When you think about Cornwall, no doubt there are two words that spring to mind: Piskies and Pasties. The latter of which is a delightful treat, while the former tends to leave a slightly less savoury taste in the mouth. However, these mysterious creatures weren’t all that bad. In fact, there was one in particular who is said to have brought good luck and fortune to many people. Of course, that’s not to say that this mystical bringer of mischief was well-behaved all of the time!
We’re referring to Joan the Wad, the miniature Matriarch of the Cornish Piskies. Joan the Wad hails from Cornish Folklore, specifically the area of Polperro. This fascinating little creature is shrouded in mystery and has long been the focus of fascination for locals and visitors alike.
But how can one tiny creature inspire so much contradiction? A bringer of luck, renowned for having occasionally lead people astray in the night...Were they bad people perhaps? Or is it that Pixies and Piskies simply cannot help themselves from stirring up trouble now and again?
If we were to speculate, we would say that Joan the Wad intended to use her powers to do good as often as she could, while occasionally falling prey to her inherent mischievous nature. A leopard can’t change its spots after all - That and there’s little point in being a Queen if you you’re unable to indulge in the occasional guilty pleasure from time to time.
Joan the Wad was also known to be associated with Jack o’ the Lantern, King of the Piskies. The two of these pesky little creatures were said to have occasionally led wary travellers astray at night, rendering them lost and alone on the Cornish Moors.
‘Jack the Lantern, Joan the Wad
That tickled the maid and made her mad
Light me home, the weather’s bad.’
This old rhyme refers to the royal couple’s fairy light phenomenon. They are said to be fire spirits or as they are more commonly referred: Will-o-the-Wisp. Their innate ability to emit light in the darkness would trick humans into believing that they were following a torch or lantern. Many people say that these poor people would be either lost forever or led to their deaths.
A chilling thought indeed, though one that’s made warmer with the conflicting idea that if you were to call upon the aid of Joan the Wad; that she would often heed your request and lead you back to safety.
‘Good fortune will nod, if you carry upon you Joan the Wad.’
As we’re sure you’ll agree, this rhyme is certainly a lot more reassuring than the former. Maybe it was just a simple case of tickling her ego? After all, who doesn’t like being liked?
Many people claim to have experienced significant good fortune after having purchased a Joan the Wad charm. Some say that their charm’s gave them or a family member good health; helped them find the love of their lives; brought an end to their bad luck; and even helped some people to win competitions and prizes.
These could all be coincidence of course, though we like to believe that Joan the Wad simply cannot help being decent to others, in spite of her mischievous nature.
There is much speculation about pixies and piskies’ origin and whether or not there is any truth to the stories. Either way, one thing is for certain; there is a beautiful underlying metaphor throughout the narrative of Joan the Wad. One that inspires so many locals and visitors to Polperro to keep a Joan the Wad charm on them at all times.