THE GARRICK ZANS, OR HOLY ROCK.
FEW years--really but a few years--since, the stone altars on which the first inhabitants of these islands lit their holy fires had yet a place amongst us. In the village of Roskestall stood one such altar; in Treen was to be found another. These huge masses of rock, rendered sacred by the memories surrounding them, have been wantonly removed, and employed in most cases in furnishing pillars at the "grand entrances" of the houses of the squire farmers of the Land's End district; or they have been yet more rudely served, and are to be found at the entrance to a pigsty, or in the gate-posts to a potato-field.
The extinction of several of the old families is, to the present day, ascribed by the peasantry to the unholy act of removing or breaking up of the Garrick Zans in the village of Escols. The rock in the village of Mayon was called indifferently table-mayon (mön), or the Garrack Zans. Within our memory is the gathering of the villagers around the Holy Rock. It was their custom, when anything was stolen, or a misdemeanour committed, to light a fire on this altar, and when the fagots were in full blaze, all those who sought to prove their innocence took a burning stick from the rock and spat on the blazing end. If they could extinguish the fire by spitting on the stick, they were declared innocent; but if the mouth was so dry as not to generate sufficient moisture to be heard "frizzing" on it, that unfortunate individual was suspected, if not declared, to be guilty. [a] The Midsummer bonfire was first lighted on the rock in Escols, next on the Chapel Hill; then all the other beacon hills were soon ablaze. Many superstitious rites were formerly performed on the Garrack Zans, which are only found now as the amusements of young people on the eves of St Agnes and Midsummer.
[a] Boys at school, to prove the truth or falsehood of any charge, will take a stick from the fire and practise upon it in the same manner. May not the custom of joining hands and passing through the embers of a dying bonfire, for good luck, be a vestige of the same ritual?