The most notorious witch of Cornwall was Madgy Figgy, who lived at Tolpedn near Penwith at some indeterminate date. She was said to have consorted with a coven of witches at St Levan in her youth, but in later years to have operated alone. She is said to have been a master of the black arts, but to have specialised in second sight - that is the business of prediction.
On certain stormy days she would climb up to a stone formation above Porth Loe and sit down on a natural rocky seat, now known as Madgy Figgy’s Chair. From there she would gaze out to sea. If she began to rub her hands and cackle with glee, the locals knew that a wreck was imminent. It was never entirely clear if Madgy Figgy was merely foreseeing the disaster, or if she was causing it with her magic. Either way, a wreck inevitably followed her glee.
The locals would gather on the cliffs to await the wreck. They were always careful never to go down to start searching the shore for valuables until Madgy Figgy had first taken everything she wanted. Only then could the ordinary people move in.
One day a foreign ship - some say she was Portuguese - came ashore after Madgy Figgy had been sitting in her fatal chair. Among the debris thrown ashore was the body of a young, beautiful woman wearing a fabulous collection of jewels. As soon as she saw the body, Madgy Figgy stopped short and glared. She summoned a group of local men, ordering them to carefully remove the jewels without damaging them in any way. The jewels were put into a stout box and the woman’s body buried on top of the cliffs. Madgy Figgy stood over the grave in silence for some time, then gazed out over the stormy seas. “It takes one to know one” she declared, then stalked off home.
That night the awestruck locals saw a strange, eerie blue light emerge from the grave of the beautiful stranger. The light drifted over the hills to Madgy Figgy’s Chair and hovered there a while before moving on to alight on the roof of the witch’s house. Every night for three months the weird blue light was seen. Nobody dared ask Madgy Figgy what was going on. The old witch did not seem too bothered.
Then there came to Porth Loe a dark stranger who spoke not a word of English, but who paid for his lodgings and meals in good gold coins. Although he had never been seen before, the stranger seemed to know where he was going. One evening he walked up the hill to the spot where the beautiful stranger lay buried. He stood on the clifftop as if waiting.
When the eerie blue light appeared, the stranger watched it carefully then followed it to first to Madgy Figgy’s Chair and then down to her cottage. As he approached, Madgy Figgy appeared in the doorway. The two gazed wordlessly at each other for long minutes. Then Madgy Figgy nodded and went back inside. A few moments later she was back with the small wooden box containing the jewels in her hands. Without a word she handed them over. The stranger nodded, then turned and left.
from "Mysterious Cornwall" by Rupert Matthews
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