Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for 'Crow Moon' by Anna McKerrow. The book is out today and is published by Quercus.
Anna has written a wonderful guest post on Crow Moon and the Devon/Cornwall landscape.
I don’t know how old I was but an early Cornish seaside memory was standing with the waves up to my knees, looking out to the horizon, talking to the sea in my mind. I don’t remember what I said, or what it said back, but it was a kind of a respectful gesture: acknowledging its greatness, its power, and feeling myself small and insignificant but enthralled with it nonetheless. Since then I have continued to love the magic of sea and ocean on the shore; thrilled with sea salt wind in my hair, storms crashing on cliffs; cold, bright days collecting sea-washed stones and white shells.
In the past, the people living on our land considered the between-places like beaches and marshes sacred; the places where the elements of water and earth met, where water represented the entrance into an otherworld. King Arthur threw Excalibur into the sacred lake that in those days surrounded Glastonbury Tor – still a marshy, mystical land today – to return the symbol of his earthly kingship back to the magical power that bequeathed it to him in the first place. So coastal areas are magical too, because they are the boundary between our world and the otherworld – the place of magic, dreams and enchantment. Tintagel in particular is a spectacular location for stories (as the King Arthur myth attests – he is supposed to have been conceived at Tintagel Castle), with the remains of a castle up on a high rock island surrounded on all sides by the turquoise Cornish sea. Under the rocks, deep sea caves suck the waves in and out, and at low tide you can enter these strange sea-chambers, still slick from the departing tide.
So when I found myself writing a story about a pagan community living on the land, ruled by witches, I knew for me it couldn’t be set anywhere but Cornwall; I added Devon partly for scale – I wanted the Greenworld to be sizeable – but also to include Devon’s magical landscape of lush, remote moorland and stone circles, burial mounds, long barrows which are also so full of magic. Having both counties, each with their own particular “feel”, enabled me to provide a slight contrast between Danny’s home village of Gidleigh and Scorhill circle inland, and the crashing grandeur of Tintagel on the coast – and so the communities that live in both.
Devon and Cornwall also have a rich heritage of witchcraft, so it wasn’t too much of a push to reimagine a country existence that respected the local wise woman, herbalist and practiced folk magic. The Witchcraft Museum at Boscastle, just down the coast from Tintagel, is a fantastic place to go and learn about the old folk practices of witches in Cornwall, ranging from protecting houses, curing illnesses and selling charms to sailors for a good wind, to more modern practices. Witchcraft is also still alive and thriving in the south west, as it is everywhere, with old and new traditions honoured, and the wonder of our British landscape respected, protected and loved.
The dramatic, breathtaking landscapes of Devon and Cornwall are also an ideal setting for a story that mixes magic and romance, strong emotions and action. Making landscape reflect and interact with emotions and motivations is a useful tool as a writer, and it’s easy to ramp up tension or romance against the backdrop of waves crashing on cliffs, lonely moors and quiet streams, ancient monoliths and full moons, nights full of stars, away from pollution.
These Celtic parts of our country – Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, Scotland – are special, deep places woven with myth, rich in enlightenment and legend. The Celtic myths and legends – and the gods and goddesses in them – are a very British spirituality, a British pantheon of power that grew out of our ancestors’ observations of the land, the sun and the moon. Therefore the heritage of Cornwall as a Celtic region formed the belief system of the Greenworld in Crow Moon, tying the beliefs and the lives of the characters firmly to the land in what is both a story about magic and love, but also about land, heritage and protecting the environment.