32. Discovering Local Traditions

When the traditional witch’s partner contacted the wise woman and suggested me for the role, she doubted my personality would suit, as she assumed I was a blonde ‘party girl’  that used crystals and ‘fluffy new age’ magic. She made her assumptions from the few times she observed me at conferences and from comments on the Pagan e-list. The traditional witch’s partner explained to her that I was a former member of a feisty Morris team that recently performed at the local Conference. She also told her about my achievements in martial arts training and then the wise woman realised there was more to me than she thought.

The following day I returned from a shopping trip and discovered a recorded message on the answering machine. I returned the wise woman’s call and we conversed for some time which was a good sign as she disliked this form of communication.  The wise woman described aspects of the personality required for a Teazer and I was delighted to hear that a mischievous side is important. She explained how the Teazer role connects with the energies of the Bucca elemental.  The wise woman suggested I attended the Montol festival on the 20th of December 2008 as I could then observe the performance.  I had assumed that she frequented nightclubs as I noticed that the wise woman loved to dance. There was a particular nightclub known as ‘Eclipse’ in Truro   frequented by the traditional witch and partner. It was attended by ‘gay’ club members and I visited there on one occasion just after our move to Cornwall. I observed the door each time someone entered hoping the wise woman may arrive. It surprised me to hear  from her that she rarely attended nightclubs, but did visit ‘Eclipse ‘ with friends to celebrate her 50th birthday. Our conversation was relaxed and boded well for the future.

 After our conversation I realised that we were more alike than I originally thought if we both had a certain type of personality to be a Teazer. I updated my husband and although unimpressed he was pleased that I would be involved in something I enjoyed. He agreed to attend the Montol festival with me but as we were travelling to Kent the following day, he told me we would leave as soon as the performance was over.

We met the traditional witch and partner at St John’s Hall in Penzance. A large crowd gathered outside, some lined up for the procession and others observed a team of teenage dancing girls  performing for the crowd. My son wore a black coat, mask and hat and I wore a long black velvet coat and a ‘black cat’ mask. My husband refused to dress up and wore his usual navy blue padded body-warmer, a grey sweatshirt and old blue jeans which did not compliment the gold mask and tri-corn hat.  We stood with the crowd and my husband noticed the wise woman arrive at the front of the procession line.  I could see her battered top hat amongst the crowd and she was smaller in height than I remembered. My husband suggested I approach her, but the crowd began to move and there was no time.

The first procession went through the town and up to the beacon at the Hill Fort. We walked at the rear behind the local band and I gradually moved to the front where I could observe the wise woman as she waved to the public and laughed with the men who carried the banner. The Obby ‘Oss appeared during the second procession so the wise woman had time to enjoy this one at a leisurely pace. I observed the way she interacted with her local community compared to the Pagan one. She stepped in time to the music and I stepped with her which she noticed but did not recognize me. As we reached the Hill Fort I found my husband and son who brought his drum and invited to play with the band. We stood beside the beacon bonfire enjoying the warmth on a cold evening. After a while the wise woman appeared and conversed with my son and husband and then turned to me. 

montol2008I attempted to speak to her, but the words would not come forth. She took a step back, studied me for a moment then lit her cigarette and walked away. My husband asked why I did not speak and I could not explain the profound and unsettling effect she had on me. I searched the area around the bonfire hoping to find her again, but she had disappeared.

The traditional witch’s partner introduced us to one of her friends who was also transgender. We visited a pub and her friend awaited a phone call as she attended a work Christmas party the night before and was intoxicated with no memory of what occurred. She hoped her colleague would enlighten her. The rest of the group were deep in conversation but my thoughts were elsewhere. After resting for an hour, we walked into the town for the next procession which began between 10 and 11pm. 

Members of the crowd were masked and for those not accustomed to this festival, it could appear rather strange. As the procession began to move, I once again made my way to the front.  The band stopped outside large wooden doors next to an Indian restaurant and the band leader used a baton to knock loudly.


Before one had time to draw breath the ‘Oss dashed out followed closely by the wise woman. I observed immediately how energetic the role of Teazer was, as the wild ‘Oss was untethered. The Teazer chased her and kept a close eye on her antics with the public while performing moves the ‘Oss would imitate. As the rider had restricted vision, the Teazer would be her second sight to guide her along the streets and clear a path amongst the crowds.


When I agreed to this role I assumed the Teazer was just another act within the festival and amongst a variety of performers. I did not realize the Teazer and ‘Oss  led the procession and were  main characters of the festival. It concerned me that this was a major role different to the type of performance I was used to. I only knew three people in this community, but the traditional witch’s partner assured me it would have a positive outcome. After the Teazer and ‘Oss completed their part in the procession, I observed the Teazer  coax a reluctant ‘Oss into the Barbican (her stable) and this amused my son. When the doors closed, my husband insisted on leaving immediately and I was unable to speak to the wise woman. I knew that she would be delighted her new ‘Oss had been successful and I missed their celebration. The wise woman enquired of my whereabouts and the traditional witch’s partner explained about my early departure.

Image - Café Press

Image – Café Press

I contemplated her performance on our journey to Kent. The mask she wore was similar to the one worn by the Phantom of the Opera in the musical.  I was often attracted to troubled dark characters in these stories: the beast in Beauty and the Beast, Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre and Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights. There was something intriguing about them, their traumatic lives, their passion and their darker side due to troubled pasts. I wondered why the wise woman would take on a role such as this and whether she too may have another side to her that was hidden from the world.