- Religion and Philosophy
St Nectans Glen
St Nectan's Glen
St Nectan’s Glen in Cornwall, England is a steep sided wooded valley through which flows the Trevillet river. The Glen is reached by walking after parking in a car park next to a farm on the Boscastle to Tintagel road. It is quite well signposted and so losing ones way is unlikely. The mile long walk can be quite slippery and muddy and so practical footwear should be worn.
Whatever the season this is a beautiful place to walk as the vegetation changes colours with the season. The walk takes visitors to The Hermitage, a private residence and tea house supposedly built upon the ruins of an ancient Celtic church. Here it is necessary to pay an entrance fee before climbing down some steep steps to the valley bottom.
It is here that one views the very unusual 60 foot high waterfall known as the Kieve.
The Glen is a mysterious place and so steeped in legend and superstition that it cannot help but rub off on the visitor. Here Christianity holds hands with Paganism and is embraced by the legends of Merlin and King Arthur, Withcraft and Worship. Ghosts are meant to walk here. Close by are rock carvings which are said to date back to 1.600 B.C. This is truly somewhere magical and you can actually feel it.
The Young St Nectan
The St Nectan Connection
The name of St Nectan has two major connections in the West Country. There is St Nectans Glen and then there is St Nectans Church at Stoke in Devon. Close to the Church is St Nectans Well. As ever there is the water connection. The Kieve in the Glen is also sometimes referred to as the well or spring and out of this springs more confusion which is always the problem with legend.
An Older Wiser St Nectan
Who Was St Nectan?
They say there never was a St Nectan and really this is the sacred spring belonging to a Cornish water spirit called Nechtan whose name was later Christianised. The area today is amongst the most important of spiritual sites in England.
Other tales tell of a Christian saint called St Nectan who settled here in around 500 A.D. and built a small church and sanctuary. Perhaps St Nectan was Nechtan born in human form. We will never know.
Legends abound. Some say he was born in Ireland *(1), the eldest son of King Brychan of Brycheiniog but grew up in Wales. He was seemingly inspired by hearing the story of St Anthony living in the wilderness and so retreated to the wilds of Cornwall. St Nectan makes appearances in places dedicated to him elsewhere in Britain.
One tale tells of St Nectan trying to convert some thieves to Christianity and being beheaded as a reward for his pains. St Nectan picked up his head and walked back to his home. Where is blood fell it is said that foxgloves grew.
Even today on the anniversary of his death, 17th June, it is traditional to foxgloves to his well as a token of rememberance.
*(1) In Irish Mythology, Nectan is a water God and guardian of a sacred well which is the fount of all knowledge.
People visit the Kieve for all sorts of reasons. The Arthurian Legend is popular with many. For some it is Christianity that calls. For others it is older Gods.
The area is scred ground for many the the water reputed to have healing powers. Both bathing and baptisms take place here.
Around the Kieve one will find many tokens and offerings known as clouties. These may be as simple as strands of cloth tied to the trees (which I have encountered in Turkey, Greece and India) to more elaborate and personal gifts. Some of the fallen trees here have hundreds of coins driven into them. This is the old religion in its earles form. Animist in nature, recognition of spirits in water, stone and tree.
Simple Piles of Stones Can Be Seen Everywhere
Clouties have a message for someone or something
This I thought was rather special
Coins Hammered into Tree
Over twenty years ago I heard a fascinating story. When the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Coptic Church was on a visit to England he was asked if there was anywhere he especially wanted to visit. His answer was a bit of a surprise to everybody because it was not one of our mighty cathedrals or Buckingham Palace but St. Nectan's Glen in Cornwall.
Where? I had not heard of the place, nor I suspect, had the majority of the UK population.
Did he go? I really don't know but I knew when I heard the story that I wanted to. My curiosity was crushed because the Glen was in private hands and the unmaintained paths were blocked off with barbed wire. "Trespassers will be Prosecuted". Guests were not welcome.
Over the years my thoughts occasionally strayed back to the Archbishop. Why? Cornwall and the West Country are a mysterious place with one foot in Paganism and the other tangled in the roots of Christianity. Legend is mixed with myth, magic and truth so one is ever sure if the stories one reads is fact or fiction.
When Jesus was brought down from the cross it was his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea who took charge of his body. This Joseph was a merchant trader with a fleet at his command. It is said that he regularily visited the West of England to purchase cargoes of tin. Did the young Jesus perhaps visit here whilst on a trip with his uncle? Who knows? If anyone does, it is probably the Coptic church, the earliest, purest, Christians. Of course if Jesus did visit then back then St.Nectans Glen had a different name
On a recent visit to Cornwall I learned that St. Nectans Glen was once again open to the public. It is not an easy place to get to but happily my brother was as keen to visit as myself and so I had a lift to the car park. From there it was a very pleasant half mile walk.
We followed a muddy track along the banks of a bubbling crystal clear stream. We had not gone far before we saw the first evidence of the occult.
These consisted of small piles of stones piled in or close to water, strategically placed twigs, coins wedged into cracks in rocks and carefully placed pieces of white quartz. I have seen these in other places.
I recollected the piles of stones in Hampi, India, God's Playground. Stones much bigger than these but the message was surely similar if not the same. Whatever it said I really don't know.
The Arthur Connection
The Eithiopian Connection
It is said that in the 1930s that Emperor of Ethiopia, Hailie Selassie made a special journey to St Nectans glen to pray. Interesting to note too that the name 'Nectan' is one in common usage in Ethiopia today.
It may well be that with the Haile Selassie connection to the spring that there may be Rastafarian interest as well one day.
One wonders whether the name Nectan was common in Ethiopia in times gone past or was it because the Emperor named one of his children after a water spirit and it became fashionable in the country.
Even Mickey Mouse has a message
Some Gifts are clearly very personal
Witchcraft at work?
A Water Spirit?
The Kieve is where the waterfall descends into the pool below.
Here it is said that King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table met with St Nectan and bathed in the Holy Waters before setting out in search of the Holy Grail.
The Kieve with Orbs
The Photo above was taken about 5 seconds later. No changes to the camera and yet here there are numerous Orbs.
What are Orbs?
There are numerous scientific explanations for orbs. Dust in the air. Water in the air. Reflection in Flash photography and more.
The unscientific explanation is that orbs are ghosts or spirits in the form of balls of light.
Orbs are a fairly frequent occurrence in St Nectans Glen. What do I believe? I don't know. I have taken many thousands of photographs over the years. The first time I ever came across orbs was here.
A couple of thousand photo's later and the next time I encountered them was in a cave in a Holy Mountain in Northern Thailand. You can see that photo in my article on the Hidden Buddhist Temple of Ban Thong Lang
Worth A Visit
I would say a definite yes. I have travelled widely and visited some wonderful places and seen some very special things. St Nectans Glen figures very highly amongst these. It desrves to be more popular because it truly is a magical destination.