All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part Two

Now was the time for the whole raison d’être of the Dark Gathering – the meeting of the Welsh Mari Lwyds with Cornwall’s Penkevyll the Oss.  This year we were going to try to introduce the Mari Lwyds into the proceedings in a different way – we were going to have a procession.  However, there was one thing that we hadn’t factored in – that this year the clocks hadn’t gone back yet – so it was still light by 5 pm, the advertised time of the Lantern Procession.  The Mari Lwyds traditionally don’t appear until at least dusk, and there was lots of debate about when to start the tribal drumming (the signal for the Procession to start) – and also when to light torches etc.  You can just imagine the dialogue!  :/

To add to the confusion there is no mobile signal in Boscastle so we couldn’t communicate with the processional group who were congregating in the car park the other end of the village – eventually we sent a runner and the Procession started.

What I didn’t realise until much later is how popular the procession turned out to be.  It certainly attracted hordes of people who came out especially to see the Mari Lwyds and to join in the fun.

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Here is some drone footage of the procession compiled by Dougie Latham and Paul Sumner:

Not only did we have music in the procession but at the Museum there was a troupe of drummers drawn from all sides and the general public, lead by Dave from Beltane Border Morris, who started a tribal rhythm.  This was enough to entice Penkevyll from her temporary stable in the back of the Museum and she emerged to join her Teazers in raising the energy.

Laetitia as Teazer shot out of the Museum like a bat out of hell, whilst I followed at a more leisurely pace making sure I guided Penkevyll out safely to her waiting audience.  At our emergence, a huge cheer went up and we began to dance up the energy.  Laetitia was brilliant in her role as Teazer.  She was really fired up and danced like one possessed – which is just what is required with this role in my opinion.  By fortunate happenstance her transformation was captured on film, as can be seen here:

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This sort of ‘overlooking’ of a person can also happen to the Oss Rider – in fact, it is encouraged.  You allow the spirit of the role/Oss to ‘ride you’ but you have to be aware enough of where you are going and what you are doing at the same time.  This can happen with other types of theatrical performance including dancing.  Indeed I have personally witnessed this with some of the dancers from Beltane Border Morris as they fly around the space – every now and then they can shapeshift momentarily.  It quite magical and intensely fascinating!

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The role of Teazer is complex but in essence is to be a bridge betwixt the Oss and the crowd – to be able to travel and dance between those worlds.  Just because I’m not as spry as I used to be doesn’t mean I can’t function in this way anymore.  Sometimes moving very slowly can have just as much effect.  I like having two Teazers.  It makes sure that the needs of Penkevyll are being well attended to as well as dramatic energy raising dance being performed – and every now and then, the two forces meet – and there is a ‘frisson’.

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After some frolicking around and general mischief-making with Penkevyll we caught sight of the torches of the Procession approaching and it was time for Penkevyll to meet her bone sisters who she hadn’t seen for nine long months!

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It was a joyful reunion!  The crowd marvelled at all the different Osses and Mari Lwyds and after the initial welcome, Penkevyll and Teazers disappeared into the Museum to make ready for the traditional  pwnco ceremony which went with it’s usual idiosyncratic craziness.  No matter how well we try and arrange this part, to date it has always been chaotic – ah well maybe next year…!  😉

two-teazers

Here’s the only bit of footage that I have found thus far of this year’s pwnco.  Apologies to anyone of a nervous disposition as my singing is truly appalling and my Cornish not much better.  Oh, and try ignore the very rude remark made by a member of the crowd at the beginning!  :/

At last the Maris gained entrance to the Museum and they blessed it in their usual ways ending with the traditional libations of soul cakes and beer.  On return to the outside world we found that we were just in time for the now iconic Fire Dance by Beltane Border Morris.  This year I can share with you some unique drone footage compiled by those two IT wizards, Paul Sumner & Dougie Latham:

Although the small organising team work over the year to bring about the All Hallows Gathering, it seems to go so quickly on the day.  There was just enough time left to mingle with the crowd and performers in the torchlight and savour the atmospheric and heady mix of exuberant, wild dancing and feeling the old ancestral spirits of Halloween draw ever closer.

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Time to stable the Osses and Maris, and certainly time for all of our intrepid performers to make their way to the Welly (Wellington Hotel) where their well-deserved dinner was waiting for them along with foaming pints of ale – aka Party Time!  😀

Although we were treated to a high standard of singing again from many talented people including the Boscastle Buoys the local male voice choir; to me the stand-out song was from young Jake Sonny Rowlinson who sang a heartfelt rendition of ‘What’s the Use of Wings’.  I’m fairly certain that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house…

At the Welly we had a great time and there were many things to be thankful for and to celebrate – but the main thing was that although there were a considerable amount of last minute obstacles and challenges, they were all successfully overcome.

Time for the accolades:

Many thanks and appreciation again to Angie Latham for all her hard work and commitment.  Angie remains as our Morris co-ordinator and PR/Publicity person – take a bow Angie!  🙂

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Another person who has tackled all sorts of queries and followed up ideas and suggestions on behalf of the All Hallows Gathering is Judith Hewitt, who is also the hard-working, seemingly tireless Manager of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  A huge thank you Judith for a job well done quietly and with grace.  🙂

Whilst mentioning the Museum we need to also thank Simon Costin for his continued support and enthusiasm for the event.  Loved your costume on the night Simon!  😀

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Our faithful MC, Steve Podger once again rose to the challenge and delivered an accomplished repertoire of information combined with tradition and folklore with great aplomb.  Cheers Steve!  😀

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With grateful thanks to our sponsors:

The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic

The Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Finally a very special mention to the Hero of the Hour, Kevin Godley.  This quiet, unassuming man truly saved the day when he stepped up to the challenge of taking on the role of Oss Rider of Penkevyll with no prior knowledge or experience of the role.  He has supported the All Hallows Gathering from day one and was present at our very first attempt at a happening in 2014.  When he heard that we had been let down at the last moment and that Penkevyll would be unable to appear without a Rider, he didn’t hesitate in volunteering.  By doing so he averted what could have been a major upset, which would have made a nonsense of everything we had arranged with the Mari Lwyds.

On the day he performed to the best of his ability and really put his heart into riding Penkevyll – I was very touched by his reverence and respect in his dealings with the Oss.  Afterwards he was so inspired by it that he wants to continue being one of Penkevyll’s Riders.  So, although one rider fell by the wayside, we immediately acquired a new and enthusiastic new Rider – result!  Congratulations Kevin – we are very proud of you!  😀

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I’ll just leave this post here with one last jewel in the crown – an amazing video commissioned by us and edited by a very talented young man, called Kieran.  It’s taken of the whole event and lasts almost an hour, so make yourself comfortable with your favourite tipple and enjoy the fruits of all our labours… Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you the All Hallows Gathering 2016!

 

 

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part One

It’s hard to know where to start on describing the events of the All Hallows Gathering 2016.  From a small, seemingly inconsequential idea birthed in 2014, it has grown exponentially to become a remarkable happening that has attracted worldwide interest.  Since Simon Costin, director of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, put out this video from the weekend, it has attracted well over a million hits!

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It was estimated that over 300 people attended the Gathering and all accommodation in Boscastle was fully booked.  In fact, it was stated  by a member of the local Chamber of Commerce that the hotels and B&Bs could have booked their rooms four times over – so,  phenomenal indeed!  However, as a result of this remarkable interest in the Dark Gathering it has been agreed by all concerned that it cannot afford to get any bigger because the infrastructure of Boscastle cannot support this.  Therefore all Morris sides and other performers, including Osses and Maris will have to be by invitation only.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  This blog is about what the weekend was like and to try and share what the atmosphere was like with others who were not present.  Quite a few of us, particularly the organisers met up at the Cobweb Inn on the Friday evening to relax, catch up, sort out last minute details and generally socialise.

 

It was during this general ambience that I was informed by my Oss Rider that he had decided for reasons best known to himself to withdraw from performing with Penkevyll.  This could have had a very detrimental effect on the whole event’s proceedings but fortunately within minutes the situation was resolved by someone who heard what had happened and immediately stepped up to the challenge.  A crash course in Oss riding and associated lore was then embarked upon and the possible calamity was averted.  It appeared that the gods were definitely on our side that weekend as although there were quite a few potentially upsetting problems that presented themselves over the weekend, all of them got resolved in surprising and unexpectedly positive ways.  There were definitely a lot of ‘silver-linings’ around!  🙂

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear and it was obvious that the weather gods had been kindly once again., although it has to be said that there were quite a few people specifically petitioning them!  I personally had to be at the Museum early in order to put my new volunteer Rider through his paces as he became accustomed to the energies and logistics of Penkevyll.

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Given that Penkevyll’s new Rider had only about 15 minutes of physical instruction, he did fantastically well.  Then it was time to prepare Penkevyll for the evening’s performance as we knew we wouldn’t get time later to do this.  She had a new headdress handmade by Laetitia with LED lights  and it was rather fiddly to secure.  Once done I then had to zip off to undertake a TV interview in the Museum pointing out and explaining various artefacts.  Here’s a brief excerpt:

This was followed rather swiftly by a photoshoot for all the performers, Osses included, in the Museum Library where a temporary studio had been set up.  Then, thankfully, it was time to get lunch of a grabbed sandwich and a cup of tea.

Me and Laetitia had decided some time ago that she would join me in teazing Penkevyll from now on.  Nobody knows exactly what the future will hold and I wanted to be sure that Laetitia was ready to take over the Teazer role whenever that became a necessity.  Given that I’m now nearer to 70 years of age rather than 60, it made sense to me to be prepared for this.

Also, in the folklore tradition and in the Morris world in particular, there has been an recent backlash towards the practice of ‘blacking-up’.  Some of the comments directed towards sides and traditions that we respect have been particularly virulent and upsetting accusing them of racial incitement – which is a nonsense.  As a sign of solidarity, both myself and Laetitia thought we would try this practice of blacking-up.  We were both amazed at how much it altered our appearance and how effective it was as a disguise.  Moreover we subsequently found out from our Welsh visitors from the Mari Lwyd party, that this was used in the past in their traditions.  We have now decided that we will keep this look for any Midwinter excursions with Penkevyll.

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The crowds who came to watch the afternoon’s entertainment came from near and far, and gathered well in advance of 3 pm the advertised start time.  Subsequently, the dancing kicked off a full half an hour earlier.  The action started with Wytchwood Morris from Worcester, and I got to play drum with them this year which was huge fun!

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Wytchwood looked fantastic in the afternoon autumn sunlight which was a beautiful match to their autumnal coloured tatters.  I particularly like Wytchwood’s energy and versatility and it was a brilliant start to the afternoon’s proceedings.

www.wytchwoodmorris.com

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Next up was the fantastic Beltane Border Morris who delighted the crowd with their wild but highly skilled performance.  Their dark, edgy dancing always thrills the crowd and I get mesmerised by their innovative music and drumming.

www.beltaneborder.co.uk

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Finally it was the turn of Catseye Morris who looked particularly colourful this year and their dancing and music created an interesting contrast to the previous sides’ performances.

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During the well deserved break at 4 pm I managed to get Angie Latham and John Isaac together and get a photo taken with them.  I quickly ran into the Museum and ‘borrowed’ a copy of my book as Angie (Illustrations) and John (Photographs) were both excellent contributors to Village Witch.

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Before we knew it we were participating in with the last dance of the day – the now traditional Rochester Thistle, performed by Wytchwood in which every side now joins in with.

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Then it was time to bring out Penkevyll the Oss to send the Call to the Mari Lwyds.

To Be Continued….

 

The Seen and The Unseen

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It’s that time of year again when folks of pagan persuasion start to bang on about the Worlds Seen and Unseen and inform us that ‘the Veil is thin’ at this time of year.  Well, I don’t  feel that ‘the Veil’ is particularly threadbare at this time – unless of course you think that as there are a lot of Festivals of the Dead around now that somehow this is causing the Veil to be eroded in someway.  I think the Veil is made of much sterner stuff than that!  Remembering the Ancestors can be done at any time and in my opinion there needs to be more acknowledgement of them all year round.  Otherwise we end up just paying ritual lip-service to the Old Ones.  It’s a bit like honouring the veterans on Remembrance Day and then ignoring them for the rest of the year – see my post on this: Will We Remember Them?

Now let’s look at the Worlds Seen and Unseen.  Usually this term is blithely trotted out by many but what does it actually mean, apart from sounding slightly spooky and darkly romantic?  Well bad luck if you thought otherwise, but I’m not going to deliver some sort of esoteric and erudite lecture on this subject.  There are plenty of books and articles out there, beautifully presented in quaint archaic language for you to indulge yourselves in… at a price I may add.  My thoughts will be presented in the way I know best – pragmatically!

There is a familiar saying which goes, “Seeing is believing”.  Well, do you believe that is the case?  There are all sorts of things that go on right in front of us and yet we don’t see them.  It’s called being ‘In Plain Sight’.  As humans we rely pretty heavily on the visual to inform us about our environment, to the detriment a lot of the time of our other senses.  This over-reliance on the visual can however leave us pretty vulnerable, especially to those who take advantage of this trait and use illusion, allusion, subliminal messages and glamour to achieve their ends – and it doesn’t stop there.  The mind can play tricks too.

We’ve all heard of brainwashing and indoctrination and many fundamentalist religions and cults utilise this with horrifying effectiveness.  However, we can also do this to ourselves unwittingly if we form prejudices against anything/anyone that reminds us of what/who has harmed us in the past.  When we experience trauma in anyway it’s very difficult but oh so necessary to keep things in perspective.  Not everything/person who triggers that response is going to be equally distrustful but it’s hard not to think that at the time it’s happening.  Alas however if we do not, then we start to develop a kind of knee-jerk tunnel vision about the whole situation.  If you look for something hard enough then you will start to see it manifesting itself in front of your very eyes.  In a sense you have invoked it and if you have a strong magical mind it will be even easier to perform this illusion – for that is what it is.  It’s a kind of thought form – and that’s where the danger lies – when we assume things, and then act on those assumptions and reach what we see as the inevitable conclusion.  We are believing what we are seeing.

It’s all a bit of a minefield isn’t it?  So how do we avoid these kind of pitfalls?  It’s said in the occult world, ‘Test the spirits to see if they are real’.  I’d say have your powers of observation fully turned on.

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When I was young in my craft I was taught how to fine tune my focus by concentrating fully on a candle flame.  I was then taught how to gradually extend that focus to include the sides and then my peripheral vision.  Eventually after considerable practice I was able to extend this focus to include behind me as well but that took a long time.  The point being was to be fully aware of what was going on all around me.  In the same way we need to have full information of any given situation and to sift that information with an unbiased, flexible mind.  Evidence is of no value if it is assessed by a mind that is programmed to see things in a fixed, pre-determined way.  What I’m referring to here is the magical Will – the ability to let go yet be fully aware.  If you don’t have your Will in a healthy state then the effectiveness of your magic, not to mention your day-to-day life, will be adversely affected.

There are other more prosaic methods that stand in good stead to develop good powers of observation and at the same time, a fine appreciation of those around us.  Notice what people do.

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We often use the metaphor of the swan apparently effortlessly and gracefully gliding across the surface of the water, whilst underneath the flippers are exerting a lot of energy to maintain that.  This sums up neatly what often happens for a lot of people.  They work quietly in the background getting necessary organisational and logistical tasks completed whilst the person or project that is more visible gets the majority of attention and praise.  Even though every now and then these folk are mentioned in dispatches and referred to as unsung heroes, these backroom boys are usually consigned to an afterthought.  Take time to acknowledge and thank people for their input and hard work.  Show appreciation to the tea ladies, cleaners, and shop assistants.  Take a moment to pass the time of day with someone who generally doesn’t get that sort of attention – you’d be surprised at the difference it can make.

Whilst I’m on the subject I want to make my own contribution to this.  Being a published author and having worked with the media over the years I have become visible for the sort of work I do and my lifestyle as a village wisewoman.  For 13 years I ran my own business making just enough to get by on.  I then retired from full-time employment and handed the business on to my partner Laetitia.  I have to say that since that time she has been simply brilliant as an organiser and promoter of the business.  After years of ‘just getting by’ she has worked steadfastly to create a profit margin and the work has blossomed accordingly.  We’ll never be rich in the financial sense but we do alright and the books are in a much healthier state than when I was at the helm!  I have also seen this diligence in action with other background roles she has taken on board, particularly connected with publicity and promotion.  Laetitia runs websites and maintains Facebook groups as well as keeping her blog up to date.  Every time our Morris side or Penkevyll (our Obby Oss) goes on a gig she takes the camera with her and records the action.  Often if she gets home early enough she’s on the computer updating the websites/groups with the latest photos and videos – if not, it’s the very next day.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t manage even a quarter of that!  I just wanted to publically acknowledge my gratitude for her hard work and how much it is appreciated.  🙂

So, rather than just fixating on what is seen and blanking out the rest, remember the unseen that is actually right there in front of you – if you only had eyes to see it.

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The Dark Gathering

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The time approaches rapidly for the All Hallows Gathering – or the Dark Gathering as it is affectionately known now.  This year it falls on Saturday 29th October and starts at the slightly later time of 3 pm.  Attending Morris sides this year will be:

Catseye Morris – www.catseyemorris.co.uk

Wytchwood Morris – www.wytchwoodmorris.com

Beltane Border Morris – www.beltaneborder.co.uk

Directly as a result of the past few years’ success and subsequent upsurge into the local economy, we have received two sources of funding for our event.

The Museum of Witchcraft

www.museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk

The Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

www.boscastlecornwall.org.uk/bctc/bosctradecouncil

Both businesses have given us generous sponsorship for which we gratefully thank them.

We have decided that we will welcome the Welsh Mari Lwyds with a Lantern Procession which will start at the main car park at around 5 pm and process accompanying the Maris down to the Museum.  Bring your own lantern and dress up if you feel in the All Hallows mood!

In the meantime back at the Museum, Penkevyll the Cornish Oss will be raising the energies to send a Call out to the Mari Lwyds to come and join our celebrations.  This will involve lots of tribal drumming.  If you wish to join us with your own drum at this point please do so.

Finally, as an appetiser here is some footage put together by Dougie & Angie Latham of last year’s festivities:

See you all at this year’s All Hallows Gathering!

 

Conflict and power

Some very enlightening and thought-provoking sentiments within this blog. Well written Nimue. 🙂

Druid Life

There have been a number of occasions in my life when I’ve found myself in conflict with someone who had considerably more power than me. That power has come from a variety of sources – it could be the power of an employer. People in leadership roles tend to have more power and influence than those who follow them. There’s a power that comes from being charismatic and socially capable. Financial power, access to resources, an able body versus a limited body – all of these things and more can create massive power imbalances between people.

Fall out with a person who has power, and the odds are it will ripple more widely than your immediate quarrel. People are reluctant to take sides for all kinds of reasons, but throw in a person of significant power, and going up against them to support someone they’ve wronged puts the supporter in…

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Village Witch Update

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What do you think of the new cover for Village Witch?  I think it’s great and very atmospheric.  There’s new illustrations and artwork too inside which are equally evocative.

Many thanks to the skills of Angie Latham for these lovely new additions to my book.  If you wish to see more of Angie’s work you can contact her and her work on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Celtic-Mystery-1695946907300550/?fref=ts

and on her website here:

http://www.celticmystery.co.uk/

Remember that if you want to purchase a copy to contact my publisher, Mandrake of Oxford here:

http://mandrake.uk.net/village-witch/

I have a feeling that 2016 may well bring all sorts of important changes and that this will be the first of many more.  🙂

All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

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Penkevyll and her Teazer – Photo credit: John Isaac

I’ve written this blog in two posts as there was so much information to impart and I thought I would do this in more manageable chunks – not to mention that all those photos, photo credits, and videos were beginning to make my head spin!  :O

So on to the evening of the All Hallows Gathering.  First of all we descended as a ravening hoard to the Cobweb Inn for some much-needed victuals and of course, beer!  As is traditional at these Morris beanfeasts, someone started up a rousing and  appropriate tune which we all merrily joined in with.

Once we were all adequately fed and watered, it was time to bring out the Osses and start our visitation of the pubs with our final resting place being the Wellington Hotel.

Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Performers in the 'Welly' - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Performers in the ‘Welly’ – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Y Fari Troellog - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Y Fari Troellog – Photo credit: Paul Sumner

I had set up an evening’s entertainment of song, dance, music and storytelling – however, it soon became apparent that we had underestimated the sheer volume of people who descended on the pub.  The poor bar stuff were doing their best but they didn’t have a moment’s peace until many hours later.  Without a PA system it was useless even trying to tell a story, so a note for next year should we be in the same venue – book PA early!  There also wasn’t the physical room for everyone to sit down let alone brandish musical instruments as people were sitting on the floor and stairs – so music and dancing was out.  So that left belting out some rousing songs, which is what happened for the rest of the evening.  My apologies to anyone who came along hoping to see a well-ordered evening’s entertainment although Steve Podger was gallant in his continuing role as MC making sure that everyone that wanted to perform got their turn.

The high point of the evening for me was when Will Fox got up to sing Tam Lin.  This is a magical ballad of extraordinary potency.  Although it is specific to Scotland the motif of transformation by the Fair Folk is repeated in many cultures worldwide.  Traditionally, and certainly I have observed this myself, it is very difficult to sing and only certain folk can manage it without recourse to reading the words or stumbling/forgetting the lyrics.  Will Fox managed it superbly.  It was pure magic, I was very impressed and told him so the next day!   I had intended to include an excerpt here as the whole song, although recorded at the time, will take some time to upload to YouTube.  However, it’s not ready yet so in the meantime enjoy this photo of the young man concerned and Watch This Space….!

Will Fox - Photo credit: John Isaac
Will Fox – Photo credit: John Isaac

The evening eventually ended with the organising team having a quiet drink at the other end of the bar and reviewing the day’s events.  We were all a bit staggered at how well it all went, how relaxed the atmosphere and how much so many people enjoyed it.  We then said our farewells and departed for our various hotels and B & Bs.

The next day was spent getting feedback from the local businesses who were without exception delighted with the way that trade picked up at what was usually a very quiet time of year.  So, the Gathering was excellent news for the local economy and the Chairman of Boscastle Chamber of Commerce was very pleased indeed and is looking forward to us coming again next year.  This has also been confirmed by the Museum of Witchcraft and we have decided that it would be best for all concerned that in future the date for the All Hallows Gathering will be the Saturday nearest to Halloween.  This means that next time we shall be doing it all over again on Saturday 29th October 2016.  There will be a few new additions as well so lots to look forward to…!

At this juncture I would like to give a particular vote of thanks to my fellow conspirators who helped so much to get the All Hallows Gathering off the ground.

Angie Latham.

Angie
Angie Latham – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Angie & Dougie
Angie & Dougie Latham – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Angie who a year ago persuaded and encouraged me to pursue my idea of creating the All Hallows Gathering as a potential annual event.  I was a bit daunted by the immensity of it, but she said that she would help and suggested that I ask others to do the same.  I’m so grateful for that support,  also not forgetting the skill and hard work in designing our publicity pamphlets and helping me network to get other Morris teams onside.  All this she managed to fit in, as well as taking the big step towards self-employment this year for her newly set-up business of prints and greetings cards.  Angie and her husband Dougie make a powerful and hugely creative partnership – check out their website and Facebook group here:

http://www.celticmystery.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/MorrisMayhem/

Heartfelt thanks to you Angie – awesome work!  😀

 

Steve Podger

Stephen Podger - Photo credit: John Isaac
Stephen Podger – Photo credit: John Isaac
Stephen Podger - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Stephen Podger – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve I got to know through Angie as he is the percussionist in Wytchwood Morris and lately Shadow Hunters.  I asked Steve to be our Master of Ceremonies as he not only is a famous raconteur within the Morris world, he also has a resounding voice which carries well in a crowd.  Avidly interested in folklore and strange stories he was the best choice for this role and he produced sterling work; not only throughout the day but also during the evening where he kept perfect order with humour and aplomb.  Many, many thanks Steve – you were fabulous!  😀

 

Phil & Viv Larcher

Viv & Mari Lwyd Larcher - Photo credit: Michelle Elliot
Viv & Mari Lwyd Larcher – Photo credit: Michelle Elliot
Phil Larcher - Photo credit: John Exton
Phil Larcher – Photo credit: John Exton

It was a random message from Viv and Phil suggesting we meet up and bring Penkevyll to meet up with their Mari Lwyd again (they were visiting Cornwall to celebrate their anniversary) that first started all this off.  Little did they know what they were inadvertently setting off!  They are a very creative couple and produce some really unusual works of art some of which are on sale in the Museum of Witchcraft.  Check out their Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/Morydau-Magic-662469490553434/

Thanks for staying with it guys and for giving so much help and support all the way from Wales.

 

John & Sue Exton

John (Mari Celeste) & Sue Exton
John (Mari Celeste) & Sue Exton – Photo credit John Isaac

Although not a member of the organising team, I wanted to mention John and Sue because they are very new to the world of the Mari Lwyds.  Their Mari has only recently been birthed, so to speak, and the All Hallows Gathering was Mari Celeste’s first outing and debut as a fully fledged Mari.  Anyone who was present at the Gathering will agree with me I am sure, that both of them performed splendidly and the crowd loved them.  Well done John and Sue, thank you for travelling down to see us and we hope that this was just the first of many more visits!  🙂

 

Finally, none of this would have been possible without the loyal and loving support of my partner Laetitia.  In fact, if it wasn’t for her brilliant idea in the first place of making ‘a bit of a do’ of the Osses meeting at the Museum of Witchcraft, I wouldn’t be writing this blog and hundreds of people would have been deprived of enjoying such a spectacle that the All Hallows Gathering has become!  Thank you m’dear – we make a formidable team!  😀

Cass & Tia
Laetitia & Cassandra – Photo credit: Angie Latham

 

So at last I have reached the end of this particular blog and believe me I am relieved to do that!  It has been very intense but oh so powerful an experience!  Before we left Boscastle last weekend we were hearing that some people as they were booking out of their accommodation, they were already booking up for next year’s event!

Thank you one and all who came and shared such a magical experience with us.  See you all next year – and remember it’s on Saturday 29th October.

Photo credit: John Issac
Photo credit: John Isaac

All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part One

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Group shot of all sides at the All Hallows Gathering – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

What a spectacular event the All Hallows Gathering turned out to be!  As one of the main organisers I was experiencing considerable nerves and trepidation as Halloween approached this year – I had never attempted anything of this size before which involved quite so many people and logistics.  My main concern was the weather but as it turned out the weather gods were kindly and it was a beautiful winter’s day and evening.  Another issue that was on my mind was what the attendance would be like – performers as well as audience numbers.  I needn’t have worried as I watched what eventually turned out to be hundreds people slowly arriving and setting up.  The air was electric with expectation and anticipation and it was heartwarming to see so many people gathering together to celebrate All Hallows in such a special way.

Events kicked off at 2 pm with Catseye Morris, based in Cornwall – the side that I belong to as a member of the band, and Laetitia as a dancer.

 

2015i
Laetitia of Catseye Morris – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
2015l
Cassandra of Catseye Morris – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

 

 

Next up was Shadow Hunters all the way from Worcestershire.  This is a group that was especially created for this event.  It started off as a ‘Dark Morris’ scratch side and evolved to become an official Border Morris side.  They were energetic, elegant and spooky – not easy to achieve!

“Dancers of the Dark Morris . We come from the woods and dance …..and then slip away back into the shadows.”

https://www.facebook.com/shadowhuntersMorris/?fref=ts

 

Shadow Hunters - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Shadow Hunters – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

Then came the infamous Beltane Border Morris from Devon.  They are renowned for their theatrical and punchy performances and we were delighted that they decided to join us at the Gathering.

http://www.beltaneborder.co.uk/

Beltane Border Morris - Photo credit: Tim Gent
Beltane Border Morris – Photo credit: Tim Gent

So for the next two hours onlookers were treated to some remarkable performances from these Morris sides:

Catseye Morris - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Catseye Morris – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Shadow Hunters - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Shadow Hunters – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Beltane Border Morris - Photo credit: John Issac
Beltane Morris – Photo credit: John Issac
Catseye Morris - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Catseye Morris – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Shadow Hunters - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Shadow Hunters – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Beltane Border Morris - Photo credit: Tim Gent
Beltane Morris – Photo credit: Tim Gent
 Beltane Border Morris - Photo credit: Tim Gent
Beltane Border Morris – Photo credit: Tim Gent

Then it was time to go and get Penkevyll from her stable where she was impatiently pawing the ground, so to speak.  The crowds delighted in her antics and then as the tribal drums began, witnessed Penkevyll and her Teazer (yours truly) start the dance which called up the Mari Lwyd(s).

Calling up the Mari Lwyds - Photo credit: John Issac
Calling up the Mari Lwyds – Photo credit: John Issac

Sure enough it was soon time for us to scuttle into the Museum of Witchcraft and await the arrival of the famous Mari Lwyd.  Once the Mari(s) had a short ‘meet & greet’ with the audience it was time for the pwnco ceremony.  Here’s some photos and footage of this old tradition:

Mari Celeste - Photo credit: John Issac
Mari Celeste – Photo credit: John Issac
Y Fari Troellog - Photo credit: John Issac
Y Fari Troellog – Photo credit: John Issac
Y Fari Troellog - Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
Y Fari Troellog – Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft

Once the Mari Lwyds had gained entrance to the Museum there followed introductions.  Penkevyll and Y Fari Troellog were old friends, but Penkevyll and Mari Celeste had not met and exchanged pleasantries as only Obby Osses and the like can!  We then set off around the Museum bestowing blessings as we went.

The Unholy Trinity - Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
The Unholy Trinity – Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft

Then it was time for much-needed libations of soul cakes (baked by Museum manager Peter) and beer – which was much appreciated by all concerned!  🙂

Libation time - Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
Libation time – Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft

Meantime outside Steve Podger, my very able Master of Ceremonies, with the fantastic support of Beltane Border Morris entertained the crowd by torchlight with some powerfully evocative and wild dancing.

Torchlight time - Photo credit: Tim Dent
Torchlight time – Photo credit: Tim Dent
Beltane Border Morris - Photo credit: Tim Dent
Beltane Border Morris – Photo credit: Tim Dent

This included the now famous Beltane Fire Dance!

Once they were fed and watered, the Osses emerged from the Museum and mingled with the large crowd and danced to the pulsating tribal beat of the drums until it was time to end this part of the evening.

Oss party - Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
Oss party – Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
Oss dancing - Photo credit: John Issac
Oss dancing – Photo credit: John Issac
Samhain celebration - Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft
Samhain celebration – Photo credit: Museum of Witchcraft

Steve our trusty MC, wound up the day’s proceedings and we wended our weary but elated way into the night for a well-earned dinner at the Cobweb Inn!

To be continued!  😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Remembrance of a Remarkable Friend

Pam Masterson
17th December 1947 – 16th October 2015

Pam
Photo credit: Emma James

On Friday 16th October 2015 I performed a simple Last Rites ritual and said farewell to a dear friend. Within two hours she passed away peacefully with her family by her side.

Most of you would have known Pam as the entertaining and knowledgeable owner of The Healing Star situated at the top of Causewayhead, Penzance. Pam successfully ran this shop for 14 years selling esoteric artefacts and paraphernalia, and also hired out the back room for various spiritual and healing functions. Indeed the Penwith Pagan Moot utilised this room for many years.

However, Pam wasn’t only a shop proprietor; she also studied and attained the level of Swami Bodhini, British Yoga Wheel Teacher of Yoga Nidra for over 35 yrs. She also held the title of The Very Reverend Pamela Masterson of The Stellar Maris Independent Church of The Mysteries. As you can imagine there were quite a few humorous stories associated with Pam being a Bishop well before the Church of England had got its act together about such issues!

Photo credit: Emma James
Photo credit: Emma James

Over the years I knew Pam, I found her to be highly articulate about many subjects and she was an authority on the Kabala and the Egyptian mysteries. She did not suffer fools gladly and was completely up front with calling a spade a shovel on many occasions! I respected her viewpoint on many things and I loved her dry witticisms about the vagaries of life and people in general. Pam was always up for a good robust discussion and airing of viewpoints and ideas.

Over the last couple of years Pam battled bravely, with humour and fortitude (and a lot of stubbornness!), a long standing and debilitating medical condition that eventually she succumbed to.

I, along with many others, will miss her greatly and the local community of spiritual healers and practitioners is the poorer as a result of her departure.

Rest in Peace Pam – you were a true Priestess.

Photo credit: Emma James
Photo credit: Emma James

Funeral will be held on Tuesday 27th October 2015, 3.00pm at Camborne Crematorium.

Figures of Fun and Folklore

It’s hard to believe that there hasn’t been a Museum of Folklore before in Britain.  I just imagined that there would be one somewhere tucked into a little side street off Kensington.  I remember vividly being taken to most of the main museums in this area when I was a child.  I used to gaze in awe and wonder at extraordinary things in the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, British Museum and so on and so forth.  Even in later years when I was employed in London as a teenager, I used to spend most of my lunch hours trailing round the more little known establishments and curiosities near where I worked.  I have a fascination for such places…

Now there are plans afoot for the first Museum of British Folklore and rather than write reams here on this blog, it’s probably better – and more concise to guide you towards this promotional video:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/86265188“>

Exciting stuff!  One of the ongoing projects that caught my attention in the early days of meeting Simon Costin, Director of the Museum of British Folklore, was the ambitious Morris Doll collection.  The aim is as follows:

The museum has launched a new initiative to represent the wide variety of Morris sides within the UK. Any teams wishing to take part will be sent a blank figure to decorate with their team kit. The idea being that over time, the collection will grow into an original and unique visual record created by the people who participate in the dance. For any teams wishing to receive a figure, please email us – mofbf@clara.co.uk

Morris Doll

Morris doll poster

Story posted on September 21, 2013 from the Museum of British Folklore’s website:

http://www.museumofbritishfolklore.com

I have belonged to a Morris side for about five years now, so had a special interest in creating a doll that would be part of a display in a museum.  The side I’m with is called Boekka (Cornish for Scarecrow) and I’m a founder member.  Myself and Laetitia along with her son Rhys first formed this group following the departure of our Obby Oss, who used to be a Penglaz, from the Golowan Festival.  We changed her appearance, her name and title – she then transformed into Penkevyll the Lands End Obby Oss appearing alongside Boekka.

Following many months of pestering the beleagured Simon (a notoriously busy man!) eventually a large package arrived at our cottage containing not one, but two dolls.  This lead us to believe that maybe they wanted us to create not just a doll representing our side’s Morris dancer, but also our famous (or should that be infamous?) Obby Oss as well!  Simon had seen our Oss, Penkevyll in 2012 at Charms Day in Boscastle when Boekka gave a performance to wind the day’s events up.

Boekka & Oss3
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012

So it was time to start making the dolls.  First job was to assign who was going to do what – always a tricky one!  We started on the Teazer doll first. Laetitia drew the short straw and was lumbered with all of the sewing.  She has small hands and produced neat work creating the T shirt, tailcoat tatters, trousers and boots.  (This is what comes from being really good at something, you become the victim of your own success – a lesson I have found out many times to my cost!)  Whereas, I have large hands for my size and am very clumsy with tiny, meticulous work.  I sourced materials, created and cut out templates and was a general ‘gofer’ (go for this, go for that etc).

We were trying to think of how to make a snapper for the doll.  This is what we were trying to replicate:

Teazer Snapper
Teazer Snapper

I asked a good friend of mine, Chris White for advice on how to make this as he is into model making; and before I knew it he had kindly offered to help us out by creating it himself – and what he created was superb!

Model Snapper

Chris is an amazing guy who we have meet only via the Internet/Facebook.  He used to be a Beast Rider with a Morris side and has a really fine sense of what is required of someone who dares ride these fabulous creatures.  Sadly he no longer is able to do this as he has a progressive medical condition that has rendered him seriously disabled.  However, he has an indomitable, cheerful spirit and a delightful sense of the absurd and ridiculous.  He often has Laetitia and me crying with laughter over something he’s written – he’s particularly good at finding the right caption for many photos, especially ones that include Obby Osses and the like.   One day we would love to meet him.  🙂

After several weeks of sporadic work on our Teazer doll in between work and gigs, we finally had our completed doll:

Boekka Doll 023

Then it was time to consider the Oss doll.  We had approached a local lady who makes, amongst many other things, marionettes and puppets.  We knew she would do a very good job but we weren’t too sure whether we could afford her services, even though we were offered ‘mates’ rates’.  As Chris had already alluded to the possibility before, I tentatively approached him and asked whether he was interested in attempting the unusual modelling project of making a mini sized Penkevyll head for our doll, although we insisted on paying him for materials.  Chris said he would be honoured and to offer him money for the privilege would be tantamount to offending him – so we quickly agreed!  😉

Between me and Laetitia we created another T shirt, trousers and boots, plus the Riders skirt for the doll and then waited for the necessarily long process of creating Little Penk’s model skull.  It was such a fascinating process, and so many folks have asked us, that I think it best if Chris himself takes over the story at this point:

The Construction of Little Penk
Chris White

I’ve been asked to write about how I did the construction of what all involved came to call ‘Little Penk’.

I’d just like to stress a couple of things. I’m disabled and this took months rather than days. Secondly I’ve never done anything like this before. Although my background is in art and design I have no skill in symmetrical sculpture and had to work out just how to do this from scratch. What I came up with was a combination of hybrid techniques that would give me a guide to work to as it progressed.

Living halfway up the country I didn’t have direct access to Penkevyll so I bought a digital model of a horse’s skull. I was lucky that one was available! I brought this into Cinema 4D, a program I’ve used in the past for digital modelling. It was used for the dragons in the Harry Potter films so it’s a really versatile program. I scaled the skull to size using photographs of Penk’s skull next to her ‘Rider’ so the small one would be the appropriate size next to the Teazer doll.
The important first stage was to build the basic skull from a series of cross sections taken from the digital model, printed out of the computer then cut from a material called ‘Plasticard’. I found out about this from a friend who does a lot of model railway modelling. I hadn’t a clue what materials I’d need so this was the first step of many like this. All the cross sections had to be kept in careful order obviously until I could put them together. I used three different kinds of adhesives until I found one that did what I wanted too!

So now we have a rather fragile basic construct that gives us and accurate 3D reference to work on to. That’s the hardest part over. Very scary and very slow, that bit.

Penk1
Next I used expanding insulation filling. This comes in an aerosol can and is a pig to use! It’s sticky and sloppy and risks distorting the flexible cross sections as it expands between them so I had to scrape some of this gloop out as it started to dry.

Penk2

It expands so much it pretty much buries the form. However, weight is a major problem with man-animals of any scale and insulation foam gives you form with minimum weight. The adhesive property of the stuff bonds the Plasticard sections together very nicely.

Disgusting isn’t it? So now I could cut and sand the foam away back down to the surface of the cross sections without distorting the base of the shape. Now I had an accurate, symmetrical 3D shape.

Penk3

Although I had a stable form it was still quite fragile so I had to coat it with something to give it strength. I opted for something like polyfiller. This was quite heavy at first but, being water based, it dried much lighter. I skinned this one and sanded it back as much as I could to retain the outline of the underlying form.

I’d been looking forward to this part. I love the delicate, architectural form of skulls, especially rodent and bird skulls.

The orbits of the eye sockets are particularly lovely and as the form refined I spent a lot of time just enjoying running my hands over the emerging shape. The more I did though, the more there seemed to be that needed doing! It’s just as well I didn’t have a deadline for this.

The fine point at the top of the nose was another piece of Plasticard which I embedded.

Penk4
This brings me to the final ‘skin’. It had to be strong and light while being smooth, being able to take detail well and giving a good surface for paint. I found the perfect material. Called ‘Miliput’, it’s a two-part epoxy putty. Once I got it stretched onto the surface, working it carefully across the form, flattening and smoothing, I found that working with wet fingers makes it very smooth, taking out any finger marks and smoothing out irregularities in thickness beautifully! Once cured, it’s very hard; sands well and takes detail very well.

The teeth posed a bit of a problem. I opted for Plasticard again. To bend the teeth around the curve of the skull I heated the ‘denture’ in very hot water. Fortunately Plasticard is a thermoplastic so once heated and shaped, it will cool to that new shape and can be glued in position without it trying to flex back again.

Penk5
To my delight the jaw fitted perfectly! All that slavish measuring and cutting at the beginning had paid off. Just as well, because to correct something like that in three dimensions would have been a nightmare. I drilled and hinged the jaw using a piece of coat hanger wire. All the usual bits and bobs that Animal keepers end up resorting to!

Penk6

When it came to the eyes I decided to print directly from the photos of Penkevyll. Cassandra and Laetitia took such good pictures that I was able, correcting for distortion, to copy and scale the eyes straight from those. They were glued onto disks of Miliput and varnished to keep them bright and lively.

Since my fine art days I’ve always preferred alkyd paints. They have the depth and transparency of oils but dry much, much faster. They’ll go onto practically any surface and can be layered and glazed for depth and subtlety. Perfect for bone, then, as it’s such a tricky colour and changeable under different lights. Alkyd can take care of all that.

Finally the ears. I carefully copied the profile (thanks again to lots of rapid feedback from Cassandra!) for the ears and cut them from black leather.

Then came the support for the head. Tricky. Traditionally I’d always kept the internal bits of my Animal in my Green Oak days, strictly schtum. So it goes a bit against the grain. Nevertheless, this is essentially an archive piece so on we go. Although Penkevyll has a harness support, the doll would not be able to support this Animal so I had to think of an alternative. Pole mounted heads are traditional so I went with that option as it could be set to take the weight off the doll. I nobly sacrificed one of my metal walking poles. Let me tell you, aircraft aluminium is a pain to saw!!

Penk7

Ears, jaw strung and working and staff mounted. Ready for the off! It’s been a long project but very enjoyable. I was able to test some ideas and see how much I’d retained of my skills. Truth to tell it was hard on the hands (as I’d suspected) and when I occasionally overdid it I had to take a few days off. But in the end I got a result that I was very happy with.

Next she was shipped to Cornwall to be properly dressed and coiffed by Latham-Jones Haute Couture. And a magnificent job they did too! See Cassandra’s pictures.

Photos in a moment.  Once we’d got over oohing and ahhing over Chris’s remarkable work we set to finishing off the dolls.  Together we managed to lash the doll to its accompanying pole, secured the ears and the mane that I had painstakingly woven loads of tatters into, and then Laetitia sewed on her gown which was lovingly covered in tatters.

Here’s a close-up of Little Penk’s head showing the skill of Chris’s work:

LittlePenk 014

Then we introduced Little Penk to Penkevyll…

Little Penk 005

This is when we realised that Little Penk was looking far too neat, so I set to with a pair of scissors and made her tatters more ragged and more in keeping with the ethos of Boekka.  Here are the final photos of all the dolls and Penkevyll together.

LittlePenk 034

LittlePenk 010

LittlePenk 001

LittlePenk 006

At last we were finished!  Both me and Laetitia agreed that we didn’t want to trust the Post Office with delivering our finely crafted Oss & Teazer dolls – we had awful visions of them throwing the parcels across the room and ruining all that hard work.  So I sent a deliberately tantalising email to Simon Costin and asked him when was he next down to the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle, as we had something very delicate and fragile with a guaranteed ‘Wow’ factor to deliver to him.  It worked beautifully and we successfully delivered the dolls (which we had become quite attached to over the months) to the Museum.  Here we are presenting Simon with them:

Little Penk2 004

To directly quote Simon, ” Thank you so much for coming over with your wonderful creations! They really are spectacular.”  It was well worth all the hard work and we look forward to seeing the dolls displayed within the next exhibition of the Museum of British Folklore.  It’s good to know that you are producing something that will be preserved for prosperity and displayed within a museum environment.

What a Team – Well Done to All!  🙂

 

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