In England, there are many ancient places shrouded in mystery.
In a desolate Cornish landscape, some mysterious ancient caves are still left. These caves frequently appear in Cornish folklore and have kept their secret for over 3,000 years. Who created them, and for what purpose?
The main, curved, chamber of the Halligye Fogou at the Trelowarren Estate, Cornwall. Photo taken with a long exposure and illuminated by a moving torch beam. Jim Champion
People who visited the caves say that they witnessed a strange light phenomenon. The visitors also heard unusual sounds and experienced extraordinary visions inside or near these remarkable caves.
Our ancestors were aware of Earth’s energy and the power it carries. Therefore, they built several sacred monuments on so-called power spots. These sites are so powerful that they cause various physical reactions. Perhaps this could explain the remarkable effect the caves had on their visitors.
The caves we are referring to are known as Fougus. The name derives from fogo and fócw, meaning ‘Cave’ in Cornish and Celtic languages.
In most cases, these caves have a curved roof passage leading to an underground part of the structure where an adjoining chamber can be reached through what is known as a “creep” passage. In most cases, the central passage is astronomically aligned. It is commonly believed that the existing Fogous are dated to about 500 BC, but it is unclear what their purpose was.
Some suggest the caves served as food storage. Others believe they were refuge shelters or provided shelter from the harsh winter snow and rain.
Another theory is that these caves were religious centers where various rituals occurred.
Halliggye Fogou One of the largest and best preserved of these fogou (curious underground passages) this one originally passed under the rampart of a defended Iron Age settlement. The passage is up to 1.9m high with a corbelled roof and heavy stone lintels and jambs, 54 feet long and built around 1000BC. Image credit: Trish Steel
The fact that most prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered in the deepest and most inaccessible caves is not without significance. Shamans sought out the dark, where they performed magic or experienced their visions.
Perhaps some of the Fogous were also used by the Druids to invoke their magical powers.
Many of the ancient Fogous were destroyed a long time ago, but a few remain. One is the ancient cave of Boleigh Fogou, which is remarkable for many reasons. The name “Boleigh” means “place of slaughter,” According to historical records, many people died in the battle between the Cornish Celts led by King Howell against King Athelstan and his Saxon Army. The Celts were brutally killed, and King Athelstan became England’s first King. An old legend tells how “the fort ran red with the blood” after the battle. The Boleigh Fogou was first excavated in 1957 by Dr. E. B. Ford, who discovered not only pottery but also noticed something that cannot be easily explained on the left side of the entrance.
“He arranged for the boulder to be photographed with infrared film, and the resulting photograph revealed a male figure, apparently full-faced, with long hair around the head, the left side of the face being flecked away. The right arm, raised from the elbow, supports a spear; the left is held horizontally to the elbow, the forearm being lifted vertically, the hand grasping a lozenge-shaped object, possibly the head of a serpent, one of the coils of which being dimly suggested round the wrist. Although related to similar figures in Brittany, the carving was unique in Britain,” explained Jo May, the former site owner.
People who have visited the Boleigh Fogou have experienced remarkable visions. During one of his visits to the Boleigh Fogou, Jo May said that he saw something he described as spiraling movements, many spirals swirling around.
They exploded into stars and looked like many pinpricks of light floating around.
One ancient tale says that Boleigh Fogou is where a coven of witches was seen dancing with the devil by a squire who had chased a hare for miles underground. Another legend says that if you stay inside the cave too long, the roof will fall and crush you.
In Cornish folklore, the Fogous is the residence of evil spirits guarding treasures.
In other caves like the Treveneague Fogou and the Pendeen Fogou, visitors tell stories of witnessing people standing near the cave’s entrance dressed in clothes dating to the Iron Age.
While visiting these ancient caves, many have suffered intense headaches and dizziness. Some believe these symptoms are connected to spirals on the caves’ walls. There are also reports of how people have experienced being present in a vast space extending for miles rather than in a narrow cave. Perhaps there is an unknown energy force inside the caves. Maybe this energy affects people differently, resulting in some experiencing visions while others feel ill. Perhaps the Druids discovered the secrets of an invisible energy source and used it in their rituals.
We do not know, and we can only speculate. We can say with certainty that these ancient caves of Cornwall have kept their secrets for over 3,000 years, and they still do.
Perhaps the spirits guard the secrets keeping the knowledge hidden from us humans. You never know.