Chris Wood & Andy Cutting – Following the Old Oss

Thought I’d share this absolutely beautiful tune, which is very appropriate for it being the May Day today. And then there’s some background information on what it’s all about, in case you’re curious about just how odd some people’s customs are…

Chris Wood & Andy Cutting – Following the Old Oss
Lyrics by Tony Deane

Here’s adieu to winter’s wailing.
From now on it’s plain sailing:
For the summer is a coming today
As we welcome the first of May.

Chorus (after each verse):
And we’re following the old ‘oss through the town
And we’re following the old ‘oss Padstow round,
All on a bright May morning,
All on the first of May.

And we’ll rise in the morning early
And remember Merv and Charlie,
By the Golden Lion we’ll stand and greet
The old ‘oss onto the street.

And there’ll be no cries or cribbin’
We’ll not wear the blue ribbon.
It’s the Old Red Horse and a crate of beer
That brings us our good cheer.

And we’ll sing from noon till nighttime
And for one song it’s the right time.
Only in Padstow will you hear
The day song loud and clear.

So good men, don’t ignore us,
Join in a May day chorus;
Dance with the old ‘oss, it’s no sin
To watch the summer come in.


‘Obby ‘Oss festival

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Old ‘Oss party attending the ‘Obby ‘Oss with dozens of accordions and drums.

The Old ‘Oss capturing a passing maiden during the Mayday festival.

Padstow, in Cornwall, UK is internationally famous for its traditional ‘Obby ‘Oss day (dialect for Hobby Horse). Held annually on May Day (1 May), which in Cornwall, largely dates back to the Celtic Beltane, the day celebrates the coming of Summer.

The celebrations were the basis of the song “Padstow” by Steeleye Span.

The origins of the celebrations in Padstow are unknown. There is extensive documentary evidence of British community May Day celebrations in the 16th century and earlier, although the earliest mention of the Obby ‘Oss at Padstow dates from 1803. An earlier hobby horse is mentioned in the Cornish language drama Beunans Meriasek, a life of the Camborne saint, where it is associated with a troupe, or “companions.”

Origins

It has been speculated that such festivals have pre-Christian origins, such as in the Celtic festival of Beltane in the Celtic nations, and theGermanic celebrations during the Þrimilci-mōnaþ (literally Three-Milking Month or Month of Three Milkings) in England. It has also been proposed that the worship of horse deities such as Epona was found in ancient Celtic societies such as the possibly related Mari Lwyd (‘Grey Mare’) traditions of South Wales.


Festival practice

The festival itself starts at midnight on May 1 with unaccompanied singing around the town starting at the Golden Lion Inn. By the morning, the town is dressed with greenery, flowers and flags, with the focus being the maypole. The climax arrives when two groups of dancers progress through the town, one of each team wearing a stylised recreation of a ‘horse.’ The two ‘osses are known as the “Old” and the “Blue Ribbon” ‘osses. During the day a number of “Junior” ‘osses appear, operated by children. Accompanied by drums and accordions and led by acolytes known as “Teasers”, each ‘oss is adorned by a gruesome mask and black frame-hung cape under which they try to catch young maidens as they pass through the town. The Blue ribbon oss is apparently of more recent origin. In the late 19th century it was supported by members of the Temperance movement who were trying to discourage the consumption of alcohol associated with the “old” ‘oss followers. After the first world war the imperative of temperance was lost, and the ‘oss became known as the Peace ‘Oss. Each ‘oss has a “stable” (in the case of the Old ‘Oss, the Golden Lion Inn and the Blue Ribbon ‘Oss, the Institute, from which they emerge at the start of the day’s proceedings and retire at the end. Some time in the late afternoon the ‘osses may meet at the maypole and dance together.


Night song

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.
I warn you young men everyone,
For summer is acome unto day,
To go to the green-wood and fetch your May home,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Mr. ….. and joy you betide,
For summer is acome unto day,
And bright is your bride that lies by your side,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Mrs. ….. and gold be your ring,
For summer is acome unto day,
And give to us a cup of ale the merrier we shall sing,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Miss ….. all in your gown of green,
For summer is acome unto day,
You are as fine a lady as wait upon the Queen,
In the merry morning of May.
Now fare you well, and we bid you all good cheer,
For summer is acome unto day,
We call once more unto your house before another year,
In the merry morning of May.


Day Song

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Mr. ….. I know you well afine,
For summer is acome unto day,
You have a shilling in your purse and I wish it were in mine,
In the merry morning of May.
All out of your beds,
For summer is acome unto day,
Your chamber shall be strewed with the white rose and the red
In the merry morning of May.
Where are the young men that here now should dance,
For summer is acome unto day,
Some they are in England some they are in France,
In the merry morning of May.
Where are the maidens that here now should sing,
For summer is acome unto day,
They are in the meadows the flowers gathering,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Mr. ….. with your sword by your side,
For summer is acome unto day,
Your steed is in the stable awaiting for to ride,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Miss ….. and strew all your flowers,
For summer is acome unto day,
It is but a while ago since we hove strewed ours,
In the merry morning of May.
O! where is St. George,
O!, where is he O,
He is out in his long boat on the salt sea O.
Up flies the kite and down tails the lark O.
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe
And she died in her own Park O.
With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring,
For summer is acome unto day,
How happy is the little bird that merrily doth sing,
In the merry morning of May.
The young men of Padstow they might if they would,
Far summer is acome unto day,
They might have built a ship and gilded her with gold,
In the merry morning of May.
The young women of Padstow might if they would,
For summer is acome unto day,
They might have made a garland with the white rose and the red,
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Mr. ….. and reach me your hand,
For summer is acome unto day,
And you shall have a lively lass with a thousand pounds in hand.
In the merry morning of May.
Arise up Miss ….. all in your cloak of silk,
For summer is acome unto day,
And all your body under as white as any milk,
In the merry morning of May.
O! where is St. George,
O!, where is he O,
He is out in his long boat on the salt sea O.
Up flies the kite and down tails the lark O.
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe
And she died in her own Park O.
Now fare you well and bid you all good cheer,
For summer is acome unto day,
We call no more unto your house before another year,
In the merry morning of May.


Similar Hobby-Horses

‘Obby ‘Oss traditions also exist in nearby Barnstaple and Combe Martin. There is documentary evidence of an ‘Oss’ at Penzance in the late 19th century, made with a caped stick and skull which has formed the basis of the Penglaz Obby Oss which appears during the Golowan festival and the Montol Festival the oss is strikingly similar to the Mari Lwyd in Wales. There are some similarities between this festival and the Lajkonik hobby-horse festival in Kraków, Poland. In particular the idea that young women may be captured or struck with a stick in order to bring them “luck” or fertility suggests a pagan, or at least medieval origin. Lajkonik is 700 years old. Rather more recent is the Banbury Hobby-Horse festival, which started in 2000.



Note: this section didn’t quite come out right. You might want to see the original page

The Mystery of Mayday

CEREMONY AND CELEBRATION : TWO ‘OSSES – ONE TRADITION.

Throughout the world communities carry out celebrations that are special to the people in those places. They have often taken place for so long that the origins have become obscured. This is true of the Padstow May Day celebrations, which are not entirely unique, but have retained a special character that sets them apart. The man beneath the gown wearing the fearsome mask assumes a certain menace. Another personality. A sense of magic and of time standing still electrifies the atmosphere on this day. How old is it? Pre- Christian ritual or rustic Elizabethan fundraiser? Who knows? More likely fragments of both, surviving because a community refused to let it die, emerging in the 21stcentury as a symbol of community spirit in an ever-changing world. Listen to the words of the song “Unite and unite and let us all unite for summer is acome unto day”.

WHAT PEOPLE WEAR.

White tops and trousers once only worn by a few ex sailors have become the standard dress for both parties. The piratical look favoured by the Old ‘Oss party was introduced in the 1950’s. The wearing of spring flowers, the flags the greenery and the May Pole are all part of the May Day experience.

Cowslips have special significance and are much in demand in the run up to the day. Once gardens were raided for tulips etc. but thankfully such anti-social behaviour is a thing of the past. (well almost!)

“With the merry ring adieu the joyful spring” the song goes and at times the ’Oss dies a symbolic death only to leap up with renewed vigour. Ancient Fertility Rite some say, and don’t forget it is said that if a maid is seen caught under the gown she will become pregnant before the year is out. Who can argue with such a potent image?

The “GREAT WAR” 1914-1919

This was a time of change for people everywhere. In many places the old customs died with the men on the battlefield. Here in Padstow the mood of survival gave encouragement for a new ‘Oss party to emerge, based on a previous Blue Ribbon ‘Oss with a patriotic red, white and blue ribbon round the rim of the gown and on the hat. It was also called the Armistice or Peace ‘Oss. The mask of this ‘Oss was slightly different too, a beard distinguished it from the original Old ‘Oss.

THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE.

Today the friendly rivalry between the two enthusiastic groups helps to ensure the future of this special custom. Tourists flock to witness the spectacle, but it is not for them that it continues. This is Padstow’s day and it is a tribute to both ‘Oss parties that it has essentially remained as such, in spite of this invasion.

THE MYSTERIOUS MASK

It is not known where the design for the Mask came from. The details are carefully copied year after year, including the letters O B that have long since lost their significance


The men who built the wooden ships and the men who sailed in them have left us their legacy. Is it mere fancy to suggest that the design may have been brought back from some other part of the world, where masked figures bearing an uncanny resemblance to our ‘Oss have been recorded?
Note the dramatic use of horse hair and sheep’s wool in the design along with the snappers at the front. These were once worked from inside the ‘oss by means of a string. The message is clear “Hand over your coin or the beast may bite”. Once, these funds were vital. Nowadays the money goes to charitable causes.

NIGHT SINGING

The night singing remains unaccompanied, a simple and almost reverential start to the proceedings after the Church clock has struck midnight. The route, mainly in the old part of town, visiting well-known residents and singing appropriate verses. This part of the proceedings is led by the Old ‘Oss Party and begins outside the Golden Lion Inn, finishing somewhere “uptown” in the early hours.

“Rise up Alec Rickard and Gold be your ring, for Summer is acome unto day’

and bright is your bride as she lays down by your side, in the merry morning of May”

“I warn you Young Men everyone, for Summer is acome unto day,

to go into the greenwood and fetch your May home, in the merry morning of May.

“Now we fare you well and bid you all good cheer, for summer is acome unto day,

we’ll call once more unto your house before another year, in the merry morning of May”.

THE GOWN OR SKIRT

The use of sailcloth to make the gown or skirt has been discarded for more modern material that is both lighter and easier to manage. Tar is no longer used as blacking (for the gown) and the paint now used no longer comes off on the hand when touched, considered a potent good luck symbol in its day! Today a touch is sufficient and the “Osses” will seek out elderly and infirm Padstonians in order that they may do this.

In the 1840’s the practice of smearing bystanders with soot or lampblack formed part of the ritual along with the firing of pistols to start the proceedings.

This face blacking forms an interesting link with the “Blackface” mumming tradition, formerly known as “Darkie Day” that takes place on Boxing and New Years Day.

THE TEASER

Dances in front of the ‘Oss taunting the beast, but ever respectful. The man or woman, boy or girl sweeps the air with graceful movements stepping nimbly about the cavorting creature.


Teasing the Oss in the Market


At Prideaux Place

THE MUSICIANS

They are very prominent in today’s parade. Most of the homemade instruments seen in the old photos have disappeared. From the handful observed in the 1950’s we now get 20 or more accordionists and drummers in each party and numbers quite often have to be restricted.

ossdrum.JPG (51417 bytes)
Drum as used by Old Oss Party

THE MAYPOLE.

These were once common throughout Europe. In Padstow we know that one used to be erected in front of Cross House. The pebble cross was dug up each year and a decorated pole provided by the occupant, at that time the Tredwen shipbuilding family. The site itself could very well have had ritual significance but after complaints the pole was moved to its present position in Broad St where it is an impressive focal point.


Head of the Maypole

CHILDREN’S OSSES.

There seems never to have been a time when colts or junior Osses have not been a part of May Day. They start out much earlier than the main parties and usually finish before 10.30am. Their numbers and presentation may vary but the enthusiasm is undimmed.


Early Mayday Morning


Assembly of Young Osser’s


Teasing a Junior Oss

THE PROGRAMME.
As the posters state the two Osses start the daytime proceedings at 10.00am and 11am respectively. They take different routes to each other. The Old ‘Oss visits Prideaux Place home of the Squire, in the morning moving up town in the afternoon with the Blue Ribbon Oss paying their visit in the afternoon. There are further perambulations in the evening, with occasional meetings of the two parties. A spectacle, which is much enjoyed, by the onlookers.

THE FAREWELL.
At the end of the day – sometime between 9.30 and 10 pm the Osses are stabled until the following May Day and both teams sing the very appropriate “Farewell” song – which was an Edwardian ballad about a soldier lamenting the parting from his loved one.

“I go where duty calls me,

I go what ere befalls me,

Farewell Farewell, my own true love.”

MUMMERS and MINSTRELS

One could say that the May Day tradition has given Padstow an advantage over many communities in that a special awareness of this unique day makes other less high profile customs no less important to keep up. This is true of the Carols sung in December and the Boxing Day and New Years Day celebrations.

On these days the drums and accordions are present as on May 1st but the numbers are relatively small and the dress echoes the minstrel groups that were such a big part of the popular music culture for over a century. The music repertoire also reflects this era – fragments of once popular songs strung together performed with noisy enthusiasm. It is perhaps just as well that some of the words pass unnoticed. Where else but in Padstow would the fate of “poor old Ned” who’s “gone where the good niggers go” be mourned with such feeling. Stephen Foster wrote this song and any suggestion that slaves may have sung it on the quayside of Padstow is unfortunate conjecture.

It is worth noting that the concept of “black face” had been around in Europe long before white Americans started mimicking black entertainers. Mummers and Morris Dancers blackened their faces to avoid recognition and to assume an ‘other’ identity. On this basis we can readily assume that the arrival of the “minstrel” idea in Padstow replaced an earlier mumming tradition that is known to exist.

It is claimed that visits to Capetown S.A. by minstrel groups inspired the formation of the ‘Coon Carnival’ also known as the ‘Minstrel Carnival’ which still takes place, post Apartheid, on New Years Day among the Cape Coloured community of that city.

Old customs of the people, performed by the people, adapting to an every changing world

Recommended reading – Demons of Disorder – Dale Cockrell – Cambridge University Press.

The Mayday Photograph below right shows an interesting mix of costumes, some with black faces.



Minstrel Group circa 1900


Mayday circa 1920


Mummers 2006


Mummers 2006

————————————–

EXTRACTS FROM VARIOUS PUBLICATIONS RELATING TO MAYDAY

May Day Mystery Update Feb 2005

In our various quotes from several 19c sources on Padstow and May Day we have previously omitted one of the earliest observations from C.S.Gilbert’s Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall published in 1820. It is significant in that it states “the inhabitants dress up a man in a horse’s skin”. This description is not the same as the one detailed in the Bible Christian Magazine just a few decades later which relates fairly closely to the scene we witness today. (See Padstow Echo reprints) We are left wondering where Mr. Gilbert got his information from. However there is no mistaking the general feel for the occasion.

The Rev Charles Prideaux-Brune was at this time the Lord of the Manor. He was the first in the Prideaux family to inherit the name Brune. Not yet finished was the mansion of Thomas Rawlings at Saunders Hill. Gilbert writes –

“The streets of Padstow are in general narrow and uneven and many of the buildings have an ancient appearance, yet the town has been greatly improved within the last thirty years by the erection of several houses, which are in general very neat. These together with the numerous gardens which line the sides of the vale, in which the whole is situated, produce when viewed from the water, a very pleasing effect.

There is an annual jubilee kept up at Padstow, on May 1st, known by the name of the Hobby Horse, in illusion to which, the inhabitants dress up a man in a horses skin, and lead him through the different streets. This odd looking animal amuses, by many whimsical exploits, the crowd which follows at his heels, particularly by taking up dirty water, wherever it is to be found, and throwing it into the mouths of his gaping companions. These tricks naturally produce shouts of laughter, and the merriments are accompanied by songs made for the occasion. The origin of this festival appears to be unknown.”

Taken from, “An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall” by C.S. Gilbert – pub 1820.

************

As well as the animal skin comment the “splashing” actions are interesting. Quoting from “Folklore of Cornwall” by Deane and Shaw (Tempus new edition 2003). Writing about May dew customs they say:

“The importance of dew may have had some link with the May Day practice of sprinkling with water, ‘dipping’, to bring good luck. We have already noted that the Padstow Oss once visited Treator Pool for this purpose and all over Cornwall, dipping was a common custom. In Polperro and Pelynt anyone not wearing a lucky ‘may’ blossom was dipped, while in Looe, the boys went around carrying bullock horns filled with water. They walked through the town singing.

“The first of May is Dipping Day

The sixth of May is Looe Fair Day.”Dipping as we are into the comments made on May Day in years gone by we end with those of Mr. George Rawlings who wrote to Robert Hunt the author of “Romances of the West of England” on Sept 1st 1865.

“Formerly all the respectable people kept the anniversary decorated with the choicest flowers but some unlucky day a number of rough characters from a distance joined it, and committed some sad assaults on old and young – spoiling all their nice summer clothes, and covering their faces and persons with smut. From that time – fifty years since – the procession is formed of the lowest. The maypole was once decorated with the best flowers – now with only some elm branches and furze in blossom. The horse is formed as follows :- The dress is made of sailcloth painted black – a fierce mask – eyes red – horse’s head – horse hair mane and tail distended by a hoop. Some would call it very frightful. Carried by a powerful man – they could inflict much mischief with the snappers. No doubt it is a remnant of the ancient plays, and it represents the devil, or the power of darkness. They commence singing at sunrise”.

MAY DAY IS NOT LIKE IT WAS YEARS AGO Padstow Echo No 110 May 1999.

Nothing new or startling with this statement, as we come round once again to this day of days for all Padstow people. Much has been written on the whys and wherefores of this ancient custom of ours and the story of when Thomas Tregaskis the Bible Christian miller tried to stop May Day has been quoted many times. His objections were not against revelry as such; otherwise why offer an Ox to be roasted for at least a seven-year period at considerable personal expense, but to that aspect that he saw promoted drunkenness. He had his supporters then and I suspect there are those today who would support his sentiments. He died in 1873, twenty-eight years after the Ox incident and we have from a memoir printed in the Bible Christian Magazine at that time a description of the day. The writer I feel was not totally disapproving of the event that he describes in such detail.

“The people have long been in the habit of singularly dressing up some strong man on the first of May, and following him with noisy mirth”

“There is the “gown” to begin with, made of canvas or some coarse material of the kind, painted black, caused to swell out to its proper dimensions by an enormous hoop at the waist, from which it tapers up to the neck; then the conical headpiece, answering the two-fold purpose of hat and mask, having a mixture of red and black, with a tuft of horse hair at the top. Attached to the hoop behind is a great sweeping tail and in front the “snappers” with iron teeth, and hair hanging down from it goat fashion; it is made to “snap” at the pleasure of the man inside, who holds a string in his hand, slackening which the under jaw drops with its own weight and a twick brings it up with a sharp sound to the upper-jaw. A great part of the fun consists in the man who carries the dress running after people making as if he would snap at them, or lift the gown over their heads.”

“The opinion which prevails among the more intelligent is that it is a relic of druidism, and verily it is worthy to have descended from the days of barbarism”

“On the evening of April 30th, it might be seen that the town was all astir; for strong young men from the different yards were bringing up the “maypole”; adorning it with furze erecting it and making it sure with ropes, for the great events of the night. May morning comes, and at a given hour in the forenoon hundreds of young and old are at the windows, watching for a glimpse of the Hobby Horse. The eye of expectation was turned towards the Public House at the bottom of the central street. Here he comes! Crowds outside saluting him with loud cheering and firing of pistols over his head, loaded of course with powder only. There is dancing too and singing of “May Songs” Out into the country first thing, the air rending with frantic noises. Perambulating the town in the afternoon, getting up money, eating and drinking during the day, as they may. Now may be seen the special appendage of “smutting” – powder made into paste spread on the palm of the hand, then rubbed into anybody’s face, the clearer and fairer the face the greater the fun. Sometimes in place of Powder paste Lamp Black is used. The day finishes up with dancing, drunkenness, fighting &c. It is as if the Hobby Horse were Bacchus with his many worshippers.”

The writer obviously knew his May Day; I leave it to the reader to seek out the differences with the present day. The full text can be read in the Courtney Library at Truro Museum in the Bible Christian Magazine for 1873 (pages 309/10) or ask me for a copy.

MAY DAY 1896 APRIL 30th

May Day is close upon us but very little heard as yet of the May Song. How different this from twenty years ago. In those days the strains of the old song were heard nightly from March to September. The custom of keeping up the “hobby hoss” is gradually dying out and in a few years will be little else than a recollection with old people.
The reporter’s pessimism continues in his later report, but he does end on a more positive note, I quote.

MAY 7th 1896

The “Hobby Hoss” demonstration invariably held on May Day passed off very quietly. The weather was very fair but the followers of the “Hoss” were less numerous than usual, although if reports be true the “collection” which they always devote strict attention produced a good round sum. There was very little damage to the flower gardens thanks partly to the alertness of Sgt Hugo and those under him. It is however evident that the “Hobby Hoss” demonstration is gradually dying out and will soon cease altogether. To strangers to the town the whole affair seems absurd, and one gentleman at a public meeting expressed his disapproval of it in vigorous terms; but there was not much in the conduct of those responsible for the demonstration that any person could reasonably complain of. Eighteen years earlier this enthusiasm among the local people for May Day caused the Headmaster of the Board School to record in his Log Book.

“The influence of Bank Holidays has hardly reached this remote place… On the other hand May Day in Padstow when almost every other City, Town and Village is in its usual working order is a season of rejoicing amongst the lower classes of a kind beyond ridiculous.”

These words from over a hundred years ago send their own message to the present day custodians of the “Obby Oss” tradition. I’m sure our sympathetic reporter of the past along with “Boss” Harding the Headmaster for the “new” (1876) school’s first seventeen years, would be truly amazed at the way things are today.

News reports taken from copies held in the Courtney Library Truro Museum, Headmasters Log Book, Padstow School, available for inspection by appointment at County Record Office, Truro.

Extracts from the PADSTOW ECHO Issue 113 May 2000

Another May Day has arrived. Shaped by countless generations of Padstonians from time “immemorial”. Where did it all come from? What is it all about? You could say “just enjoy it me ansum” and be right. Does it really matter? The important thing is to “keep er gain”. Part of the magic of this day lies in the fact that after centuries of adaptation it’s origins have become obscure. This has fuelled the curiosity of locals and visitors for many years you can read about it in Donald Rawe’s excellent book “PADSTOW’S OBBY OSS” or in Ronald Hutton’s “THE STATIONS OF THE SUN” a wider drawn account of the many Calendar Customs in Britain.

From the early times of the Victorian “Folklore” collector comparisons have been made with similar customs involving ritual and masked figures in other countries and here are three examples.

The first was noted in 1912 by Thurstan Peter an eminent Cornish Historian who was struck by the similarities in appearance with the “Duk Duk” in New Guinea. My recent enquiries have unearthed details of village theatre in the Eastern Highlands (National Geographic) that is very much alive and I have hopes to track down the “Duk Duk” sometime. Also from this source came details of a custom in LIBERIA where “An animated Hay Stack with ebony head dances to the throb of drums. It drives away evil spirits” the reporter was warned not to go too close.

Thanks to my friends in the Strand Book Shop I obtained an old copy of the “Cornishman” magazine containing an article by Mary Utton describing a Dance held in Mexico called “SHALAKO” (Yes there was a movie, Sean Connery, Bridgett Bardot!!) the author had seen our “Oss” and was struck by the similarities. As in New Guinea there were strong elements of initiation and fertility in the ceremony. “The central figure was decorated with a feathered head-dress, while a tent like garment covers the dancer. The mask also has a wooden “beak” which the dancer snaps open and shut at certain points in the dance.

Accompanying the “Shalako” was a side dancer. Together the two dancers stamped out the measured steps of the dance. The songs changed but the dance was always the same, and was to continue for six hours without respite. As a religious ceremony it was impressive; and as a physical feat of endurance it was no less so.

Great reverence and awe was noticeable, especially on the part of the older Indians, while the children were frankly terrified and often hid beneath their mothers skirts.”

What do these glimpses tell us? Perhaps nothing more than the fact that, in so many ways, people from other races and cultures, are not so different from us. This yearning to understand and identify our “place” in life unites us all. If you feel that special feeling on the day, you will know what I mean.

A hooden “horse” called “Hob nob” once accompanied a giant figure in parades at Salisbury Wilts. He can be seen in the City Museum there.

Ritual Animal Disguise Padstow Echo May 2001

We should not be surprised at the amount of stuff written about May Day over the years. One book written 23 years ago by E.C. Cawte recently came to my notice called RITUAL ANIMAL DISGUISE it puts Hobby Horses into the context of other similar customs, sensibly urging readers to go to the original sources so that they make their own judgements urging that they read this book with care so that they do not misinterpret it. Sound advice indeed.

At the end of Chapter X the author makes some interesting comments on SEASONS OF PERFORMANCE.

“The structure of the Padstow ceremony suggests that a May ceremony of a typical kind has had a horse attached to it, so that the Padstow Horse may, at one time, have had a different time of performance which could have been Christmas, like the Penzance horse, the only other one known in Cornwall. (Edmonds 1858 concerning guise dancers). Similarly the structure of the Coombe Martin ceremony suggests that the horse and fool represent a separate performance. There is nothing in the Minehead performance to suggest that it has ever taken place at a season other than May. However, the vast majority of horses appear at about Christmas, the Penzance horse certainly did, and it seems possible, no more, that these horses may all at one time have appeared at Christmas. Certainly the designs and ceremonies of these horses are unusual, and they must surely represent local adaptations of customs acquired from elsewhere.”

A fascinating study. Get it out from the Library it’s no longer in print. JB.

This entry was posted in celtic, seasonal. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Chris Wood & Andy Cutting – Following the Old Oss

  1. øשlqæda says:

    staggeringly encroyable post piratical puba! leave it to irate to shed some light on the ever fascinating mummers. you've been summarily link'd to the sidebar thang in my newfangled bloggish endeavor. kindly feel free to do likewise should you find my efforts of late worthy ;D heart
    oq
    holywarbles.blogspot.com

  2. Record Fiend says:

    I witnessed one of these events in Cornwall during my year abroad as a college student in England. It was a near-transcendent experience. There's also a hobby horse featured in a few of the scenes in “The Wicker Man” movie.

    It's good to see you posting again.

    Best wishes,

    RF

  3. Pingback: IL MAGGIO IN CORNOVAGLIA | TERRE CELTICHE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s