The Wyrd Woman of Chysauster
May 25, 2004

Processing my pictures for Chysauster, the 2000 year old Cornish village-in-ruins in the countryside inland from Marazion, I remembered a woman we met at the gift shop there. Actually, she ran the gift shop. Chysauster is way out in the sticks, down a narrow and winding country road (like all the roads in rural Cornwall). Then you climb a steep path up a big hill, over a stile, and there's the gift shop. Next, you have to climb an even steeper path to get to the actual ruins. Very isolated, looking out over rolling hills. In the far distance is the sea, but you can only intuit it from the occasional sighting of gulls in the sky. We never saw the sea—too many rolling hills in the way. 

So we went into the gift shop once on the way up to reconnoiter the place and get a feel for what we were about to see, then again on the way down—because we desperately needed some water and they had the bottled stuff. The woman behind the counter was near six feet tall, Olive Oyl thin and dark blonde, and had a liquid, melodramatic way of expressing herself.  Lots of italics implied in her speech. She kept directing us to a New Agey book on Chysauster, one with channeled information about what Really Happened.  

"It has all sorts of information you don't get in the other books," she said with wide-flaring eyes as if trying to beam secret messages to me. She raised her eyebrows significantly. "If you're open to alternative information." She waggled her eyebrows like she'd bet good money I was interested in alternative information.  

"Well, that's just really interesting," I said, picking up the book to be polite. Sometimes I am interested in alternative information, but as I flipped through the pages I determined it wasn't what I was looking for.   Plus, it was damned expensive.  I put it back down again, to her obvious disapproval, and disappointed her further when I bought the official guidebook. Clearly, I was not as evolved as she'd imagined. 

On the return trip we stopped in again. Ann and Lynn went up to the counter at about the same time and for some reason, she assumed Lynn was paying for Ann. When Ann stepped up to pay for her purchases, the woman said, "Oh, you're not together?"  

"Yes, we're together," Ann told her, "but we're paying separately."  

"I thought your friend was paying for you," said the woman, adding in a melodramatic voice, "I guess I've made a big assumption."  

We weren't sure if her assumption was that we were into alternative information, or that we were gay, but from the finger-in-the-palm action she gave Lynn when she gave change, we had a pretty good idea. The thing is, neither option would have concerned us if she hadn't been all freaky deaky and dramatic about it.  

When we got back to the car we looked in the guidebook and noticed that Chysauster is open to the public from April 1 to October 31. We were pretty sure October 31 was a big night on her personal calendar. We speculated that the weather's pretty bad for big chunks of the year up there on that lonely hill. It was a bright and sunny day when we visited and they had scant crowds, so we imagined that the Wyrd Lady spent a lot of time alone in that gift shop. Just her and the energies of Chysauster, communing with the goggily googlies, constantly seeking at-one-ment with like-minded visitors who perpetually disappoint her.  

We met so many lovely, nice, helpful people on this trip. Why is it always the strange, rude, or nasty folk one remembers? 

I'll give her this, though: Chysauster did have a weird vibe. Not a friendly place. Lots of anxiety in the air. I didn't feel any sense of reverence for its age and the presence of generations of humans like I did at Madron. This place felt more like somewhere people ran to hide out in, watching the surrounding valleys nervously waiting for Roman Legionnaires or something else bad to come after them. I don't know why I felt that way—just being imaginative, I guess. Or maybe I was channeling.

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson