Joan the Wad

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Entryway into Joan the Wad and Piskey Shop, Polperro, Looe, Cornwall, UK

Joan the Wad is a mythological character in Cornish folklore. Specifically, she is the Queen of the Pixies (or Piskeys), fictional tiny creatures usually associated with the area of Cornwall and Devon.[1]


Wad is an Eastern Cornwall colloquial term for torch or bundle of straw.[1][2][3]


Joan the Wad has been associated with Jack o' the Lantern, the King of the Pixies.[1] The two may also be considered will-o'-the-wisp type characters who lead travelers astray on lonely moors, hence the rhyme:[4][2][5]

Jack-the-lantern, Joan-the-wad,
That tickled the maid and made her mad,
Light me home, the weather's bad.[2][5]

However, Joan is also thought use her Wad (Torch) to light the way to safety and good luck, as another rhyme says:

Good fortune will nod, if you carry upon you Joan the Wad.[1][5]

And another,

Sometimes high, sometimes low and sometimes in the sod. If you want luck well enow, then keep near Joan the Wad.[citation needed]


Joan the Wad is often depicted naked and associated with fire and water elements.[1]

In the last century, there has been a thriving cottage industry in Joan the Wad lucky charms.[1] People will carry small figures of Joan the Wad for good luck, a small collection of antique figures is housed at the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle.[6] Her image also appears on door knockers to serve as a protective spirit. [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Illes, Judika (2009). Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 531. ISBN 0061350249. 
  2. ^ a b c Couch, Jonathan (1871). The History of Polperro. Simpkin, Marshall & Co. 
  3. ^ Courtney, Margaret Ann; Couch, Thomas Quiller (1880). Glossary of Words in Use in Cornwall. Trübner & Co. 
  4. ^ Simpson, Jacqueline; Roud, Steve (2000). A Dictionary of English Folklore. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019210019X. 
  5. ^ a b c Northall, G.F. (1892). English Folk-Rhymes. K. Paul, Trench, Trübner. 
  6. ^ "Pisky: Joan the Wad". Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall. Retrieved November 6, 2012.