treasure trove of traditional culture by finding new forms for its expression.
Westcountry folk have heard the old couplet:
of Dart, River of Dart,
year thou claimest a heart’
have no statistics at hand to confirm this legend, but it is quite certain
that, lovely and gentle as this wonderful little river looks in the summer, it
is much swifter and deadlier than one would think, and people do get drowned in
it. As far back as I can remember, when I have visited the moor each year, I
have heard folk say that the Dart has had its victim for the year; as though to
say, thank goodness that’s
over and we can all breath again for the next twelve
Dart has a distinct ‘call’ at certain times when the moormen say it is howling
for its victim. Usually this seems to coincide with a spate. I myself have
never heard the call, but I have met those that have, and they say it is quite
unmistakeable and can be heard from a great distance, borne on the wind.”
Theo Brown, ‘Dartmoor Folklore IV,’ cited from typescript
in Theo Brown Archive, EUL
The Forest Inn
The Publican’s Wife.
publican’s wife at the Forest Inn, Hexworthy, was a noted charmer. ‘Captain’
Jack Warne was there one night when a girl’s nose started to bleed badly. The
innkeeper’s wife went over to Captain Warne and asked him to hand a piece of
paper to the girl. On it was written the verse Ezekiel vi.6. When the girl read
the verse, the bleeding stopped instantly. This charm has to be administered by
someone of the opposite sex.”
Theo Brown, Tales of a Dartmoor Village: Some preliminary notes on the folklore of Postbridge (St. Peter Port: Toucan Press, 1973),31.
Along the Banks of the Dart
at Brimpts, on the bank of the Dart, are the ruins of Dolly’s Cot, - the home
of that ravishing beauty of Dartmoor in the early nineteenth-century - Dolly
Copplestone, who married a moor man, Tom Trebble. He had to hide her away in
this remote cottage to save her from the unwelcome attentions of Regency
gentlemen at their bachelor house-parties at Tor Royal, near Princetown.”
Author unknown, 'Dartmoor Folklore in the Making', cited from typescript of an
address given to the Devonshire Association Folklore Section, 16th January, 1961, found in Theo
Brown Archive, EUL MS 105/8.
Old Dewer and the Whisht Hounds.
Wood was said to be the home of the ‘whisht hounds’, according to the guide
books, and romantic nineteenth century writers used to say that it was once the
site of bloody druidic sacrifices. While there is no proof that the Druids ever
practiced their rites on Dartmoor, it is evident that when the Saxon’s
penetrated this spot they felt here something numinous, perhaps heard of a
strange tradition. In their Christianised character Odin became the god of
their darkness, i.e., the devil, or just an unpleasant spook. One of his names-Wisc-in
Devon became corrupted to ‘whisht’ (uncanny)-hence ‘wistness’ (a ghost)-and
similarly we may assume that ‘wistman’ means the same thing.”
Brown, Tales of a Dartmoor Village, 11,
skeleton horse, which would appear to be a first cousin of the Grey Mare’s, is
that of Old Crockern, the spirit of the moor. According to the Rev. Hugh Breton
Heart of Dartmoor, this grotesque horseman clatters over
the rocks of Crockern Tor, but I cannot, so far, discover the origin of this
mysterious, wind-swept figure. Crockern Tor, described by Risdon as “lying in
the force of all weather”, was of course the scene of the Stannery Parliaments
until 1749; perhaps Old Crockern was the presiding spirit of the old gatherings.
If this was so, it is possible that he may have started his career as one of
the underground pixies that Mrs. Bray described in her Traditions of Devonshire.
Most ancient mining communities know of spirits in the rocks, who will reveal
the richest seams to their favourites. But this is a big jump from the Old
Crockern on a bony horse, and is perhaps quite another matter altogether.”
Theo Brown, ‘Dartmoor Folklore II: Ghostly Horses,’ Westcountryman, date unknown, cited from typescript in Theo
Brown Archive, EUL MS 105/8.