#WizardWednesday – The Edge

High above Alderley village in Cheshire, England, lies The Edge. A sandstone escarpment inhabited since Mesolithic times. Local legend tells of The Wizard – an ageless sorcerer. There beneath stone and soil, an army sleeps. Waiting. Only The Wizard can wake them. 


The Western archetype of the venerable, long-bearded, staff-wielding wizard, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or hood, most likely comes from the Old Norse God Odin in his Wanderer guise. 

The word wizard comes from the Middle English “wysard“, meaning “very wise” (interestingly, an “-ard”  ending on many old words simply means “hard“, as in “very” or “lots of“, which makes words like buzzard quite funny). 

Alderley Edge is a village and civil parish in Cheshire, England, 6 miles (10 km) northwest of the town of Macclesfield, and 12 miles (19 km) south of the city of Manchester. The village lies at the base of a steep and thickly wooded sandstone escarpment known as The Edge. There, carved into the sandstone, is the face of a wizard. Of The Wizard. There a natural spring drips water into a carved stone cyst. The words  “Drink of this and take thy fill – for this water falls by the wizard’s will” are engraved above. 

In 1805 a letter was published in the Manchester Mail newspaper, telling the tale of The Wizard of Alderley Edge. This story, the letter writer stated, had been told often by Parson Shrigley, the former Clerk and Curate of Alderley, before his death in 1776. The piece attracted enough attention that a tourist pamphlet was soon printed – expanding the original text somewhat – entitled The Cheshire Enchanter. Below is an extract from that pamphlet.

A Farmer from Mobberley, mounted on a milk-white steed, arrived on the Heath, which skirts Alderley Edge. He was journeying to Macclesfield, to dispose of the horse he then rode at the fair. Deeply musing on his errand, and reckoning on the advantages which might arise from the sale of the animal, he stooped to stroke its neck, and adjust the flowing mane, which the rude wind of the morning had deranged. 

On lifting up his head, he perceived a figure before him, of more than common height, clad in a sable vest, which enveloped his figure; over his head, he wore a cowl, which bent over his ghastly visage, and screened not hid, the eyes, that sunken and scowling, were now fully bent upon the horseman; in his hand, he held a staff of black wood, this he extended so as to prevent the horse from proceeding until he had addressed the rider. When he essayed to speak his countenance became more spectre-like, and in a hollow yet commanding voice, he said 

Listen, Cestrian! I know thee, whence thou comest, and what is thy errand to yonder fair! That errand shall be fruitless; thy steed is destined to fulfil a nobler fate than that to which thou doomst him. He shall be mine. Vainly thou wilt seek to sell him; yet go and make the trial. Seest thou that Sun, whose beams just gild the beacon tower? When he shall have sunk beneath the western hills, and the pale moon has risen in his stead, be thou in this place! Nay, fear not! no evil shall betide thee if thou obey. Fare thee well! till night shall close again upon the world.

Having said this, he walked away. The Farmer, glad to be re-

leased from his presence, spurred his horse and hastened to Macclesfield. 

Here nothing awaited him but vexation and disappointment.

He boasted of the swiftness of his steed—the High blood of his progenitors—his sweetness Of temper and docility—-the surety of his footstep, and pleasantness of pace; he ranked him above all other animals around him, but in vain—no purchaser appeared willing to give the price required, he reduced it to the half, “but still the horse remained unsold.” He thought on the stranger and his morning salutation. He saw the western sky reflect back the last golden ray of the setting sun.

He viewed the Moon rising above the horizon, and mounting “ his milk-white steed,” resolved, at all events to obey the command of the unknown. 

He hastened to the appointed spot, afraid to trust his mind to dwell on the idea of the meeting. He reached the seven firs and

condemned his eagerness when he saw the same figure reclining on a rock beneath. He checked his rapid pace and began seriously to reflect on the probability of mischance. Who the being was that had thus commanded his presence! — who had thus foretold the events of the day, he knew not! If he were mortal, he strength and figure held a fearful superiority over him, should his intention be to ensnare him, or to take his life. Yet mortal strength he feared not—he was brave and had learned the science of self-defence at the wakes and fairs, where broils were very frequent. He blamed his hesitation, and accused himself of cowardice, muttering the local phrase. “I defy him !” “ I defy him!” and again set forward at his former pace. Presently he arrived on the verge of the heath and then suddenly stopped. The idea of the Stranger being an evil spirit, seized upon his mind, and subdued his courage. He gazed in trembling anxiety on him as he sat on the projection before him. The calm and apparently sleeping posture of the object abated his terror: yet he took the precaution to repeat all he could remember of a potent charm, taught him by his grandmother, to protect him from the influence of such as he feared the Stranger to be (It might have been “St. Oran’s Rhyme,” or “St. Fillan’s prayer.” But the Legend does not mention by name therefore I will not pretend to say what it was.) He however, began to think of returning, could he do it unperceived; but at that moment the Stranger rose and advanced towards him. 

Tis well,” he said, that thou art come. Follow me, and I will give thee the full price for thine animal.” He then turned down the northern road, the horseman following in silent apprehension. They cross the dreary heath, and enter the Wood—they soon reach the Golden Stone—-then by Stormy Point and Saddle Bole they pass—arrived at this extremity, the horseman seemed ready to exclaim “Speak, I will go no farther.” 

At that instant, from beneath their feet issued distinctly the neigh of a horse. The Stranger paused, again the neigh of a horse was heard—he reared his ebon wand, and hollow sounds, like the murmuring of a distant multitude, mingled with the horse’s neigh, which was again repeated. The Farmer gazed in wild affright, on his guide, and now first perceived that he was a Magician; to his terrified imagination, he, at that moment, appeared to have increased in stature far beyond the height of mortal man—his mantle, which now flowed loosely from his shoulders, added to the commanding air of his figure, and, with his arm and wand extended, he muttered a spell—the earth was immediately in a convulsive tremor, and before the Farmer could recover his breath, which had been suspended in his fright, the ground separated and discovered a ponderous pair of Iron Gates. 

The Magician again waved his wand, and with a noise, as it were of an earthquake, the gates unfold. The animal, terrified at the violent concussion, reared and plunged, and threw his rider to the ground. Soon as he recovered his bewildered thoughts, he kneeled before the Enchanter, and in piteous accents, besought him to have mercy on him, and to remember his promise, that “no evil should betide him if he obeyed.” “Nor shall there,” answered the Enchanter, “enter with me, and I will shew thee what mortal eye hath never yet beheld.”

The Farmer obeyed, and beheld a vast cavern, extending farther than his eye could reach; enlightened only by what appeared to be phosphoric vapours, its high arches were adorned by the distillations from the earth above, which had petrified into innumerable points, and illuminated by the unsteady light of the vapour, seemed, at one moment, to increase in number and beauty, and the next to vanish or recede from the view.—–Ranged on each side were horses, each the colour and figure of his own, tied to stalls formed in the rock. —-Near these lay soldiers, accoutred in the heavy chain mail of the ancient warriors of England—these seemed to increase in number as he advanced. In chasms of the rock he saw large quantities of ore, and piled in vast heaps, coins of various sizes and denominations. In a recess, more enveloped in gloom than the rest, stood a chest; this the Enchanter opened, and took from it the price of the horse, which the Farmer received, and fear being lost in astonishment, he exclaimed, “What can this mean?” “Why are these here?” The Enchanter replied, 

These are the Caverned Warriors, who are doomed by the good Genius of Britain, to remain thus entombed until that eventful day, when over-run by armies, and distracted by intestine broils, England shall be lost and won three times between sun-rise and eventide. Then we, awakening from our rest, shall rise to turn the fate of Britain, and pour, with resistless fury, on the vales of Cheshire. This shall be when George, the son of George, shall reign—when the forests of Delamere shall wave their long arms in despair, and groan over the slaughtered sons of Albion. Then shall the Eagle drink the blood of Princes from the headless cross. But, no more. These words, and more also, shall be spoken by a Cestrian—be recorded and be believed. Now, haste thee home, for it is not in thy time, these things shall be !” 

He obeyed and left the cavern; he heard the Iron Gates close—he heard the bolts descend—he turned to see them once again, but they were no longer visible! He marked the situation of the place, and with a quick step, he pursued his way to Mobberley. He related his adventure to his neighbours, and about twenty of them agreed to accompany him in search of the Iron Gates. They went—- they searched—but in vain! No trace remained; and though centuries have rolled away since that night, no person has ever beheld the Iron Gates.