Pouques & Other Guernsey Folklore
Legends and superstitions thrive in Guernsey and form a large part of its rich folklore heritage.
Stories of witchcraft and fairies, devils and ghosts have been passed through the generations from family to family and evidence of these tales can be viewed in the physical landscape of Guernsey. Take street names for example Les Varioufs, in the pansh of Forest, means the werewolves and Le Pid de Boeuf is where the Devil was said to have left a footprint. Some homes have stone witches’ seats built into roof windows and chimneys for witches to rest on mid-flight. The Longfrie Inn in the parish of St Pierre du Bois has a good example of this, with a model witch in situ!
Myths about fairies, or ‘pouques‘ as they are known locally, are prevalent in and around the west coast area. Le Creux es Faies – the Fairy Cave – is a prehistoric dolmen (passage grave) that was built in the Neolithic period and was believed to be the entrance to the underground world where fairies once lived. The cave, located on the L’Eree headland, is open to the public and presents a fascinating reminder of Guernseys pagan heritage.
Other pouques locations include Le Table des Pions in Pleinmont, on the west coast, which is accessed by foot and known locally as the Fairy Ring. This ‘table’ was once used as a picnic area for servants involved in a formal 18th century procession called La Chevauchée – Local legend tells that fairies and elves dance around the fairy ring at night and if you walk around it three times and make a wish, your wish will come true.
Another more seasonal tradition that is still celebrated today is the Wassail. Held in late winter and organised by local cider company Rocquettes. There is a myth that holding a Wassail in the winter helps to encourage a strong apple crop. This ancient drinking ritual is intended to confer good health to both apple trees and cider drinkers and involves large numbers of people consuming mulled cider on a cold winter’s night and making lots of noise at the orchard, to drive off evil spirits and wake the gods or goddesses in the apple trees.