Jersey Folklore

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Jersey folklore


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Jersey people are traditionally known as crapauds (toads). According to a Guernsey legend, St Samson of Dol arrived in Jersey but encountered such a hostile reception in the then-pagan island that he proceeded on to Guernsey. The welcome being much warmer in Guernsey, he repaid the inhabitants of that island by sending all the snakes and toads from Guernsey to Jersey

A Jersey stamp issue

Witchcraft

Belief in witchcraft was formerly strong in Jersey, and survived in country areas well into the 20th century. Witches were supposed to hold their sabbats on Fridays at Rocqueberg, the Witches' Rock, in St Clement. Folklore preserves a belief that witches' stones on old houses were resting places for witches flying to their meetings.

La Fête Nouormande

Every third year Jersey hosts La fête Nouormande, a folk festival centering on the Norman culture and heritage of the island, which attracts performers and visitors from Guernsey and the continent.

Myths and legends

1981 stamp issue

1997 stamp issue

2016 stamp issue

2020 stamp issue

2022 stamp issue

Notes and references

  1. Many years ago, residents of Trinity talked of a giant, black dog, with eyes the size of saucers, that roamed the cliff paths around Bouley Bay dragging a chain behind it. The sound of the chain frightened people so much that they would stop in their tracks, only to be caught up with by the dog. He would then circle his victims at great speed in order to terrify them further. No bodily harm was ever done to the victims but they were usually found cowering against a hedge in a state of shock after their encounter with the Black Dog. The slightest mention that the dog had been heard was enough to send people hurrying back to their homes. But did the dog ever exist, or did smugglers make him up, so that scared parishioners wouldn't see them landing secret stores of brandy and tobacco? It is still said that if you do see Le Chien de Bouley, there will be a storm
  2. Once there was a young woman called Anne-Marie, who liked to skim stones on the beach at Bonne Nuit. A sea sprite had noticed her, and as he watched her he decided that he wanted Anne-Marie for his wife. But Anne-Marie had a sweetheart - William. So the sea sprite decided that he would get rid of William and have Anne-Marie for himself. The next day William went to muck out the stable, and inside he found a splendid white stallion. Shocked, but pleased at such a gift, he decided he would ride it to show Anne-Marie. That night however, William dreamt that the stallion was dangerous, so he picked some mistletoe and took it with him when he went riding. As he rode across the beach towards Anne-Marie, the stallion turned and began to charge towards the sea - it was the sea sprite in disguise, trying to drown him. William beat the stallion about the head with the mistletoe, and all of a sudden the horse stiffened and turned into rock. You can still see the rock in Bonne Nuit Bay
  3. Fishermen used to talk of a roaring bull that roamed around the rocks off St Clement at low tide. People were so scared of this bull that they refused to venture down to the beach, even to go fishing. One fisherman refused to believe the tale about the bull, and decided to search the rocks. While he was searching, the bull began to roar - but when the fisherman followed the sound, he found a rock pool, where the rocks had been eroded to form a pipe. At low tide water was sucked down the pipe, making a gurgling noise, which echoed loudly off all the rocks. The fishermen filled up the rock pipe - and that was the end of the bull of St Clement
  4. Legend says that a terrible dragon once lived in St Lawrence, killing people and burning houses all over the island. The Seigneur de Hambye in Normandy heard of this dragon and set off to fight him. Not much is known about the battle, except that the knight attacked and killed the dragon single-handedly, and cut off its head. Exhausted and wounded, he lay down to rest, while his squire guarded him. But his squire was disloyal, and wanted the glory for himself. He killed his master and buried the body, before returning to Hambye. Once there, he told his master's wife that the dragon had killed the Seigneur, but that he had avenged his death and killed the dragon. As well as this, he added that the Seigneur's dying wish was that the squire should marry his wife. But one night, while they lay in bed, the squire cried out in his sleep, and admitted to killing his master. The lady immediately had him brought to trial, the squire confessed, and he was sentenced to death. The lady then travelled to Jersey, and in St Saviour a mound was raised in memory of the Seigneur - La Hougue de Hambye (Hougue Bie)
  5. Long ago, Jersey was ruled by French soldiers. Many islanders strongly opposed the French rule - among them Philippe de Carteret, the Seigneur of St. Ouen. The French did not want Philippe causing trouble, so they decided to kidnap him. While he was fishing in St Ouen's Pond, the French soldiers crept up to capture him. But Philippe saw them, and leapt on his black horse. He raced towards his manor, but the soldiers cut him off. He turned into Val de la Charrière, but there was only one way out - across a deep wide ditch. His horse jumped it, and landed on the other side, and Philippe continued towards home. Once he reached home, and was safe, his faithful horse collapsed and died. Philippe ordered that his horse be buried in his garden, and today there is a painting of the black horse in St Ouen's Manor
  6. It is said that 650 years ago John Wallis owned a large house - the Manor of La Brecquette, at L'Etacq. It was surrounded on two sides by a forest of oak trees. One year, waves moved up the beach and began to flood the land. The sea rose until it covered the manor, and eventually it covered the oak forest as well. When the tide is low at St Ouen and sand has been washed away, black tree stumps, the petrified remains of the forest that once surrounded the manor, can still be seen. Editor: Although there was undoubtedly a forest in this area until general sea levels rose, this is likely to have been much earlier than 650 years ago. No trace has ever been found of the manor they are supposed to have surrounded, which seems inexplicable because a flood tide during a storm, or perhaps caused by the 1531 Portuguese tsunami which is believed to have damaged low-lying areas over a wide area of the eastern Atlantic seaboard, would not have resulted in the permanent flooding of a large tract of land off L'Etacq.
  7. Once the east of Jersey was ruled by armed French gangs, but they were hated by the islanders. One night there was a party at a farmer's house in Trinity, to celebrate the engagement of Raulin (the farmer's son) and Jeanne. Towards the end of the evening, a French gang arrived. There was an argument between Raulin and the leader of the gang, and as the Frenchmen left they warned Raulin that he would be punished in the morning. Later that night Raulin walked Jeanne home, and she was so worried that she begged him to stay. But he wouldn't, so she sent her dog with him to keep him safe.
    As Raulin walked home he heard voices coming towards him, but he didn't have time to hide. It was the same French gang that had come to his father's house earlier. They seized Raulin, and although Jeanne's dog tried to defend him, it was stabbed, and the gang rode off with Raulin. Back at her house Jeanne had been tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep. Suddenly she heard what sounded like scratching and whimpering at her front door. When she opened i, her dog rushed in. Seeing the blood on her dog, Jeanne knew something had happened to Raulin and ran out into the night.
    She followed her dog to where the gang had ambushed Raulin, but there was no trace of them. The dog picked up their trail, and set off towards the cliffs. Eventually they reached a cave. Inside she could see the gang having a banquet, while Raulin stood with a noose around his neck. The leader of the gang stood up and gave a toast, then gave the signal for Raulin to be hanged. But Jeanne ran into the cave, and stood between the gang and Raulin. She begged the gang to kill her too, but they laughed, and the leader said he would keep Jeanne as his wife. As the gang moved towards the couple, Jeanne seized a dagger, and cut Raulin free. But the leader plunged his dagger into Raulin's heart, killing him. As Raulin fell to the floor, Jeanne's dog leapt at the leader and sank his teeth into his neck, killing him. The dog was so badly wounded that he died too.
    The gang ran towards Jeanne in a fury, and she fled the cave and ran along the beach. She climbed up L'Islet rock, and as the waves swept over her, she was dragged out to sea and drowned. A week later, Jeanne's body was washed ashore, and as some fishermen carried her body along the beach, they saw ravens circling around a cave. Curious, they went in and found the bodies of Raulin and the gang's leader. They took the body of Raulin and buried him and Jeanne together - but they left the gang leader's body for the ravens. Today it is said that Jeanne's screams can still be heard - Les Cris de Tombelenes.
  8. Once upon a time a couple were walking home through Waterworks Valley. As it reached midnight, they heard a peal of bells. They began to walk faster, then they realised that the bells were wedding bells. A bridal procession slowly appeared round the corner - a coach drawn by six horses, with footmen and a coachman. As the coach passed, the couple looked inside at the bride, dressed in her magnificent white wedding dress. But the bride had no face - under her wedding veil there was just a skull. Scared out of their wits, the couple ran the rest of the way home.
    At first they worried that people would laugh at them, but when they told others about their encounter, they were told about an old legend. A long time before, the same bride went to St Lawrence's Church to be married, but her bridegroom never arrived. She was so sad that she killed herself, and now, once a year, her ghost drives down the valley, trying to find her disloyal fiance.
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