According to Cornish legend, the Whooper of Sennen Cove would lay a thick fog over the sea, from within which the locals would hear a strange sound.
According to this legend, the Whooper could predict storms, and would lay the fog in order to prevent fishermen from venturing out onto the open water when bad weather was approaching. When two foolhardy fishermen fought their way through the dense mist, neither they, nor the Whooper, was ever seen again.
For as long as people have been telling stories, they’ve been telling them about the sea. In the Bible, the sea signifies memory and truth. In literature, stories see the ocean as a vast unfathomable, standing between journey’s beginning to journey’s end, and bringing chaos in its wake. In The Odyssey, the sea is described with all of the power of the gods from which Odysseus is freed. In Gullivers Travels, the sea wrecks Gulliver’s boat and casts him into the depths, but delivers him to Lilliput.
Local Cornish lore also tells the story of a mysterious ghost ship, an apparition on the stretch of coastline between Land’s End and Penzance. According to this story, the ship began to sail closer and closer to the shore, until the locals were sure that it would wreck – but in the clear light of the moon, the ship sailed over the land itself until it faded from view. Legend has it that this ship was once from the lost land of Lyonesse, which now inhabits the space under the water’s surface, from the shore to the Scilly Isles.
The ocean as a symbol stretches back and tethers itself to a multitude of cultures, religions, and myths. It is at once a source of life and an aspect of death. For many, the sea’s tides, never ceasing, always ebbing and flowing, are a physical manifestation of the tidal, cyclical nature of life itself.
I am born, I die, I am born again.
Words by Jess Ennis