Wiltshire abounds with folklore, ancient myths and superstitions. A drive through the countryside yields plenty of examples of our ancestors’ belief in the need to keep on the right side of supernatural forces. From the famous White Horse on Pewsey Downs to the ancient sites at Avebury and the mysterious Silbury Hill, Wiltshire is steeped in mythology and legend.
More recently, Pewsey Vale has become a centre for “corn circles” and a number are usually visible in the neighbourhood throughout the summer months.
Perhaps the most famous legend is that of the Moonrakers, which is reputed to have taken place at the Crammer (the town’s pond) in Devizes.
A group of Wiltshire smugglers, so the story goes, heard an Excise man (what we now refer to as Customs) approaching and quickly concealed the contraband brandy they were carrying by rolling the barrels into the pond. Once the official had passed by they started to recover them using a long rake. However the excise man, being of a suspicious nature as befitted his role, came back to take a second look. Seeing the recovery operation in process he demanded to know what they were doing. In a flash of inspiration, one pointed to the reflection of the moon in the water and replied that they were trying to rake out the cheese from the moon.
The Excise man rode away, convulsed with laughter. The smugglers, also laughing heartily at their quick-witted story, carried on with the serious business of retrieving their brandy.
To this day, Wiltshire people are known as ‘Moonrakers’.