At the start of 2017 I contemplated acquiring an ‘Obby ‘Oss of my own so that I could be a rider. I originally searched for the skull of a small horse asking the advice of David Pitt who owns and rides Coppertown Mari. I purchased the skull of an Icelandic foal with Viking heritage, a significant find as my place of birth was at the site of an ancient Viking settlement.
Here is an article about horses in Anglo Saxon and ancient Viking history:
“Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago?”
Where is the horse gone? Where the rider? (The Wanderer)
Both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian warriors, particularly nobles, loved their horses. They might prefer to fight on foot, swinging sword or axe with their men (unlike the Normans) but to own a horse meant status, rather like owning an expensive car does today. A king might direct a battle from the saddle but most of the valuable steeds would be led to the rear, safe from harm, before a battle. When asked to fight as cavalry in the early 11th century, ‘against their custom’, English warriors were so uncomfortable that they preferred flight. A mounted knight, isolated high in his saddle, cannot be one with his men. Perhaps it is this factor which led, following the Norman conquest, to the terrible widening of the social gulf betwixt noble and yeoman; a distance which had been relatively small in comparison in the egalitarian days prior to 1066.
Horse worship in Northern Europe dates back to the Bronze Age. The horse, particularly the white horse, was seen as a sacred and magical animal associated with a particular god or as a totem of the warrior-king. Many Indo-European religious branches show evidence for horse sacrifice, and comparative mythology suggests that they derive from an original Proto-Indo-European ritual.
Pagan reverence of the horse, including its phallus, seems to have been linked to the worship of the fertility god Frea Ing / Yngvi Freyr and so outraged the Catholic Church that a complete ban was imposed in Northern and Western Europe against religious recognition or veneration of the horse in any form.
David Pitt ‘birthed’ a number of ‘Obby ‘Osses that perform in the folk world. I arranged to send the skull to him after purchase. He then kept me updated with video footage explaining the work required to make it robust. He explained the skull’s condition and the adult teeth were still embedded deep within the jaw as they had not yet emerged. I discovered foal was born and bred on an Icelandic farm, but unfortunately they do not always survive the severe weather or they are undernourished.
David worked on the foal over a period of 3 months and constructed silver ears and a tongue for her. I sent him teal baubles for the eyes that he attached within the eye sockets. David also constructed a pole along with fixtures and fittings so that the jaw had enough movement to proved a wonderful ‘snap’.
A good friend Craig Weatherill informed me the Cornish name for seahorse was ‘Morvargh’.
Three months passed without me seeing or holding Morvargh, but I knew my ‘Oss was in expert hands! David Pitt kindly travelled from Wales to deliver her in person on Beltane 2017.
When David left, it was time for me to work on Morvargh. I had already created a new dress for Penkevyll with new mane and tatters plus two new hearth dolls, so my creative energy was flowing.
I began work on the mane by fitting blue Hessian material to the skull. I then had the lengthy task of braiding strands of wool constructing 40 braids using all of two large balls of wool. The braids were then sewn to the hessian.
When her mane was complete, I attached 120 pearls to it and larger mother of pearl shells to the centre parting.
A starfish and other shells were added to the skull using a glue recommended by my wonderful friends John and Sue Exton. They have had plenty of experience in decorating Mari Celeste and Mari Seren. I tied ribbons to the sides of the skull along with cockleshells that make a wonderful sound. There are Pirate rings in her ears and the teal dress was constructed from a sheet and netted material.
Morvargh was the first Sea ‘Oss to be created in Cornwall and her debut was at Penberth Cove on a beautiful warm sunny day.
It was a wonderful experience to introduce Morvargh to the Cornish sea. Our bond has strengthened during the time I worked on her image and we naturally merged together as one.
Morvargh has been the inspiration for two more Sea ‘Osses who have recently appeared in Cornwall and I was delighted to see her displayed in the new Museum of Magic and Folklore in Falmouth. (July 2022).