All Hallows Gathering 2017 – A Little Night Magic

If I were a member of the audience at the Dark Gathering I would be in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to deciding where to be at dusk.  Join the Torchlight Procession and escort the Mari Lwyds to the Museum – or wait at the Museum and witness the mighty Penkevyll call up the Maris with tribal drumming?  I personally don’t get a choice because as organiser I have to stay at Base Camp so to speak!  This has proved to be somewhat problematic in the past not knowing what was happening from one end of Boscastle to another – however we’ve solved that problem now by using walkie-talkies.  These were carried by a small team of locals who took on the role of marshalling for the Gathering.  They all did a simply splendid job and I thank you all and hope you will be available to repeat the experience next year.  🙂  Anyway, whichever choice folks make they all seem to enjoy whatever experience they go for, as they both have their own attendant magic.  Here’s some photos and footage to get a flavour of each atmosphere.




After the joyous reunion of Cornish Penkevyll with her Welsh bone sisters, the Mari Lwyds, it was time for the traditional pwnco ceremony.  This year, you’ll be delighted to know, I decided that it would be better not to inflict upon anyone else having to hear my voice mangling the pwnco verses!  So instead Tia and Sue sang alone the riddles to each other first in Welsh with the responses in Cornish.  They were brilliant, and judging by the cheers that went up following this performance it was well received by all, and the Mari Lwyds were successful in their endeavours to gain entry to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  Then it was time for some very strange creatures of the night to make their appearance…

A little bit of back story is required here.  Back in the summer whilst I was searching around for a Dark Morris side to replace the now sadly defunct Wytchwood I was contacted via my website by the Artistic Director of Mr Fox who are based at Barnsley, Yorkshire.  They described themselves as a Street Theatre & Dance Company who worked with fire and stage effects.  Initially I wasn’t sure whether this would be suitable for the Dark Gathering but decided to invite them following discussion and perusing their videos.  However this meant that there would only be two Morris sides for the afternoon as Mr Fox essentially could only perform in the dark.  I was confident that Wreckers and Beltane were more than capable of fulfilling their brief of ‘Morris entertainment’ for two hours as they are both competent sides with many performers amongst them.  When I asked for a bio from Mr Fox I received some prose in reply and the opening stanzas of this gave me a great idea of how the enigmatic Mr Fox could make their entrance (or prowl-up as they describe it) at their appointed hour.  These were the verses concerned:

When eyes do see the naked flame
and ears do hear the brazen beat of drum
When two worlds meet
then twilight’s winding walk is begun…

Down from on high they come
skirting the undergrowth
and into the square…

Above the Museum is a green lane that runs the full length of the village and I thought Mr Fox could start off from there and make their spooky way down to the square in front of the Museum.  It actually turned out even better than I had anticipated!  The first the onlookers heard was the skirling of pipes which were joined by vibrant and pounding drums as slowly the performers holding torches made their way down the hill and into the performance space.  It was truly magical and very atmospheric.

There then followed a bewitching performance with characters appearing and disappearing at will accompanied by special effects.  What added to the haunting quality of this performance was there was no spoken word at any point.  There was dance, gesture and movement all orchestrated and directed by the music(ians).  Mr Fox were like a tribe as there were small children taking on roles as well and it was impossible to tell what gender anyone was because of how they were kitted out in their smocks and masks.  All in all it was an eerie and deeply atmospheric experience – folks loved it!  😀

As the performance came to a close Mr Fox disappeared into the night as mysteriously as they arrived.  Time for a change of pace and an acknowledgement of the Samhain energies and spirits that were abroad that night.  Sarah and Paul took the stage and sang a beautiful, poignant and evocative song which was composed by Paul.  In case you didn’t catch the words on the night, here they are now:

The Gather

Gather the sticks and gather the stones
The part of the wind that whistles and moans.
Gather the water from out of the stream
And out of the wells where witches have been.

Gather the wheat, the barley and corn
The bones of the things that are yet to be born.
Gather the birds, the raven and rook
I will decide where they shall be took

Bring me the heather, the view from the bluff
The moss on the moors and the fragile stuff
The mid day of winter, the sun where it shone
Find for me this before it is gone.
(softly: before… it is…… gone. )

Gather the clouds from out of the sky
It will not be easy but please you must try
Gather the future and gather the past
And all of those moments that just did not last

Gather the words that no one has spoken
The well meaning thoughts, the promises broken.
Gather the many and gather the few
If they are unwilling, then gather them too

All that are present and all that are here
Stand and be silent, stand and draw near
When all this is done. When all this shall be
Set them before me. Then set them all free

Paul Sumner

It was now nearly time for Will Fox’s now traditional Samhain Blessing, but just to set the scene we decided to honour the genius loci (spirits of place) by utilising bullroarers.  So three wisewomen were employed to achieve this; myself, Tia and Michelle (aka Selkie).

The time for the Ancestors was upon us and Will Fox took us on a journey to them honouring the darkness and the outcasts on his way.  He can truly weave magic with his words and cast a spell upon the audience.  🙂

The Dark Gathering calls all sorts of people to itself.  It attracts folks from not only all over Britain, but also from other countries.  This year we had people from the Netherlands, Germany and even had a couple who travelled all the way from Maine, USA just to attend the Gathering!  It was lovely to see this couple, Ken and Mary, in particular as we had handfasted them earlier in the year at the Men an Tol.  🙂

I had a word with our MC Steve who then had a chat with Ant from Beltane, and as a consequence, Ken was given the place of honour holding the centre torch in the now famous Beltane Fire Dance.

Normally proceedings would have come to a reluctant halt at this point but there was still something important to do.  The much deserved thanks to all who helped so much to make this Gathering so successful.

Steve read out the list of people concerned:

Our Sponsors
The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic
which includes;
Simon Costin – Owner
Judith & Peter Hewitt – Managers
Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Also thanks to:
The National Trust

The people of Boscastle

All volunteers including: Nathan, Daniel, Claire and Dreads

John Isaac – Photographer
Kieran Sweederz – Videographer

Beltane Border Morris
Wreckers Morris
Boscastle Buoys
Mr Fox

Special thanks to:
Sarah Emery & Paul Sumner
Michelle Elliot
Will Fox
Steve Podger
Kylie Reynolds

All Mari Lwyds
Penkevyll the Lands End Oss

Also I would like to mention donations we received from Beltane Border Morris and Woody’s Pizza which we’re very grateful for and will put to good use in next year’s Gathering.  So much of what the All Hallows Gathering is nowadays is reliant on goodwill and volunteers who give of their time and energy for free.  I would love to be able to offer everyone something towards their costs but our funds are quite limited at present.  We are always open to offers of help and donations towards this unique event though.

Kieran who has filmed and crafted our archive footage for the last few years is a case in point.  At present he is a University student and he would love to be sponsored in some way for his superb work each year.  So if anyone out there is willing to offer patronage to him then please get in touch – camera and editing equipment does not come cheap.

I feel it is crucial to any event like this to make sure there is adequate acknowledgement to the volunteers’ endeavours.  I have in the past been part of various voluntary organisations where occasionally the volunteers have not been treated very well or have been taken for granted.  I personally cannot understand this attitude as, quite frankly, without them you’d be stuffed!  So much goes on behind the scenes that others are blissfully unaware of.  Just to snatch an example out of the air – torches.  They look great don’t they?  However, someone has to bear the responsibility of creating them, carrying them, keeping them primed and so on and so forth.  I know for a fact that Paul Sumner made the magnificent tall torches that light up the parade and performance space so well and his partner Sarah Emery helps with the management of them.  Ant Veal I believe sorts out the torches for Beltane Border Morris.  Let’s hear it for all the folks behind the scenes who help create the wonderful spectacle that is the Dark Gathering!  🙂

Before we knew it, it was all over and everyone wended their weary way to the welcome hospitality of the Wellington Hotel.

I end this post on a definite high knowing that this year’s Dark Gathering brought so much to so many people in spite of many setbacks.  There was fabulous feedback from the many folk who came, and others who could not who watched the live footage.  It was a great boost to the local economy as it was estimated that 1,200 people attended, and the Museum said they had their best day’s takings ever!

Now it’s time to settle back, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the next 2 hrs 40 mins of Kieran’s archive footage of the All Hallows Gathering 2017.

See you all next year on October 27th 2018!  🙂







All Hallows Gathering 2017 – The Daytime Hours

I think it is fair to say that 2017 has been my most demanding year yet as organiser of the Dark Gathering.  Speaking now from the other side of the event I can safely say that this year has also been ultimately the most satisfying for all sorts of reasons.  There’s nothing like striving in the face of adversity and despite that, succeeding to give you a real buzz!  However, this most definitely could not have happened without the goodwill and co-operation of many good-hearted folks who seemed to go out of their way to help when unexpected problems occurred.  Peter, one of the Museum’s managers, said that it was a real pleasure to work with people on the Dark Gathering because there were no egos inferring with the work in hand.  Certainly it was refreshing for me to work with folk who worked well using their own initiative and flair for whatever role that they were performing.  Thank you guys and gals!  😀

The day kicked off to a fascinating start with the talented David Pitt holding a Mari Lwyd Workshop in Boscastle Village Hall.  Everyone who showed up during the day thoroughly enjoyed the experience and there was evidence of many Mari Lwyd rattles in the crowd later on!  🙂

David is a multi-talented artisan and a gifted storyteller.  Here is his website: David Pitt

Once again we were fortunate with the weather and it didn’t seem too long before people started to gather outside the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, eager to get a good view of the afternoon’s performances.  The Salt Sisters, a duet who sang a cappella was a lovely warm-up act to listen to whilst waiting.

The air was full of the buzz of anticipation as performers and audience began to arrive.  There was even a raven called Branwen who had turned up for the occasion!  🙂

Plus a little owl who flew in for the experience!


Finally it was time for our irrepressible MC Steve Podger to start off the proceedings and the All Hallows Gathering 2017 was under way!

Our local side this year was Wreckers, resplendent in Cornish gold and black who delighted the crowd with their light-hearted and fun entertainment.  It was very enjoyable playing in the band with them and I learnt very quickly to expect the unexpected!  😉

Wreckers Morris

Beltane Border Morris who are part of the backbone of the Dark Gathering were magnificent once again with some new faces spotted amongst them.  They never fail to thrill the audience with their theatrical dancing skills and raw vigour.

Beltane Border Morris

As a surprise component there was a visitation seawards of a young Sea Oss, Morvargh and a Mari Lwyd, Seren who moved amongst the watching crowd during the afternoon.  Young Morvargh was particularly entranced by the music and needed no further encouragement when ask by Wreckers to dance along to their music!  🙂

During the break in the afternoon’s Morris dancing we had the local male voice choir, The Boscastle Buoys giving us all lively renditions of many popular Cornish songs and shanties.  Rather wonderfully they raised a total of £160 for the Cornwall Hospice by passing a bucket around to the crowd.  😀

Meanwhile, making their way down the old part of Boscastle was another Mari Lwyd contingent complete with a set of talented musicians who had travelled from Penzance to play with the Maris.  This Mari Party was calling upon some of the inhabitants of Boscastle where they, once they had gained admittance, duly blessed their houses.  Needless to say following some generous hospitality, they were well fed and watered by the time they made their slightly unsteady way to the bottom of the hill – where they had a well-earned rest…in the Cobweb Inn!  😉

By this time the light was fading rapidly and it was time for the creatures of the night to emerge from the shadows!  Which I will relate to you in my next blog.  😉

And so the anticipation built…

Nine and a Half Weeks … until All Hallows Gathering 2017

To say that organising the Dark Gathering this year has been challenging would be an understatement!  All sorts of spanners have been thrown into the works, but amazingly where a person or a side have departed, there have been folks who are only too eager to step into the breech and fill the void.  I thank you all!  🙂

As you can see from the poster, we have a very full line-up of activities and performers this year.  Whilst on the subject of the poster I want to personally thank Chris White who designed it at very short notice.  Even more amazing is the fact, and I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning this, that Chris is disabled and is more or less housebound being a full time carer for his beloved wife.  Chris sadly will never be able to attend the Dark Gathering, but has given his full support to the event from it’s inception.  Chris is a unassuming, generous and talented guy who has a passion and curiosity for the absurdities of life  – who definitely has a soft spot for Osses, Maris and other assorted beasties.  Take a bow Chris White!  😀

This seems a good moment to state that provision will be made this year for a live recording of the Dark Gathering.  This means that the housebound and people abroad will be able to share in the atmosphere of the event as it happens.  So performers and audience be aware – you will be on camera most of the time!

The day will start early this year with a Mari Lwyd Workshop led by David Pitt.  In the workshop you can make and decorate your own mini Mari Lwyd shaker to join in with the festivities – and meet some Maris too.  It is open to all ages and I really hope I get the time and opportunity to attend myself.  If not, can someone make one for me please?  😉  There is no charge for this workshop, although donations are welcome to cover costs.  Here’s more information on David: The Crowman – Storyteller

Joining Beltane and Wreckers this year was going to be a new Dark Morris side, Emanon.  This happened through a chance remark at Teignmouth Folk festival and as a result, a new Dark Morris side was born.   Emanon were to be giving their debut performance at this year’s Gathering – I’m sure everyone would have welcomed their input with interest as they came with a great CV.  So new are they that they didn’t even have a photo I could have shown you yet!

I know that taking on a new untried and untested side who I haven’t even seen in action was a bit of a risk – but hey, it keeps things vital and interesting.  So much of the organising and arranging of the Dark Gathering is a risk, a gamble, but in a sense you have to accept that it’s all in the lap of the gods how well (or not) plans turn out.  So many times now there have been instances of realising that there are gods who care what happens at the Gathering and the community of Boscastle because of amazing interventions, just at the right time.  It is said that Fortune favours the brave – however, it doesn’t pay to be too blasé either!  All we can do is prepare for the worst and anticipate the best.  🙂


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self
To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naïve
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love
Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom
Only the person who risks is truly free

Janet Rand

Ironically, and just to prove my point about the unpredictability of this year  I have been informed by Emanon that sadly, due to the ill health of one of their key members, they are unable to perform this year.  😦

We all hope that the person concerned recovers swiftly and we look forward to Emanon making their appearance another year.

Moving on, I am delighted to announce that we will have a local choir singing in the afternoon at the break (around 4 pm) – the Boscastle Buoys.  They collect for charity and this time it will be for Cornwall Hospice Care so make sure you have your change ready when the bucket comes round!

You may have heard that Wytchwood Morris have taken a sabbatical, but some individual members of Wytchwood will be attending the event in a supporting role – and given the collective talents of that side, it will be well worth looking forward to any input from them!  🙂

Finally regarding performers, we have the enigmatic Mr Fox.  When asked for a bio I was sent this – make of it what you will:

When eyes do see the naked flame
and ears do hear the brazen beat of drum
When two worlds meet
then twilight’s winding walk is begun…

Down from on high they come
skirting the undergrowth
and into the square…

The dancing ground is old as time
But before that time was bound
The black morass of earth was lit
And the shining star was found…

With smoking clouds and tendrils flare
Amid eternities brilliant glare
the hooded shadows flit…

They crouch and prowl, they run and fight,
They tend the braziers’ fiery heart
With flames that flash as bursts of light
And this is but the start…

As giant, feathered footsteps bound,
Seek to rule the dancing ground
Beneath a moonlit sky…

A blaze of flame, a fire flower
Wrought with magic for the task
Is summoned with unearthly power
By a silent, Silver mask….

Darkness and tears are cast aside
Shadows banished far to hide
Beyond the dancing glow…

A timeless story is evoked
Written in flame upon the night,
Blazing colour, curling  smoke…

A battle danced twixt dark and bright.
Hear the drums and seek the flame
The nameless ones who share a name…
The inimitable Mister Fox.

This year the Mari Lwyds will be visiting establishments and households throughout the village during late afternoon, culminating with some steeds joining the procession; and others making their own slow but steady progress to attend the ancient pwnco ceremony at the threshold of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  There are a couple of new additions to our equine friends who may make an appearance – so keep alert as they may appear where you least expect them!

Given the growing popularity of the Dark Gathering it has become necessary to make some logistical decisions regarding crowd control and the like.  There will be volunteers who will act as marshals, moving folk around when necessary to avoid bottle-necks and to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of viewing the day’s activities.  Please try and co-operate with these necessary measures which have to be brought in for health and safety purposes.  Also parking became an issue last year so you need to know that there is also a car park at the top of Boscastle near the Napoleon Inn – see map for details.

That’s all for now folks and I look forward, as I hope you do, to this year’s All Hallow’s Gathering.  See you all there – here’s last year’s footage just to remind you of how brilliant it all is!



A Tale of Two Osses.

At Beltane this year we completed Penkevyll’s final makeover or maybe it would be more accurate to say, emergence.  We celebrated that with a photoshoot taken by the talented John Isaac.


Penkevyll’s journey from there to here has been dynamic, dramatic, poignant and at times a little spooky.  Just for clarification I need to say that the title of this post does not refer to her life, and then her afterlife as an Oss, but of how she used to be a Penglaz and then transitioned into Penkevyll.  I do see the need for a little background so, time to settle down and hear the story.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, A Tale of Two Osses!  😀

The year was 2008 and I had received a startling phone call that was to have ongoing repercussions for years to come had I but known it.  I had been Teazer to Penglaz the Penzance Oss for many years.  This was a role that had slowly evolved over the years, building on it’s tradition as it went.  That previous winter we celebrated the very first Montol festival and Penglaz was to play a crucial role within the festivities.  This turned out to be the one and only time that this particular Penglaz appeared at Montol.  In April I received the aforementioned unexpected phone call from the chap responsible for creating and riding Penglaz, to the effect that he would be retiring from Golowan and Montol and that he was taking his Oss with him.  Bombshell was an understatement!  :O


It was only 6 weeks to Mazey Day, when Penglaz traditionally made her appearance, and I had to make some quick decisions.  Once I had permission that I could recreate another Oss modelled on the previous style, I gathered through networking a small, select team of people with the appropriate skills to do just that.  Despite having to work my way through a lot of obstructions and petty politics as a result of a rival Penglaz being made hurriedly, our Oss eventually made her debut at Montol 2008.

Sadly although a few traditions can survive despite conflict and rivalry this was not the case in Penzance.  Although our Oss team was completely open to sharing and co-operating, the rival team were not and wanted to be ‘the only Penglaz in the town’.  After a couple of years of this during which I’m sure everyone got thoroughly fed up with the wrangling, it all came to a head.  The outcome was that our Oss was asked to withdraw, along with the rival Oss, and the original Penglaz and Rider returned.


If you’re thinking that I’m missing out a lot of detail here, you would be correct.  However, I really don’t think it would be helpful to the community in general to open up old wounds – especially as things have moved on so much since.  So, I will content myself with this briefest of outlines about our Oss’s previous life as a Penglaz.  (So those who were relishing a melodrama about it all can put away their popcorn and depart back to the sidelines!)

So, there we were with an Oss with no name or a function.  Over the years I had researched Osses and associated beasties in the West Country and knew there was, albeit sparse, documented evidence of a Lands End Oss who stalked the outer margins of West Penwith.  Since we were based in nearby St Buryan that seemed an ideal role to revive and recreate.  I also came across an archaic Cornish name for ‘horse’s head’ which was Penkivell or Penkevyll which we then adopted for her during a naming ceremony performed in March on my birthday 2011. It was at this time that I took the crucial decision to buy Penkevyll from the co-creators for a mutually agreed price which we shook hands on.  She has been happily stabled with us, definitely part of the household, and rather wonderfully the community, ever since.  😀

We worked on Penkevyll’s appearance giving her some new improved ears and mane.  The kit started off with black, midnight blue and blood red tatters and ribbons.  Our Oss had been created primarily as a processional, dancing Oss and thanks to the skills of a brilliant local engineer she is extremely versatile in her movements – however, the downside is that Penkevyll is also extremely heavy and can only be operated by a male of appropriate strength.  This is because of her weighty mechanism plus the fact that she was obviously a big horse of German descent with heavy bones.  However, we have always had Riders for Penkevyll and at that time we had a very lively and enthusiastic Rider in Laetitia’s son, Rhys.  We brought Penkevyll out for her very first appearance in the community at the Penwith Pagan Moot, which we were hosting that Spring Equinox, where she was received with warmth and delight.  🙂

The following few years were full of action and drama as I entered the Morris world for the first time and we introduced Penkevyll the Lands End Oss to Morris festivals up and down the country.  We created a dance team called Boekka (Cornish for scarecrow) to accompany Penkevyll, and special Oss and Teazer dances were devised by Laetitia in which we both danced and teased the Oss in a choreographed manner – very unlike the improvised madness that I had been used to on the streets of Penzance with Penglaz!  However these dances were quite spooky and atmospheric!  It was great to meet so many different Morris sides and performers and it definitely opened up a new world to me.  I truly never anticipated learning how to Morris dance in my sixties!  😀

Time moved on, and so did people.  There was an amendment to the kit colours as we were finding that all sorts of different shades of red were creeping in, including pink (!).  So it was decided to change this in favour of dark purple and it stayed that way until quite recently.  One thing that became more and more noticeable as the years passed was that it was quite difficult to get Morris dancing off the ground in Cornwall.  Ironic when you think that there is a school of thought that has referred to the bench ends of St Columb Church, Cornwall as the earliest evidence of Morris dancing in the country!  Some declare that Morris is too English for the Cornish and there certainly is a focus on Cornish dancing instead being more popular.  The outcome was it was getting increasingly more difficult to find members for our team who were willing to travel and perform elsewhere.  Add to this the pure logistics of travelling to venues outside of Cornwall and it became inevitable that the dance team would finally subside which it did in 2015.

However, all was not lost – far from it!  This meant we could concentrate more on the Oss and Teazers only and this is when it became really interesting…

I had always wanted to meet the famous Welsh Mari Lwyds and finally at long last it happened in 2014 – a year that was to prove quite a breakthrough for Penkevyll the Lands End Oss & Boekka.  I write in detail here about that initial meeting of a Cornish Oss with the Mari Lwyd:

Cornish Penkevyll makes history by meeting the Welsh Mari Lwyd

Something magical happened when that meeting occurred, because from that first contact,  wonderfully creative and exciting events have developed.  I have written extensively about this marvellous journey here:

All Hallows Gathering 2014


All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

and here:

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part Two

Penkevyll has travelled widely within Britain including Scotland and Wales, but not Ireland as yet.  I would personally love to take Penkevyll to Brittany to complete her tour of the Celtic Nations!

Recently, and the reason for this blog post, we changed Penkevyll’s kit for the final time.  It was shortly before St Piran’s Day this year and I was admiring the lovely Cornish banners we had around our nearest town, Penzance.  It was then I had the idea of since our Oss is a sort of ambassador for Cornwall when she visits other towns and countries, and that Lands End is so iconic, it made sense that Penk (as she is affectionately known) would wear Cornish colours for her kit.  So, I leave you with Penkevyll the Lands End Oss, accompanied by her Teazers, resplendent in black, gold and white.

Kernow Bys Vyken!  (Cornwall For Ever!)







The Winter Mare – Mysteries of the Mari Lwyd

 Anyone that knows me is aware of my deep and abiding fascination with Obby Osses and lately in the last few decades with the Welsh Mari Lwyd.  Last year I came across this inspired article by a young man called Kristoffer Hughes who I met at this year’s Chepstow Wassail with his Mari Lwyd.  He is an author and a Druid and his Bardship is strong and vibrant.  Curl up in front of the fire with a warming drink and enjoy his excursion into the spooky realms of…
The Winter Mare – Mysteries of the Mari Lwyd
By Kristoffer Hughes
Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Hark at the hands of the clock. Now dead men rise in the frost of the stars. And fists on the coffins knock.
Bright Yuletide lights may lull us into a false sense of security that the dying time is over. It is not. As the year took to its deathbed at the Calends of Winter/Halloween the cycle did not restart immediately, oh no, for the season of darkness is long and biting, the descent into the tomb deep and silent. Dying takes time. Fists on the coffins knock.
As the great wheel of the year comes to a standstill, under the harsh bite of winter, the sun stalls in its progression across the skies of dawn, and nature holds its breath. The promise of spring is held within the magic of the Midwinter Solstice, lights shine brightly to warm the dark nights, and revelry and feasting bring families, friends and communities together in the hope that somehow – that warmth, that joy – will push back the edges of darkness. A mere 3 days later Christmas echoes this ancient magic of hope, new birth, promise and life. And yet this promise is still not tangible, we barely sense it, will we survive? Winter will not release its grip willingly. Will we make it through the dark days to come, will we survive the tempest?
Near the warmth of our hearths we tell ghost stories, by candlelight we share tales of our ancestors, each alluding to the fact that the time of greatest hope is tainted by the anxiety that winter instils. As the engine of the New Year is ignited, we are not yet out of the woods. Dark spectres lurk in corners, disembodied whispers reach out from the shadows, and the thin veils between the worlds of the living and the dead herald the arrival of another spirit – the Mari Lwyd (The Grey Mare) As the feasting of Solstice and Christmas move into full swing, the Mari Lwyd appears in darkened streets. Her troupe, who themselves represent the dead, guide her to the enticing lights of celebration. They lead a stark white skull of a horse, adorned in ribbons, a flowing white gown about her form, with jaws that snap at those whose poetic prowess fail to gain her admiration. She comes from the land of the dead, from the Otherworld, a reminder of the function of winter and the mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Hark at the hands of the clock. What shudders free from the shroud so white stretched by the hands of the clock?
She is shrouded in mystery, her origins are unknown. Some claim that the tradition reaches back to Pagan times. Others claim an unbroken tradition of bringing out the Mari. The truth of her history may never be revealed to us, and to an extent this matters not. What does matter is that she lives, she is a living tradition, and one that is enjoying a revival in Wales and further afield. A living tradition changes with time and with the people that imbibe life into the remnants of ancient practise.
The Grey Mare probably evokes a memory of the function and sacredness of Horses. The horse was revered in Celtica as a symbol of power and fertility and long associated with the Goddesses Epona and Rhiannon. White animals in particular had the ability to cross from the Otherworld to our world, and one wonders if the stark whiteness of the Mari is indicative of this belief. Horse deities were representative of the sovereignty within the land, and even in winter she appears albeit as a dead horse, animated if only for one night to express mystery.
O white is the starlight, white on the gate and white on the bar of the door. Our breath is white in the frost, our fate falls in the dull wave’s roar. O rhyme with us now through the keyhole’s slit, and open the door if you fail. The sea-frost, brothers, has spurred our wit, ay, and the killing hail.
Whilst we may have lost the actual meaning of the Mari Lwyd tradition, to be near her is to sense the mystery that she expresses. There is an undeniable magic to her presence that seems to tease at long lost memories hid in the depths of our cultural memory. The folk traditions of Wales have embraced the Mari, for to be in her presence is to be lost in the magic of song and poetry. Battles of bardic wit take place between the Mari party and those who occupy the homes and taverns that she visits. Lose the battle and she gains entry into the warmth of company where chaos ensues. She reminds us of misrule that social norms are suspended and that within the joyousness of celebration there lurks a human desire to suppress the anxiety that winter instils.
Her jaws snap at the living, and yet laughter and music fills the air. But perhaps her snapping is indicative of a deeper mystery, where the Mari attempts to maintain her hold on the wheel of the year. Snapping at genitals could well be an attack on fertility, the threat that spring and its new life will not come and that winter and the Mari will rule forever!
Out in the night the nightmares ride; and the nightmares’ hooves draw near.
She is the Night Mare, the queen of winter, and at her altar we leave offerings of song, poetry, coins and beer in the hope that she will be appeased. But she is a hard mistress, the songs must be worthy of her admiration, the beer good and accompanied with perfect poetry. To lose is to face consumption into the jaws of the Goddess.
As the hooves draw near, and when the dreaded knock cracks on wooden doors a song must be prepared –
Wel dyma ni’n diwad (Well here we come)
Gy-feillion di-niwad (Innocent friends)
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
I ofyn am gennad i ganu (To ask leave to sing)
Mae Mari Lwyd yma, (Mari Lwyd is here)
A sêr a ribanau, (In stars and ribbons)
Yn werth I rhoi goleu, (Worthy of giving light)
Yn werth I rhoi goleu, (Worthy of giving light)
Yn werth I rhoi goley nos heno. (Worthy of giving light tonight)
Mae Mari Lwyd lawen, (Merry Mari Lwyd)
Yn dod yn y dafarn, (Is coming to your tavern)
I ofyn am arian, (To ask for money)
I ofyn am arian, (To ask for money)
I ofyn am arian a chwrw (To ask for money and beer)
Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari: A sacred thing through the night they carry.
A sure sign of the power within the sacred is when it easily transfers itself into the celebratory practises of secular communities. And this is happening here in Wales, ‘Trac’ the folk development organisation for Wales’, have created an information package and a flat pack Mari with full instructions on how to use her. Several Mari Troupes have arisen over the years and combine Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year and Wassail traditions throughout Wales and the borders of England. The Mari is very much alive. Other groups perceive the sacred within this practise and that the Mari expresses more than a celebratory function, and that hid beneath her flowing white robes is the seat of mystery. To this group the Mari is an expression of the Goddess, the divine feminine principle. What both parties share is a common love of tradition and of making those traditions relevant to the 21st Century. The Goddess, the Mari cannot be silenced, she is more powerful than the wont of man to destroy her, and attempts have been made to silence her.
In the 19th Century a Baptist minister called William Roberts attempted to bring an end to what he perceived as a pagan practise. He authored a book called ‘Crefydd yr Oes Dywyll’ (Religion of the Dark Age), and in it gave a detailed account of the Mari and over 20 verses of the songs (Pwnco) associated with her. He hoped that this would enable his congregation to identify the Mari tradition and put a stop to it. It had the opposite effect. The Welsh seized the material and devoured it hungrily, the Mari was revived rather than suppressed. The poor man must be spinning in his grave!
Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Hark at the hands of the clock. O crouch and cringe by the bounding flame and close your eyelids fast. Out of the breath of the year we came. The breath of the year has passed. The wits of a skull are far too great being out of the hands of the clock. When Mari Lwyd knocks on the door, in charity answer that knock.
She is bridled with shadows and saddled with song, and now she has come knocking at your door. Will you heed that knocking? Will you help to bring back the Mare Queen of winter, to sing her songs of Bardic wit, to oblate her with offerings, to invite mystery into the warmth of good company? One of the most powerful reasons for reviving these old traditions is because they work. They do something to the internal constitution of a community, they allow expressions of music, song and poetry, they bring people together in a manner that may be too subtle to adequately articulate. They cause us to remember something of our deep past.
We cannot prove if the Mari is a direct link to the ancient Celtic past, or that she is a remnant of an actual pre-Christian tradition. But this does not matter, what matters is the manner in which we make her relevant to today. She brings another level of magic and wonder, awe and joy to the glorious celebrations at the heart of winter.
O white is the frost on the breath-bleared panes and the starlike fire within, and our Mari is white in her starry reins starved through flesh and skin. It is a skull we carry in the ribbons of a bride. Bones of the Nightfrost parry, bones of the Fire inside.
(Paragraphs in Italics taken from the ‘Ballad of the Mari Lwyd’, Vernon Watkins 1906 – 1967.)
Follow this link for a video history of the Mari Lwyd –
Follow these links to listen to the Mari Lwyd song –

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.











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:



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!


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’.


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!



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…!  😉


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.








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!  🙂


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!  😀


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!  😀


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!  😀


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!


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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

To Be Continued….


The Dark Gathering


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 –

Wytchwood Morris –

Beltane Border Morris –

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

The Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

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!


All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

Penk & Cass
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 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:

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:

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

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.


Laetitia of Catseye Morris – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
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.”


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.

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!  😀








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