In a vacant moment the thought came to me as to why Dartmoor does not have a patron saint. Granted if one looks back into pre-Christian times there is the old pagan god – Old Crockern who looks after the moor. In Christian times there are numerous church dedications to such well known saints as Michael, Andrew, Mary etc which tend to be of a national if not international importance. There are then a few lesser well known saints such as Raphael, Richard, Pancras, and Rumon with one specific Westcountry contender in the form of Petroc, if one looks at holy wells there is one, namely – Gudula. As Dartmoor was once a busy tin mining area one could possibly look to a patron saint of tinner’s but all that suggests is the three rabbits/hares and you can’t really have a St. Rabbit. It seems strange that the Dartmoor tinners never adopted a protective figure especially when the danger of their work is considered. But maybe they did and it’s been lost in the annals of time. At least the Cornish miners had St. Pirran but as he has been used over the border you can forget that. Devon loosely has Saint Boniface who incidentally is the patron saint of brewers which does sound tempting but again although Dartmoor is in Devon it is not ‘exclusive’ enough. St. Michael is thought to be the patron saint of high places and so like the church dedication at Brentor could be applicable as much of Dartmoor sits at high altitudes. There again though St. Michael is not exclusive enough so forget him. Maybe one could look to Petronilla would suffice as her name means ‘little rock’ and she is the patron saint of mountain travellers. Whilst doing some research on the Romans I came across St. Hermes who was a 3rd century martyr who was persecuted in early Christian times. The shrine where body is interred is in Flanders and a pilgrimage to it is said to cure lunatics – quite apt in this context. In England his feast day is the 28th of August and what has Hermes to do with Dartmoor? He is also known as St. Erme which could be very, very loosely suggestive of the river Erme.
Maybe then one should not be looking at a patron saint but more of a ‘guardian spirit’ such as Old Crockern. At least by going ‘multi-faith there are a few more avenues opened up. There are traditional water deities such as Tavy and Tamara but then again although the river Tavy flows from the moor the Tamar doesn’t and even worse it flows too close to Cornwall. The Celtic god Belenus could also be a contender as tradition has it that it is from his name that Bellever and Belstone get their place-names. Belenus was associated with fire and healing which is rather apt as much of the Dartmoor rock was formed by heat and pressure. Another contender may be the modern day ‘god’ DNPA who could be described as an all seeing, all powerful entity which rules over Dartmoor with a despotic grip of iron? But then again I’m sure that I’ve read in the bible some where that one must not worship false idols.
So having mulled over these few suggestions there can only be one contender and that is ‘Old Crockern’ as for centuries he has been regarded as the ‘Guardian of Dartmoor’. So maybe it’s time to officially recognise the fact. After all he already has a temple where for centuries moor men would meet and hold their councils – Crockern Tor. So maybe it’s time to lose the pony logo and start respecting the true ‘Spirit of Dartmoor’ …
But if anybody has any further suggestions please send them in for inclusion on this page and who knows we might get a spiritual figurehead. It has been done with the Devon flag despite the whinging that it was pinched from the Cornish – yeah just like the pasty!
Thanks to the Letterboxing.org forum there are now some suggestions:
1) St. Christopher – patron saint of travellers? – from ‘Knight of the Moor’.
2) St. Anthony – suggested because whenever out letterboxing and unable to find the box, a prayer to St. Anthony usually reveals the missing site. – from ‘Number 70’.
3) St. Godfrey – referring to Godfrey Swinscow the guru of letterboxing. – from ‘The Lost Legionnaire’.
4) St. Medard – similar to St. Swithin, his feast day is on June 8th and whatever the weather on that day will continue for the next 40 days – from ‘Wooie’.
5) St. Jude – patron saint of hopeless causes, which is very apt on Dartmoor, especially when the mist is down – from ‘Wooie’.
6) St. Anthony (of Padua) – patron saint of lost articles, travellers, poor people, horses and asses, all of which can be found on Dartmoor – from ‘Wooie’.