A ruined chapel stands in a tiny clearing, sheltered and roofed by the trees that cluster close to its walls as if to offer it protection. The walls still guard the interior from view and a single doorway in the northern wall gives entrance. There is a sense of simplicity and peace about the chapel and its glade; centuries of prayer have hallowed the place… and its sanctity may be measured in more than just the hundreds of years that its walls have survived.
The chapel is not large, measuring just twenty-five feet by eighteen, with stone walls two feet thick making the interior considerably more intimate. The stones still stand eight or nine feet high and entering the green-roofed precinct, you leave the world behind. This seems right, for this has been a sacred space for longer than the chapel walls have closed around it, in spite of the destruction it suffered at the hands of Cromwell’s men.
The remains of the chapel are at last nine hundred years old and stand upon a much earlier sacred site. One theory suggests that the Welsh and Irish brought their goddess with them when they came to Cornwall around fifteen hundred years ago and that St Madern, to whom the chapel is dedicated, is a corruption of the Celtic maternal deity, Mordron.
Natural springs, always a place of feminine mysteries, were held as sacred places of healing and vision and have been venerated from the very earliest of times. There is an abundance of them in this westernmost corner of Cornwall, a land of mists and magic that the Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus named Belerion, ’The Shining Land’, almost two thousand years ago. The spring that feeds the Holy Well and the Wishing well close by was once also channelled into this glade, eventually becoming an integral part of the chapel.
The single doorway through which you may enter the chapel is in the northern wall. This in itself is curious for a Christian chapel, as traditionally the north door was the ‘devil’s door’, through which the demons could escape when baptism drove them forth…and the chapel is often referred to as the baptistry. In magical systems, the primary compass points are associated with the elements, and north is assigned to the element of Earth.
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