Underground Mythology — Who, or What Were the Knockers?

A valuable article on “knockers” — better known in the United States as “tommyknockers” — the diminutive beings whom underground miners have encountered for centuries, by British researcher Sylvia P. Beamon: 

http://old.speleo.cz/soubory/speleo/sp16/mytho.htm:

UNDERGROUND MYTHOLOGY — WHO, OR WHAT WERE THE KNOCKERS?

Sylvia P. Beamon, M.A.

For presentation at the Symposium on Bohemian Subterranea, Praha (Prague) 22 – 28 August, 1993. Includes: Introduction; Mining Folklore; Cornish Tin Miners; Who were the ‘Knockers’ or the ‘Knackers’?; Scotland and Wales; the Continent and elsewhere; the Czech Republic (with thanks to Vašek Cílek); bibliography & references.

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America’s First Gold Rush — a democratizing, divine subsidy

“History has overlooked America’s first gold rush perhaps because the gold produced in the Carolinas and Georgia [in the early 1800s] was not all recorded in the books at the U.S. Mint. Much of the gold was shipped to Europe and perhaps as high as twenty-five percent went into the decorative arts of the period such as jewelry making, gun smithery, picture frames, and other articles.

“A good deal of the gold was taken to the nearest bar instead of the nearest mint. Many a gold nugget stuck in a miner’s pocket and somehow was accidentally discovered by the miner after he left work. In those days when someone stepped up to the bar proclaiming the drinks were on the house, the chances were the drinks were on the mine owner!

“The value of the gold that did reach the mint is recorded at the rate of eighteen to twenty dollars an ounce, about half the current thirty-five dollars an ounce. In a land where a man was lucky to make ten dollars a week, an ounce of gold was two weeks’ pay.

“For a nation with no Fort Knox gold behind its currency, the Carolina gold rush saved the eagle and the dollar from being dependent upon foreign sources of gold. It also put into circulation gold coins, both privately and officially minted, in a land where cash of any kind was scarce. At country stores and taverns throughout the Carolinas gold dust was the poor man’s currency and many a farmer and miner picked out his supplies in country stores from Marion to Greenville while the store owner got out his scales and measured pennyweights of gold dust in payment.

“The Carolina gold rush is best described perhaps as a subsidy program instituted by divine providence to help a particularly deserving and needy section of a young nation. It was one of the most successful monetary programs ever undertaken in the United States.”

Source: The Carolina Gold Rush, by Bruce Roberts. Charlotte, N.C.: McNally & Loftin, [1971]. pp. 62-63.

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“She Herself, the old Mother, gave birth to the gems from her heart”

“The world of stone is not dead: its seeds are the crystals, its flowers, the gems. They are the buds of a mysterious light life in the corridors of darkness, the colored dreams of abysses. The spirit of the flame is embodied in stone by them. They are like the tears of the stars, spilled into the dark underworld. They are the treasures and jewels of the earth- and rock-mother. With their prisms and grains, she has garlanded her brown neck. Transparent bolts of lightning flash around the sleeping face, in her cupped hand lie diamonds and rubies of the purest water, and the rock crystal of her signet ring shimmers rounded and pure like the ice cold drop of her mountain spring.

“She herself, the old mother, gave birth to the gems from her heart.”

— Das Kleine Buch der Edelsteine [The Little Book of Gems]. Colored pictures by Hans Lang; text by Frederick Schnack. (Insel-Bücherei Nr. 54) Leipzig: Insel Verlag, [1938? 1950?]. p. 26

—————-

“Der Steinwelt is nicht tot: ihre Keime sind die Kristalle, ihre Blumen die Edelsteine. Sie sind die Knospen eines geheimnisvollen Lichtlebens in den Fluren der Finsternis, die Farbigen Träume der Abgründe. Der Geist der Flamme ist in ihnen steinern verkörpert. Sie gleichen den Tränen der Sterne, vergossen in die düstere Unterwelt. Die Schätze und Kleinodien der Erd- und Felsenmutter sind sie. Mit ihren Prismen und Körnern hat sie sich den braunen Nacken bekränzt. Gläserne Blitzen umzucken das schlafende Gesicht, in ihren Handmuscheln liegen Diamanten und Rubine reinsten Wassers, und der Bergkristall ihres Siegelrings schimmert geründet und rein wie der eiskühle Tropfen ihrer Bergquelle.

Sie selbst, die alte Mutter, hat die Edelsteine aus ihrem Herzen geboren.”

Das Kleine Buch der Edelsteine. Farbige Bilder von Hans Lang; Geleitwort von Friedrich Schnack. (Insel-Bucherei Nr. 54) Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, [1938?]. S. 26. 

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The Prospector

“King Midas with the turn of a golden key had unlocked the door to Alaska, our last frontier.

“And the prospector, what became of him?
In a class by himself, the prospector gathers about him a romantic air as he heads out again into the mystery of the wilderness. No map marks the way that he would go. Starting out alone, he makes his way along the trails where man has never walked before, guided by peculiar instincts, buoyed up by hopes that some day he will find gold. But there is more to the urge than the finding of gold. There’s the solitude, the murmur of the mountain streams, the clean air, and earthly things.

“Whether pitching his tent beside some river or making his bed beneath the branches of a tree, the prospector finds contentment. He prospects here and there along the creeks or picks at the ridges, until one day he strikes it rich. Word leaks out — a whisper which grows ever louder until the word GOLD echoes to the far corners of the earth. The world comes crashing in. Others benefit from his find because they are business men and he is just a prospector, governed by the honor of his given word and not by the intrigue of a moneyed world. So others start mining where he prospected. They get the glory and the gold — while he goes further on into the wilderness.”

(the last words of the book “Klondike ’98; Hegg’s Album of the 1898 Alaska Gold Rush,” by Ethel Anderson Becker (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort, [1949])

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Cornwall and the “Cousin Jack”

Cornwall and the “Cousin Jack,” by T. J. Nicholas. Ilfracombe: Arthur H. Stockwell, Ltd., 1947. 2nd edition. 236 pp. (in verse)

–from the cover: “The life story of a miner, covering three-quarters of a century, and written in poetical form. The author, a Cornishman, left school at the age of ten to work in a Cornish tin mine…”

–from the prolegomenon [introduction]: “A life-long miner, working far below God’s garden, with the brilliant radiance of His morning sun and the evening sunset’s chromatic tones, down in stygian darkness, whilst far above the soft glowing moon and the twinkling stars joined exquisite shades of God’s flowers, the author wondered at times what a book would be like if it were written by a man without education. Having looked for such a curio in vain, he tackled the job, and laying aside the heavy tools that miners use, with age-old and trembling fingers he clutched a tiny pencil, and embarked on this reminiscent exploration, which covers three quarters of a century.

The writer does not profess knowledge of prose mechanics, and less of the spiritual urge in poetry. The swing of the lines comes from a hymn sung in early boyhood days, and it is written in this form to make easier reading for those who have been too busy in performing essential tasks in world-work to step aside into the flowery paths that lead to culture and knowledge…”

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Is it Only British Authors that Understand the Historical Spell of Mining History?

Two fascinating books:

Author:   Almond, David, 1951-
Title:        Kit’s Wilderness / David Almond
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, 2000
Edition: 1st American ed
Description: 229 p. ; 22 cm
Note: Originally published: Great Britain : Hodder Children’s Books, c1999.

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Kit goes to live with his grandfather in the decaying coal
mining town of Stoneygate, England, and finds both the old man and the town haunted by ghosts of the past.
The Watson family moves to the old coal-mining town of Stoneygate to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family had worked and died in the mines, he invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. Kit’s association with Askew takes him into the mines where the boys look for the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors. Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award. Copyright © Libri GmbH

Audiobook: Kit’s wilderness [sound recording] / David Almond
New York : Random House/Listening Library, p2000
Note: Read by Charles Keating

Subjects: Coal mines and mining — Fiction; Ghosts — Fiction; Grandfathers — Fiction; Old age — Fiction; England — Fiction
=======================================
Wiseman, David.
Title: Jeremy Visick / David Wiseman.

Publication Info. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Summary: Twelve-year-old Matthew is drawn almost against his will to help a boy his own age who was lost in a mining disaster a century before.
Subjects: Time travel — Fiction; Miners — Fiction; Cornwall (England : County) — Fiction.

When Matthew Clemens ventured into the churchyard to gather information about the Cornish miners buried there, one gravestone in particular seemed to call his attention. The inscription was to Reuben Visick and his two eldest sons, all three killed in a mining accident more than a hundred years before. But below the inscription were the words that echoed again and again in Matthew’s head: “And to Jeremy Visick, His Son, Age 12, Whose Body Still Lies in Wheal Maid.”The lines were as clear to Matthew as if he’d heard them spoken. Night after night they drew him to the churchyard, or to the outbuilding behind the Clemens home, where Jeremy Visick had lived, until Matthew began to sense that somehow his destiny and Jeremy Visick’s were inexorably intertwined.Jeremy Visick is an irresistible and gripping adventure story about loyalty and one boy’s commitment to another across time.

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Jade Hunters — the graphic novel!

Jade Hunters is a 32 page graphic novel/zine by Dylan Horst about 2 guys named Jade Rat and Lingcod, who search for jade in Big Sur and fend off a diabolical jade thief who menaces the jade-producing regions of the world. Published in Big Sur in 2012; for sale at that year’s  Jade Festival for $4.

UPDATE:  As of 2013, now there is Jade Hunters II! Both issues are available from: Dylan Horst, 62400 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920. Each one is $8 postpaid.

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