It was on 26th June 2009, that I ventured into the streets of Penzance for my first Teazing performance under the tuition of Cassandra Latham Jones. I had previous experience of Morris dancing while performing at various folk festivals and mistakenly assumed that the role of Teazer could be something similar.
I received a telephone phone call during November 2008 from an acquaintance asking if I would be interested in training for the role of a Teazer. She briefly explained what the role entailed and I decided to try as it was also an opportunity to become involved in a community event after recently moving to Cornwall. I had visited the home of this particular acquaintance and partner on a few occasions while they were in the process of creating one of the new Penglaz ‘Osses after the retirement of the original one. They were extremely excited about this project and I witnessed the gradual development of its creation. It was the first time I had seen a horse’s skull and heard information about the folk tradition in which they were used. Cassandra contacted me soon after she heard about my interest and invited me to attend the 2008 Montol festival near the winter solstice, to observe her performance with the new Penglaz.
The acquaintance who was also the photographer for the event, suggested I wore a mask and dark clothing for the procession as the majority of people would be dressed in ‘mock formal’ attire.
On arrival I joined the back of the procession at St Johns Hall with my husband and son. When the procession began, I made my way to the front so that I could observe Cassandra’s performance. Penglaz the ‘Oss did not appear during the first procession so I concentrated on Cassandra’s movements as she marched at the front of the band in time to the music and waved to the people who lined the streets. On our arrival at the hill fort we stood around the large beacon to warm ourselves by the fire and then visited a pub with the photographer, her partner and another friend of theirs.
The crowd seemed to increase in numbers when we joined the second procession and once again I followed the procession at the back with my husband and son, then gradually moved to the front.
Cassandra and Penglaz appeared out of an adjacent entrance to a restaurant in Chapel street and were welcomed by the enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. The energy was wild and exciting.
When I had danced at festivals with my former Morris team I was one of many performers, but on this occasion I was a little concerned that Penglaz and the Teazer were the main characters and focus of the event. There would be greater pressure for a performance such as this and I voiced my concerns to the photographer who assured me it would work out and have a positive outcome.
During my interview with Cassandra on the 26th January 2009, I was informed there was also a second Penglaz and an ongoing disagreement between the other rider and Cassandra, but she assured me I would not become involved in this matter. Cassandra and I met regularly for practices at the yard of an engineer known to the photographer. My son and husband both rode Penglaz and each of them had their individual interpretation giving the ‘Oss a different personality during each performance.
My husband gave Penglaz a cheeky character, while my son being only seventeen years of age was unpredictable, mischievous andto this day, Cassandra says he has been the fastest ‘Oss rider she ever had!
Although I was an experienced dancer, I needed to develop a connection with a completely different type of energy to perform this role. Cassandra had sent me articles to read about the Bucca elemental (of the sea and storms) and the spirit that works through the ‘Oss and Teazer.
I modeled my Teazer kit on the one that Cassandra wore, as the Teazer ‘cross dresses’ to represent the ‘male and female’ aspect and the ‘topsy turvy’ Cornish energy. Cassandra attended a ‘guild meeting’ and presented the members with video footage of our practices, announcing that I would be her apprentice Teazer and I apparently had the guild members’ approval.
My first appearance was on Friday 26th June 2009 on Mazey Eve. My husband volunteered to ride Cassandra’s Penglaz and we were understandably a little nervous about our first appearance particularly within a community we were unfamiliar with. (On reflection I am sure that many were wondering who we were and why we had been placed into a ‘lead role’ within their community festival!) Just before the performance I was waiting for Cassandra outside a local inn as she was in there trying to locate someone. A local man approached me asking why I was there and when I explained, he replied that I would never be as good as Cassandra and went on to tell me how long he had known her and revealed some personal details about her life! What an encouraging start to the evening!
We prepared ourselves and Penglaz in a room at the Barbican and Cassandra stood at the open top window waving at the gathering crowd who were looking up at her. We eventually emerged from the large black doors to lively music from the Golowan Band and cheers from the crowd. Mazey Eve is a wild celebration and extremely crowded, so keeping near Penglaz and making one’s way through the crowd is quite a task! I watched Cassandra closely and there were many occasions where our movements were identical which boded well for future development.
Cassandra imbued a confidence and connection with the ‘Oss during her seventeen years of Teazing and this was something that would also develop within me after years of experience. One’s reflexes need to be quick due to the unpredictable behaviour of the ‘Oss and also the crowd.
The Teazer’s role is to attempt to control the crowd as well as keep an eye on Penglaz, making space for her to move around while protecting her from intoxicated people who step into her path or attempt to get too close which could result in injury. There were specific signals Cassandra used to bring out the personality of Penglaz, to laugh, dance and also stand still if needed. The stomping and snapping move of the ‘Oss is one that takes a considerable amount of practice as the timing of the snap of the jaw and stepping need coordination. My son Rhys accomplished this move quickly and it was impressive.
After my first performance, I received positive feedback, plus a few criticisms from one person who thought I ought to teaze the same way as Cassandra. It was only after years of experience that I could see what he meant, as he advised me to watch her feet and mine now move in the same way as the energy has grounded. Another did not agree with two Teazers being on the street instead of one, but Cassandra explained that it was the best method for training. Whatever the viewpoints, I knew I had done a good first performance for someone who had no previous knowledge of ‘Oss Teazing. My Teazing role with Cassandra and Penglaz in Penzance continued for two years and then we left the festival over political issues. (See Original Penglaz Reinstated) After leaving the Golowan festival we re-named our ‘Oss Penkevyll and our Guise team Boekka and I was relieved to be out of that situation as we then had freedom to perform in our own way.
Boekka has had three changes of colours, image, performers and riders throughout the years, however one aspect that stayed constant is that Cassandra and I remained together as Teazers. I performed alongside her for eight years and then she handed on the role of head Teazer to me.
My Teazer role has developed over the years and the strongest connection occurred at the All Hallows Gathering in 2016 after the release from a situation that was, on reflection, draining the energies. The Teazer role needs total focus and dividing my energy between Morris dancing and Teazing did not work well.
I now have two apprentice Teazers as well as new riders. All are doing extremely well and Boekka is going from strength to strength. This year is our 9th year of performance (as our team first formed while our ‘Oss was still Penglaz during 2010). I also have my own ‘Obby ‘Oss by the name of Morvargh (Cornish for Sea Horse).
I have learnt some valuable lessons and am not the same person who moved to Cornwall eleven years ago, however I also have some fond memories of those early days. I am also proud to say that I am the only Teazer that has been taught by Cassandra. It has certainly been an eventful but rewarding journey!
I had heard about events such as ‘Gong Baths’ and other healing therapies utilizing sounds vibrations, but had not tried it until yesterday.
Our lovely friend Angie Latham along with her husband Dougie and fellow sound therapist Anthony invited us to a Sound Healing Journey event within the Merry Maidens stone circle. As we traveled along the lane, we could see the stone circle in the distance and the sunlight reflecting off the impressive large gongs which stood in the centre.
We were well prepared with blankets, pillows, coats and were invited to bring our drums to join in with rhythms. Angie welcomed Cassandra and I with a warm embrace as we had not seen one another for a while due to life’s unexpected occurrences.
Other people arrived and we were all admiring the wonderful instruments on display.
I was drawn to the quartz crystal bowls and looked forward to hearing them, Angie explained that their vibration connects to the higher spiritual energy centres of the body. As a healer and someone who has hosted psychic development circles, I know that this could benefit people who are involved in psychic development and spiritual practices.
Angie’s Beautiful Gong which creates a wonderful calming vibration.
Anthony explained how the gong on the right was tuned to the Mercury vibration connected to the throat energy centre. As a therapist myself I know that this would be ideal for communication problems and physical throat conditions. The lower gong on the left was attuned to the vibration of Venus and connected to the energy centre of the heart. This would help with many aspects of emotional problems and also physical heart ailments.
Here is Anthony.
Angie seemed much happier and more content now that she has found her soul purpose. It is obvious she enjoys this work which is of benefit to her and also the people who attend.
Angie asked Cassandra to provide some information to the group about the history of the Merry Maidens circle. When everyone had settled, we were instructed to lie down and relax.
Cassandra was well prepared.
As we relaxed, the deep earthy sound of the deep gong resonated around us. I was aware of someone walking their dog through the site and the animal was disturbed at first by the sounds and barked for a while. He soon settled down to the earthy deep vibration. We were lying there for over an hour and even though the ground was hard, there were times I felt as though my body was not touching the earth at all, particularly when the sounds from the quartz crystal bowls began. As well as the gongs and bowls, other instruments were also used such as rattles and chimes.
I have meditation CDs at home for daily practice and I recognized many sounds that day and this also activated the Reiki energy I work with.
When the drum beats began, our bodies slowly came out of the relaxation and we rose up to join in with our drums. All the people around us were smiling and enjoying their individual experience. We created a good rhythm between us, some were listening and others drummed and danced while the sun slowly descended on a beautiful day.
When it was all over, we invited Angie, Dougie and Anthony to join us for a well deserved drink at our local pub to toast Anthony’s birthday and have a proper ‘catch up’.
I am so pleased I attended this event and I recommend it to anyone who has not yet experienced it. Thank you so much Angie, Dougie and Anthony.
Cassandra and I were Celebrants for a Handfasting three days after the Spring Equinox. This occasion was particularly unusual, as the couple had discussed having a ceremony for some time and then the bride decided to arrange the ceremony as a surprise for the groom. This meant the preparations were not as straightforward as the ceremonies we were accustomed to.
The venue chosen was the ATV Centre in Blackwater near Truro. There is an area of woodland next to the race track where we were able to perform the ceremony. We arrived to set up the space during early evening while there was light and soon after that darkness fell.
To conduct a Handfasting ceremony in woodland on a dark evening can be quite a challenge, although lights were hung within the trees and one of the guests offered to turn on his car headlights.
The ceremony however went well and our excellent professional photographer John Isaac managed to capture some wonderful images in somewhat challenging circumstances.
We wish the lovely couple every happiness for the future.
“Hi guys it was amazing and a huge huge thank you for a wonderful evening and for recommending john he is such a great guy. All of my friends commented on what an amazing ceremony it was. Thank you so much for being so understanding and being so professional and carrying on with the ceremony despite the difficulties. As for the honey moon drink……
Cassandra and I are delighted to have been invited by Simon Costin to do a workshop on the 7th September 2019 at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
The workshop will be from 11am to 5pm and the schedule for the day will be:
What is Cunning Craft and how it differs from other Pagan paths.
Dispelling Myths of the Old Ways
The attitude needed for its development
Working with a clientèle
Discussion on Folk Magic Spellwork:
Wort Cunning (working with plants and herbs)
‘Pinning the Devil’
You will then receive guidance to create a personal witch bottle spell.
The fee is £30 per person, we ask a £10 deposit to confirm your place (contact us for details of how to do this).
Bring to the workshop a bottle or jar with a secure seal.
It was a wild windy day when Boekka ventured out to celebrate St Pirans Day in Redruth. Boekka has attended this event for the past 7 years. I was unable to attend this year due to work commitments which meant my two apprentice Teazers and new rider had to perform alone. I work hard training them just as Cassandra did with me and we would not lightly hand the position over to just anyone, so I had the utmost confidence in their abilities. I received excellent feedback on how fabulous they were and members of the public described Boekka and Whippletree as the happiest group at the event. I am proud of them all!
Cassandra and I attend our community celebrations, we travel to North Cornwall to organize the All Hallows Gatheringin Boscastle. The event is occurs outside the wonderful Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (and this is the ONLY SEASONAL EVENT we are associated with In Boscastle) on the weekend leading up to or on Samhain.
Early in the evening at Samhain we begin our personal celebration in the village of St Buryan when local residents escort their children around the village for ‘Trick or Treating’ and they visit a real Wise Woman’s cottage. We also visit the St Buryan Inn for a celebratory drink before the preparations for our private group celebration at midnight. It is indeed an active time in the spiritual and physical worlds as the Celtic year ends but it is extremely rewarding.
I will conclude this post by wishing you all a joyous Samhain and a prosperous and successful new Celtic year.
The Sublime and Sinister Sides of Yuletide Customs
Although the traditions and rituals of Christmas have evolved through the centuries, many of them have remarkably ancient origins linked to the midwinter festivals of Yule and Saturnalia and the hope of renewed life as the days lengthen with the promise of spring.
Folklore Customs of Twelfth Night and the Epiphany
The one thing guaranteed to elicit the strongest opinions this first week of January is the debate over which day to take down your Christmas tree and decorations. Is it Saturday 5 January, or Sunday 6 January? And what happens if you leave them up for longer? Are you really struck down with bad luck for the rest of the year as the superstition goes?
One thing’s for sure – everyone does it differently, and everyone has their own ideas.
Read more about the Chepstow Wassail tradition and enjoy your Wassails wherever you are!
Candlemas and Imbolc
The mistletoe hung at Yuletide has now lost its fresh green leaves and berries, but the brown dried remnants still hold the energy of the wonderful season of Yule. It is still working, bringing good fortune to the home until the season returns again. We have now approached the time of Imbolc and Candlemas.
Springtime arrives and with it the season of fertility represented by eggs, rabbits and flowers in bloom. The better weather encourages people to spring clean their homes, clearing out things that are no longer needed as we bid farewell to the long winter. New life, hopes and projects await us and the sun has returned.
I have fond memories of my first visit to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in 1996. I had not visited a venue related to the Occult before and was a little apprehensive but excited at the same time.
Museum of Witchcraft 1998
The Museum altered dramatically when Graham King took over as the new owner. On my next visit in 1998, the energy and display within was in complete contrast to what was there before. As I walked around the Museum reading the information about the artifacts, I was enchanted by the haunting repetition of the chants soundtrack.
As I neared Joan’s cottage, it evoked the same feeling as if one was approaching a real Wise Woman’s abode. The sound of the voice from within increased in volume as I turned the corner at the end of the corridor. It had a deep disconcerting tone…… a voice that came from someone not easily approachable but in dire circumstances one would need the courage to seek help. This was the voice of a person who knew their Craft well, one that you would not wish to upset for fear of the repercussions that would befall you.
I stood in the doorway listening carefully as I observed the cottage, the hearth, the real cats that were obviously ‘stuffed’ by a taxidermist, but there was an energy surrounding them as if their spirits were not far away. If you observe Joan long enough you can almost see her move while her fixed gaze remains on the crystal ball in front of her. As I stood there I contemplated what it would be like to live in a cottage like this and how an elderly woman would survive the winter months, whether she would manage enough work in order to live comfortably.
Before I left the Museum I inquired about the soundtrack and purchased one of the first cassette tapes from the shop. I listened to this tape frequently on returning home and thought about the woman who recorded the spells and charms. I had not met Cassandra at this time and her voice sounded older than her actual age, (the sign of a good actress) I could also tell that she was a smoker which evoked an image of Granny Boswell puffing on her pipe!
Little did I know what life had in store for me over the following 21 years!
So here I am, living in Cassandra’s cottage which was the inspiration for Joan’s cottage at the Museum of Witchcraft, I have been taught by the Wise Woman whose voice I first heard on the recording for the past ten years…… the ‘powers that be’ have taken me on an amazing unexpected and testing journey.
Last evening Cassandra and I produced the following video footage of her working by the hearth, while listening to the original soundtrack for Joan’s cottage at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. We thought it would evoke wonderful memories for all who miss it, just as it does for me when I hear it. Enjoy!