The Creation of Morvargh the Dark Sea ‘Oss

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

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.

Thegns of Mercia

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).

After 2 years of sleeping Morvargh has grown up and she now has a darker image.

Boekka’s 10th Birthday – Memories

The year 2020 has many special dates and anniversaries but unfortunately the Covid Virus prevented people from celebrating in the way they had planned. August 8th marks our Cornish Guise team Boekka’s 10th birthday. So much has happened in this time.

The following photographs of Boekka in the days when our ‘Oss Penkevyll briefly performed as Penglaz the Penzance ‘Oss.

Mazey Eve 2009

Devon and Cornwall Pagan Conference 2010

We were in the developmental stages of creating a Guise team that could travel to other parts of Cornwall and the U.K., however we did not realize that Penglaz was not permitted to perform outside of Penzance (although this now seems to have changed).

2011

When Boekka and our ‘Oss were no longer required in Penzance this set us free to re-name our ‘Oss and perform anywhere we desired. It took a while to change our image and the following photograph was at her naming ceremony on 6th March 2011.

Boekka then made it’s debut with Penkevyll at Spring Equinox 2011 in Crean St Buryan. The Teazers were now working on choreographed dances with a band consisting of a hurdy-gurdy and drummers.

Creating and running a Guise team is hard work organizing practices, events etc. A few more members joined which inspired Rhys to teach a Morris team alongside the existing Guise team. Some of the community did not agree with this inclusion as they considered Morris dancing an English tradition rather than Cornish.

In 2011 we attended various events shown in the following photographs.

Cornwall Pride 2011

It also seemed to be a year for media work! We appeared with Sue Perkins on the Television program All Roads Lead Home and also Paul Merton’s Caravanning Adventures.

Rochester Sweeps Festival was our first weekend away to an event and Kent is 340 miles away. Penkevyll caused quite a stir as it seemed that no one in Kent had seen a skull ‘Oss before.

2012

In 2012 the Morris side connected to Boekka had 12 members. More dances and events were introduced and as we had no musician at this time, the teams performed with percussion only while I taught myself to play melodeon. We hired a minibus and travelled to Scotland in March to perform at the Scottish Pagan Conference.

Boekka performed at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s Charm Day event in Boscastle.

We also performed at Godolphin Fair

In Marazion on a hot summer day.

It did not take long for me to learn tunes for Boekka composed by Rhys our rider.

Rhys also played percussion on occasions for Teazer dances choreographed by Laetitia.

Teignmouth Folk Festival

Pasty Day Redruth

2013

By 2013 some of our members left for various reasons and then new ones joined us. Due to a lack of regular commitment in 2012, we were unable to reach a high standard of performance as we had a limited number of good dancers. Rhys then taught the new members Morris dances. A local man who was a Cotswold Morris dancer joined us and also rides Penkevyll on occasions. He is still a member of Boekka now.

Bodmin Riding Heritage Day

North Inn Pendeen

Lands End

May morning on Chapel Carn Brea

2014

In 2014 two more members left the Morris team and it was difficult to get new recruits as performers were more interested in Cornish performance. Rhys tried to maintain a high standard of performance that some had found difficult to cope with. We continued with the few dancers we had along with the Cornish Teazer and ‘Oss side of Boekka that remained intact.

Teignmouth Folk Festival

Wreckers Day of Dance

Lands End

Bodmin Riding Heritage Day

Marazion

Lands End

Chapel Carn Brea

St Pirans Day

St Pirans Day – we usually team up with the  Whippletree band in the processions

Chepstow Wassail

The first All Hallows Dark Gathering 2014

We continue this journey in Part 2!

Boekka’s 10th Birthday – Memories 2

2015

In 2015 Rhys moved away from the area to pursue his career. I took over the role as teacher for the Morris dances as well as Teazer dances, but was also needed as a dancer. I was unable to play music at this time, therefore most dances were done with percussion.

Chepstow Wassail 2015

Boekka acquired another ‘Oss rider who was the shortest we ever had, so Penkevyll did not tower above the other ‘Osses at this event. The rider was also a founder member of a local Morris team, so I danced with them on a few occasions.

St Pirans Day Redruth 2015

Trewellard Beer Festival

Wreckers Day of Dance

After Wreckers Day of Dance, I felt the Morris team was not progressing and decided to close it down. I had put in a huge amount of effort to keeping it going, however the difficulty of recruiting in Cornwall and maintaining a high standard of performance was not possible. We were then able to concentrate on Teazer and ‘Oss performances and become more involved with the local Morris team.

All Hallows Dark Gathering 2015

At this event I performed with the local Morris team while Cassandra was Teazer for Penkevyll.

2016

2016 was a busier year, as well as performing with Boekka we attended many events with the local Morris team. It seemed to work well together as our ‘Oss rider also performed in both.

Chepstow Wassail 2016

Fowey 2016

Handfasting Event

Boekka was asked to perform at a Handfasting in Lamorna. Our other ‘Oss rider who lives locally volunteered for this one. The torrential rain outside, meant Penkevyll was well and truly soaked when she arrived for her performance that evening!

St Pirans 2016

Lostfest 2016

All Hallows Dark Gathering 2016

It was a busy summer, Cassandra and I worked hard with the local Morris team, but as it was not the type of team that resonated with me. When we arrived on Friday evening at the Dark Gathering, certain incidents convinced me it was time to leave the team. In retaliation the founder member announced he would not ride Penkevyll at this event. Fortunately, another Morris dancer who attended but was not performing that weekend, kindly offered to stand in until we found another rider.

2017

In 2017 when Cassandra handed on the role of Head Teazer to me, I was then able to concentrate solely on this performance without dividing my energies. Life with Boekka settled into a positive routine and the energies improved immensely.

Chepstow Wassail 2017

With me as main Teazer, Cassandra focused on her drumming and met excellent percussionists who assisted in her development.

St Pirans Day Redruth 2017

While I teazed Penkevyll at this event, Cassandra played percussion with Whippletree band.

It was decided at Beltane 2017 to give Penkevyll a total change of image, discarding unwanted residue from the past for a fresh beginning. Penkevyll had a new mane, new dress and her tatters are now Cornish colours of black, white and gold.

Although Cassandra had handed over the Teazer role, she could not resist posing in our new image and her ‘trusty’ snapper!

After completing Penkevyll’s new image, my creative juices were flowing, so I purchased a small ‘Obby ‘Oss of my own now known as Morvargh the Dark Sea ‘Oss. It is a good idea to own a smaller ‘Oss so that I can ride her if Penkevyll is unable to appear at an event. The foal is a welcome addition to our team and popular with Boekka fans.

Tintagel Carnival 2017

Boscastle 2017

All Hallows Dark Gathering 2017

Morvargh made her debut at the Dark Gathering 2017 during the afternoon. I rode her with Wreckers Morris during their Song of the Sea dance.

2018

2018 brought a surprising change to Boekka. A younger man contacted us with a desire to join a ‘dark and edgy’ team. We tried him out as rider for Penkevyll and he had good potential. He connected with the spiritual side of ‘Oss riding and treats Penkevyll with utmost care and respect. These aspects are extremely important. ‘Osses should not be treated merely as puppets for one’s convenience and/or ego which sadly occurs more frequently now that owning an ‘Oss is a fashionable ‘trend’. I have also acquired two apprentice Teazers that connect with Penkevyll in their own way. One of them also rides Morvargh on occasions.

Chepstow Wassail 2018

Penkevyll’s riders were unavailable for Chepstow, however I managed to find a young, tall, muscular Welshman to ride Penkevyll during the afternoon. In the evening, we had the freedom to enjoy the ceremony on the bridge without an ‘Oss to distract us.

We spent the summertime training our new ‘Oss rider and Teazers who made their official debut at the next event.

All Hallows Dark Gathering 2018

Cassandra joined the drummers of wonderful Beltane as she enjoys their wild rhythms which are second to none!

It was wonderful for me to re-connect with my former Morris team from nearly 20 years ago. This gave me the opportunity to come ‘full circle’; by performing my final Morris dance with Vixen at the All Hallows Dark Gathering… a place ‘between the worlds’ where magical things occur!

2019

2019 had a wonderful start with the Chepstow Wassail as we invited Beorma Morris and they joined us at this event. It was fabulous to catch up with friends we had not seen in a while as we had missed them since they were no longer performing at the Dark Gathering with Wytchwood Morris.

This year the Maris had a Beauty Pageant where Boekka were interviewed. There were 33 Maris and ‘Osses so we were waiting behind the stage for quite a while!

My apprentice Teazer and I performed a choreographed dance on the bridge around Cassandra and Penkevyll.

St Pirans Day Redruth 2019

On St Pirans Day I had work commitments, so I left Penkevyll in the hands of my two Apprentice Teazers and they did a magnificent job!

Tintagel Carnival 2019

Boekka were joined by Mari Arianrhod visiting from Wales for the Carnival procession.

All Hallows Dark Gathering 2019

Morvargh took more of an active role this year, rode by one of our Teazers. I stepped in as co-organiser after the sudden departure of the managers from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

2020

The Chepstow Wassail was unfortunately cancelled this year, so we attended the Brecon Wassail. It is a smaller event; however we were keen to meet up with our Welsh friends who joined us with their Maris. Our Teazers also performed with the Welsh dancers, although the dancing in my opinion was better when we rehearsed the previous evening during our drinking session!

Cassandra’s wonderful 70th Birthday Party occurred in March 2020 with our special guests – the fabulous Beltane Border Morris. After that, it became one of the strangest years we have known where events were cancelled and the whole world changed beyond recognition! Let us hope that soon we can return to some sort of normality as there are many performers missing their music and dance which is an important part of our lives!

So there you have it….10 years of Boekka and what an incredible, eventful journey! I wonder what the next 10 years will bring…… we will see you soon!!

Boekka in St Buryan

Boekka had a wonderful Saturday afternoon welcoming Ashwood Forest Morris men to their home village of St Buryan. They previously contacted us to let us know they planned to visit our village, so we were delighted to support them.

Penkevyll also found time to bless a property opposite the Inn for new residents.

We introduced Penkevyll and Morvargh to Sarah our new pub landlady and we also met Ashwood Forest Morris’ naughty Badger who chased little Morvargh until Penkevyll arrived to sort him out!

It was also wonderful to see our ‘Osses getting on so well with the local residents in the village.

Feargal also arrived to see us all after he finished work.

We had a wonderful time at the St Buryan Inn with the guys and then we visited the Buryan Rally for more music and dance.  Penkevyll and Morvargh returned to their stable first, as the livestock there would have been a little disturbed by their presence!

Cassandra and I also joined Ashwood Forest Morris in St Just during the evening too. A busy but fabulous weekend to end the month of July.

The Chepstow Wassail – Countryfile Magazine

Yuletide celebrations are now over and today it was a wonderful surprise to see this article in the January 2019 edition of Countryfile Magazine where my Sea ‘Oss Morvargh is mentioned. It was her first outing to Chepstow which was tremendously exciting for a little foal……

Cassandra was also pictured in an article about the Chepstow Wassail in Landscape magazine.

We look forward to this Wassail every year as it is such a wonderful event. See you all soon………

Chepstow Wassail 2018 with Mari Lwyds

Our guise team Boekka had a wonderful time at our yearly visit to Chepstow meeting the fabulous Mari Lwyds and friends once again. This year the temperature was a little warmer without the frost of 2017.

We arrived on Friday and spent the evening in the atmospheric bar of the historic: Greenman Backpackers Hostel. A warm welcome awaits and the staff made a concerted effort to ensure their customers were comfortable and content.

Mike who owns the hostel is also a member of the energetic Widders Morris and organizer of the Wassail event. This is an extremely busy weekend for him.

The programme for the day began earlier this year as the Maris met outside the Greenman Backpackers Hostel before processing to the castle. They performed their usual banter and song to gain entry to the hostel and participated in traditional song as their voices echoed with the marvelous acoustics in the basement of the ancient building.

My ‘Oss Morvargh’s debut was at this event, receiving a copious amount of attention and admiration. Our good friend Phil Larcher, rider of the Mari Lwyd complimented me on Morvargh’s decoration which is praise indeed from one who has a strong connection with the spirit of the Mari, her primitive energy and history.

The procession through the town was downhill, but with the weight of an ‘Oss, a slow and steady pace is needed for the riders when walking through the wet cobbled streets.

After the procession we gathered for the Wassail by the ancient castle. We had a little time for preparation to bring out the Lands End ‘Oss Penkevyll. Her rider this year was an extremely fit and muscular Welshman and his family were delighted to see this. He was a tall  man, so Penkevyll had the best view of the event above the crowd.

John Isaac

We enjoyed performances by Widders Morris and Styx of Stroud. Morvargh danced to the music and I had a wonderful ‘work out’!

John Isaac

During the Wassail at Chepstow castle, Penkevyll remained on higher ground as the ground was extremely muddy due to a copious amount of rain in the days leading up to the event.

John Isaac

John Isaac

After the Wassail we made our way to the Chepstow Castle Inn where a Beauty Pageant had been arranged for the Maris. Penkevyll could not join us for this as she was too tall to enter the building.

Morvargh received a huge cheer from the audience on appearing and many journalists required information about her and how the ‘Oss connects with Cornish tradition. We informed them that owning an ‘Oss or a ‘beast’ has become a trend in recent years as many new ones have appeared in Cornwall. Penkevyll however was one of the first in West Cornwall after Penglaz in Penzance.

There were 21 Maris and ‘Osses in attendance this year, 10 more than last year. Even though the Beauty Pageant was arranged and each Mari or ‘Oss received a rosette they are so uniquely beautiful it would be too difficult to choose a winner. All of them were winners that day and a credit to their owners with the obvious hard work that had gone into their creation.

It was time for the meeting of the Welsh and English on the Old Wye Bridge by early evening. A projector screen was erected this year so that those who could not join us on the bridge were able to watch the ceremony. Boekka decided not to take our ‘Osses to the bridge as we took time out to enjoy this part without distraction. My apprentice Teazer had done a fabulous job assisting with Penkevyll and Morvargh during the day so we had earned the freedom to enjoy the atmosphere.

Scarlet certainly has the wild mischievous energy required for being a Teazer.

Our good friend Jason Semmens held our Cornish flag and did an impressive job of displaying it beside the Welsh and English flags.

After the bridge ceremony we arrived at Chepstow Museum for the Maris to once again sing their traditional Pwmco and gain entry. The handler of Mari Pontypwyl offered my apprentice Teazer the opportunity to guide her Mari into the Museum and I followed on as a guide. Earlier in the day Scarlet also had the opportunity to ride one of David Pitts smaller ‘Osses so it was an event full of new and delightful experiences for her.

The Chepstow Wassail event is a long and active day, but we enjoyed every minute. Team Boekka worked well together and I would like to thank Cassandra, Scarlet, our rider and John Isaac (who captured some fantastic images) for all their hard work.

Cheers to you all this Wassail season!

A New Year Begins…

The: All Hallows Dark Gathering 2017 event in Boscastle was significant for me. I have trained and performed as a Teazer alongside Cassandra Latham Jones since 2009 and it was at Chepstow in January this year she passed her ‘snapper’ to me along with the position of main Teazer.

At this event I guided Penkevyll and stood alongside her while the Wassail ceremonies took place.  The meeting on the bridge is a little more energetic as Penkevyll accompanies the Maris to meet the approaching English from the opposite side at the centre of the bridge.

St Pirans festival in March invites Penkevyll and: Boekka to take part in their procession at Redruth.  The procession is uphill and extra energy is required here while Teazing and interacting with the crowd along with keeping an eye on Penkevyll’s antics.

The All Hallows Dark Gathering in Boscastle is now a popular event. During the afternoon I build energy by moving to the tribal music played for the Morris dancers (I find Beltane’s music extremely powerful) and connect with spirits of place on land and sea at the wondrous harbour of Boscastle.

This year I also rode my Sea ‘Oss Morvargh during the afternoon accompanied by John and Sue Exton with their new Mari Seren. Dancing with Morvargh is also an ideal warm up for the Teazing of Penkevyll. Mole, the Squire of Wreckers Morris invited Morvargh to dance alongside his Morris band while they performed a dance about the sea. We worked well together and the audience enjoyed it immensely.

It was then time to return Morvargh to her stable and change into my Teazer kit. I prepared Penkevyll with the assistance of Cassandra and our rider. The procession led by the Maris made its way through Boscastle and the wonderful sound of throbbing drums signalled the appearance of Penkevyll.

Our space was rather restricted this year as Mr Fox had their fire display equipment in the space. Penkevyll danced and interacted with the crowd until we observed the flaming torches of the procession.

We welcomed the Maris before guiding Penkevyll into the Museum for the Pwmco ceremony.

During this performance I was observed by my new apprentice Teazer. Gem is in her 30s and has a good connection with Penkevyll. She also understands the Cornish energies and has an enquiring mind with welcome experience in the performing arts. I look forward to her progression.

This year I sang the Cornish Pwmco alone while Susan Exton sang the Welsh version. I had no time to drink water after the energetic Teazing and this affected my singing as my throat was rather dry.  Susan and I thought the Pwmco went better than expected, particularly as she had little notice of this with Vivien’s sudden illness.

The Mari’s stayed within the entrance hall of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic while blessing the property, as the corridors and stairs are difficult for taller ‘Osses to negotiate. After the refreshments of beer and cake, I guided Penkevyll outside to watch the fabulous performance of Mr Fox. There is a deep primitive energy about them which suited our event.

After Sarah Emery’s beautiful song, it was time for Cassandra, Michelle and I to invoke the spirits of place with our bullroarers. Will Fox from Beltane Morris delivered a wonderful speech about the meaning of Samhain followed by a blessing.

All participants worked hard, the cooperation and friendship of all concerned imbued positive energies into the All Hallows event of 2017. A fabulous start to the new Celtic year.

Morvargh visits Boscastle

Yesterday was a fabulous day for us when we took Morvargh the Sea ‘Oss to Boscastle and introduced her to Peter, Joyce and Louise Fenton at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

The village was full of tourists who were interested in Morvargh and what she represents.

We also spent time enjoying the sublime atmosphere of the harbour.

A wonderful afternoon.

Morvargh’s First House Blessing

During the first week of July 2017 a close friend of ours moved to Cornwall. They are a special family, the lovely Michelle, her husband Dave, son Corvan and also their beautiful raven Odin. We entered the Aviary to meet him and words cannot express the way one feels when in close proximity to such a wonderful creature.

Michelle and Dave were delighted to meet Morvargh my Sea ‘Oss when she gave her powerful, protective energy while blessing their home.

The Mari Lwyds in the Welsh tradition bring good fortune to households:

“The Mari Lwyd (the Grey Mare) is a pre-Christian tradition said to bring good luck. People made a horse figure from a horse’s skull, with decorative ears and eyes attached. They adorned it with colourful reins, bells, and ribbons and wrapped it with a white sheet that is carried around on a pole. The Mari Lwyd and its party would go door-to-door, singing and challenging the families inside to a battle of rhyming insults in Welsh. At the end of the battle of wits (known as pwnco) the group would be invited into the house for refreshments.”

Read more here: Mari Lwyd Tradition

“The Mari Lwyd (grey mare) is a centuries-old Welsh winter tradition involving a decorated, shrouded horse skull which is carried from house to house, or pub, by performers seeking entry for food/drink by entertaining with songs, rhymes or riddles. The tradition is said to bring good luck.” Western Telegraph

“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.” Grumpy Old Witchcraft

Read more here: Grumpy Old Witchcraft

It was a pleasure to do this for our wonderful friends who have offered an abundance of unconditional love and support.

Welcome to Cornwall Michelle, Dave, Corvan and Odin!

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