Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Mermaid of Zennor

Hi everyone!
I am thinking of submitting to Art Doll Quarterly - mermaid challenge
My choice of doll story would be:

The Mermaid of Zennor

 Zennor rd was the name of the street where my mother,Christine was brought up.
I lived there too,as a baby before she sold up to live on a barge!!
So it wasn't difficult to find a mermaid lore that resonated with a part of my memory lane.
If you do not know the story let me enlighten you - 

Long ago, a beautiful and richly-dressed woman occasionally attended services at St. Senara's Church in Zennor, and sometimes at Morvah. The parishioners were enchanted by her beauty and her voice, for her singing was sweeter than all the rest. She appeared infrequently for scores of years, but never seemed to age, and nobody knew whence she came, although they watched her from the summit of Tregarthen Hill. After many years, the mysterious woman became interested in a young man named Mathey Trewella, "the best singer in the parish." One day he followed her home, and disappeared; neither was ever seen again in Zennor Church.
The villagers wondered what had become of the two, until one Sunday a ship cast anchor about a mile from Pendour Cove. Soon after, a mermaid appeared, and asked that the anchor be raised, as one of its flukes was resting on her door, and she was unable to reach her children. The sailors obliged, and quickly set sail, believing the mermaid to be an ill omen. But when the villagers heard of this, they concluded that the mermaid was the same lady who had long visited their church, and that she had enticed Mathey Trewella to come and live with her.
The parishioners at St. Senara's commemorated the story by having one end of a bench carved in the shape of a mermaid. A shorter account of the legend was related to Bottrell on a subsequent visit to Cornwall. The mermaid had come to church every Sunday to hear the choir sing, and her own voice was so sweet that she enticed Mathey Trewella, son of the churchwarden, to come away with her; neither was seen again on dry land. The famed "mermaid chair" was the same bench on which the mermaid had sat and sung, opposite Trewella in the singing loft.
 The local legend : a mermaid in Zennor. Matthew Trewella was a good-looking young man with a nice voice. Each evening Matthew would sing the closing hymn at the church in Zennor. A mermaid living in neighbouring Pendour Cove was enchanted by the music. She dressed in a long dress to hide her long tail and walked (how?) to the church. She was amazed by Matthew's singing, and listened a little bit before slipping away to return to the sea. She came every day staying longer and longer. It was on one of these visits that her gaze met Matthew's, and they fell in love. However, the mermaid knew she had to go back to the sea or die. As she prepared to leave, Matthew said "Please do not leave, who are you, where are you from?". The mermaid told him her problem. Matthew was so love-struck that he swore he would follow her wherever she went. Matthew carried her to the cove, all the while his mother crying and pleading with him to stay. She reminded him that mermaids have no souls and by joining them, he too would lose his. He was so in love with the mermaid that it didn't matter, he followed her beneath the waves, never to be seen again. It is said that if you sit above Pendour Cove at sunset on a fine day you can hear Mathew singing above the waves.

 Here is an addition to the local tale :

Several years after Matthew Trewella's disappearance  a mermaid rose from the sea bed to complain with the captain of a ship lying off Pendower Cove. His anchor was laying across her door under the sea and prevented her from going home to her husband, Matthew Trewella and their children. The captian gave orders, the anchor was drawn up, and upon their return to Zennor the captain spread the word of Matthew's fate. The villagers, in an effort to warn other young men of Matthew's fate (remember by taking to the sea he gave up his soul,) had the image of the mermaid carved in holy-oak in the church.

In another version of this part of the tale, it is Matthew who asks the sailors to move anchor as his wife is trapped in the house and they don't want to be late for church.  This is of course probably not the version circulated by the church. It probably comes to us from the belief that everything on land had a under sea counterpart; Sea cats and dogs, and under sea churches, etc.
The Mermaid Chair in St. Senara's Church (2005), Cornwall, England
Pendour Cove. Beautiful rugged cove where the mermaid of Zennor lived.
Parish Church of St Senara. Inside the church is the now famous (thanks to the book of the same name) Mermaid Chair. The "chair" is actually two medieval bench-ends (over 600 years old) made into a seat. The carving on one end depicts a mermaid holding a comb and mirror.

A beautiful tales :) 

Reaching Zennor at the end of your walk you will find a wild, remote but fascinating settlement with a history going back over 4000 years. The name comes from Saint Senara , a Breton Saint whose original chapel was said to be on the land now occupied by the church.  

Its most famous resident DH Lawrence talked of the village "nestling under high shaggy moor hills and a big sweep of lovely seas lovelier even than the Mediterranean" His summary being "It is the best place I have been in – I think".

Today don’t miss the unique Wayside Museum at Zennor which got its name after its first proprietor “Colonel" Freddie Hirst" started displaying the artefacts by the side of the road. Said to be the oldest privately owned museum in the UK the former mill house now houses over 5000 items of Cornish life and culture in its  15 rooms. 

The 12C Church of St Senara at Zennor is also worth visiting – it can be a sobering spot with its memorials to John Davey claimed on this coast to be the last Cornish Speaker, to those lost at sea and those lost in the mines. Wander round the graveyard to get an idea of how many unlucky sailors ended up under the ground here far away from their homes. 

For those wanting an evening walk you can head  up rocky Zennor Hill behind the village for great views of the coastline and to seek the ancient stones at Zennor Quoit.  If that’s too industrious just outside the village look for Giants Rock the seat of the legendary giant of Carn Galva, the striking peak along the coast from the village. Would be witches need to climb the rock nine times at midnight to gain their magical powers. 

Zennor Quoit

If you know of any mermaid stories please leave a message with details below.

Love and light


Marfi-topia said...

what a wonderful post!
I love mermaid stories!
As a child my favorite was the story of the Lorelei.
beautiful photos:)

jasmoonbutterfly said...

Thank you x Yes I was just reading up. Have you seen the Mermaid shop in Lyme Regis online? You would love it!

Here is a run down of Lorelei for anyone that doesn't know :)

1801 German author Clemens Brentano composed his ballad Zu Bacharach am Rheine as part of a fragmentary continuation of his novel Godwi oder Das steinerne Bild der Mutter. It first told the story of an enchanting female associated with the rock. In the poem, the beautiful Lore Lay, betrayed by her sweetheart, is accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to death, the bishop consigns her to a nunnery. On the way thereto, accompanied by three knights, she comes to the Lorelei rock. She asks permission to climb it and view the Rhine once again. She does so and falls to her death; the rock still retained an echo of her name afterwards. Brentano had taken inspiration from Ovid and the Echo myth.