home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects | gazetteer | linksarchive | forum


Westcountry Carnivals and Folk Traditions



Helston, Cornwall: Flora Day

'The Helston Flora Day celebrations begin with the 7am dance, closely followed by the 'Hal-an-Tow' Pageant at 8am. The children's Dance then begins at around 10 O'Clock with over 1000 children'.

'The Mid-Day or 'Furry' Dance is the most spectacular part of the Flora Day celebrations. Participation is by invitation only and it is an honour to be asked to take part. The dancers of the 5 O'clock dance are those that participated in the 7am dance. Traditionally, this dance covers the shortest distance of all the dances'.

'Although Helston is now seen as the home of processional Furry dancing, Cecil Sharp noted Furry dances in St Austell, Grampound and Penryn, and Eleanor Hull refers to a furry dance from the Lizard in her book ‘Folklore of the British Isles’ which was published in 1928. And the processional dance ‘Bodmin Riding’ also known as ‘North Cornwall Furry’ is still at large at Bodmin Heritage Festival every year'.





Padstow, Cornwall: 'Obby 'Oss




Penzance, Cornwall: Penglas

'In addition to Padstow’s Obby Oss there was also a tradition in West Penwith of a similar creature, Penglas (below). Penglas, meaning grey or blue head, was a horse’s skull that came out on various festive occasions, in particular the midsummer fire festival ‘Golowan’. Pengwyn, a deliberate pun meaning ‘white head’ in Kernewek, and sounding like ‘penguin’, materialised early in the festival Lowender Peran’s formative years, and travelled widely with then Cornish dance group Cam Kernewek. Penglas and Pengwyn have a close relative in the form of ‘Mari Lwyd’, from Wales, who can be found in St Fagans Folk museum and frequently accompanies Welsh dance group, Dawnswyr Pen Y Fai. Mari Lwyd has come to Lowender Peran to meet Pengwyn on several occasions'.





St Columb Major, Cornwall: Hurling



St Agnes, Cornwall: Bolster Day

Celebrated on 4th May, Bolster Day culminates in a reenactment of the legend of St Agnes performed on the cliffs above Chapel Porth beach.

The legend tells of 'a giant called Bolster who became infatuated with St Agnes and fell in love with her. Tired of the attention of the giant and wishing rid of this evil brute, she asked him to prove his love for her by filling a hole in the cliff at Chapel Porth with his own blood. Bolster went to the cliffs at Chapel Porth, plunged a knife into his arm and waited for the hole to fill with his blood. The blood continued to pour and eventually the giant lost so much blood that he died. The hole actually led from the cliffs into the sea, a fact that St Agnes knew about but Bolster did not.

The blood of Bolster is said to have stained the cliffs at Chapel Porth and the red mark is still visible today'.




thankyou to http://www.an-daras.com/home.htm and http://uk.youtube.com/user/earthlydelights2006



Ottery St Mary, Devon: Tar Barrels



'The final day, November 5th (Guy Fawkes' Night), culminates in rituals far more hair-raising than the traditional bonfire and fireworks enjoyed by the rest of the country. Before dawn, the local people come out into the streets and fire 'cannon' - hand-held pieces of piping which are filled with gunpowder and fired in the traditional way, to create an almighty flash and a loud bang. This is repeated at 1pm and again at 4pm.

However, the real treat is kept for the evening, when thousands of people from across the county and beyond congregate to watch barrels full of burning tar being rolled up and down the streets and through the main square. This is an extremely ancient tradition, possibly older than that of the unhappy Guy Fawkes himself. Fire festivals around the time of Halloween are deeply rooted in British folklore and have been connected with the ritual burning of witches. It is a great honour to be allowed to take part in the barrel rolling and this has continued in some local families for generation after generation.

Since the traditional rolling of burning barrels at Lewes in Sussex was banned following a tragic accident some years back, this is probably the most important festival of its kind'.


Shebbear, Devon: Turning the Devils Boulder




see also http://www.users.senet.com.au/~dewnans/folklore__customs_and_traditions.html

compiled by Rupert White 3/2/09