Cornish tin-miners believed there were helpful spirits in the mines, who could be heard hammering at places where there was a good lode of ore; they might also knock as a warning of danger, for instance before a rock-fall. There were several names for them, the two most usual being 'knockers' and 'buc-cas' (the latter is a common Celtic term for various 'fairies and 'goblins). Certain 'taboos had to be obeyed so as not to annoy them: there must be no 'whistling and swearing, nor should anything be marked with a 'cross. Workers eating underground should leave a few crumbs for them, for luck. An old man told Bottrell that he had once seen three, 'no bigger than a good sixpenny doll, yet in their faces, dress and movements, they had the look of hearty old tinners'. One was sitting at a little anvil, 'no more than an inch square', sharpening tools for the others.
   Knockers were sometimes thought of as fairies, but more often as ghosts of 'Jews who could never rest because they were guilty of Christ's death. It was said Jews had worked in the tin-mines, either as slaves in Roman times, or as serfs of an Earl of Cornwall; neither account seems to have any factual basis. Among Shropshire lead miners, similar beliefs were held; there, the helpful spirits were simply called 'the Old Men', and sometimes identified with Wild 'Edric's followers (Briggs, 1976: 254-6).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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