The Chepstow Wassail is an event we regularly attend and is a wonderful start to each year. Read more about the Chepstow Wassail here. However, unforeseen circumstances led to an cancellation of the 2020 Wassail and since then all our social activities have been seriously affected with the arrival of a pandemic.
Cassandra and I discovered that one of our neighbours in the village of St Buryan owns five apple trees situated within her wild and magical garden.
As we were in ‘lockdown’ and not permitted to travel we offered to perform a ceremony for her fabulous trees. Amongst them are rare and ancient species known as ‘Cornish Mother’ and also ‘Blackmore Pippin’.
The weather was fortunately dry and mild, the sun also appeared providing beautiful blue skies. Our neighbour’s garden is reminiscent of a favourite childhood story, The Secret Garden, as it has an ‘otherwordly’ feel to it.
I had made some wonderful mulled cider for the occasion, so I poured some into a small flask and created ‘holed’ toast for the trees. I printed out the Wassail ceremony which Cassandra read out before feeding the trees with cider. As there were so many of them we emptied our flask and did not partake of it ourselves until returning home, which was well worth the wait.
We are intrigued to see how the apple trees fare this year and hope our neighbour receives an abundance of apples this autumn. Our neighbour presented us with a basket of ‘goodies’ for Wassailing her trees, symbols of food, drink, fire and cloth to wish us an abundance in all these things.
Here is our Wassail song – the trees had no choice but to awaken with our singing….Wassail to you all!
The latter half of summer had been rather busy for Cornwall and even though this was welcomed to help the economy, it also included some aggressive and thoughtless behaviour from many visitors. I can almost hear the land and sea breathing a ‘sigh of relief’ as summer turns to autumn and life returns to a more peaceful and slower pace.
Cassandra and I have been occupied with distant work for clients, however during August and in September we were able to see clients in person for socially distant readings, workshops and courses.
Autumn Equinox was overcast weather-wise, but it was dry which enabled Cassandra to venture out onto the land where she harvested local blackberries, apples and autumn leaves. Meanwhile I swept the hearth and prepared the fireplace, in preparation for our evening celebration.
We had time to bake a wonderful apple and blackberry crumble containing seasonal spices of cinnamon and cloves, before keeping an appointment with one of our clients.
We were given a wonderful opportunity by the new owners of Caer Bran Hillfort to bless their land. The following article has information about the site:
During the Iron Age a variety of different types of settlement were constructed and occupied in south western England. At the top of the settlement hierarchy were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a group of smaller sites, known as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others in less prominent positions. They are generally smaller than the hillforts, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction. Univallate sites have a single bank and ditch, multivallate sites more than one. At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Where excavated, evidence of stone- or timber-built houses has been found within the enclosures, which, in contrast to the hillfort sites, would have been occupied by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group. Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the settlement pattern, particularly in the upland areas of south western England, and are integral to any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period. Despite subsequent mining activities and the bisection of the fort by a later track, the Iron Age defended settlement, 330m south east of Caer Bran Farm survives comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, strategic importance, agricultural practices, social organisation, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context.
The monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement, situated at the summit of the prominent hill Caer Bran. The settlement survives as a roughly-circular enclosure defined by two concentric lines of defence, the inner formed by a rampart and ditch and the outer by an inner ditch, rampart, outer ditch and counterscarp bank. The defences survive differentially; the inner rampart and ditch are much slighter in construction than the outer defences, the rampart of which is up to 4.6m high. The outer defences survive best to the north. Within the interior are the low rubble walls of at least two stone hut circles. The best preserved is centrally located and measures approximately 16m in diameter. This hut circle and the fort have been bisected by a later track, and much of the interior has an irregular appearance caused by numerous pits and spoil heaps associated with mineral prospecting and extraction from the medieval period onwards. Other archaeological remains in the immediate vicinity are the subject of separate schedulings.
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Our blessing ritual was simple, however it also had potency as we experienced positive reactions from the elements to our invocations.
The owners were keen to show us around the site particularly the quarry, where tangible energies of elementals and guardians were present. We were surrounded by wonderful autumnal colours and as we stood at the highest point of the site, even though the evening mist began to descend, we could see for miles all the wondrous landscape of West Penwith.
We returned to Cassandra’s cottage and enjoyed a well-earned rest by the hearth, discussing our experiences of the site while indulging in Cornish mead and warm home-made crumble.
We sat by a blazing fire enjoying a small, meaningful equinox celebration, toasting the ‘powers that be’ and hoping that the changing season will bring a positive outcome to the problematic situation we face. We also hope that communities will work together, caring for one another and our environment. This was a perfect end to an energetic equinox!
Spring Equinox 2020 marks the tenth anniversary since Cassandra Latham Jones handed her business of Village Wisewoman to me.
I had previously worked as a qualified holistic therapist and was therefore accustomed to dealing with clients, however with this alternative way of working, clients would be dealt with in a different way. The consultations providing guidance can be similar to counselling (in which I now possess a Diploma) as clients contact us concerning various dilemmas in their lives and we discuss appropriate methods or courses of action that may help them.
Cassandra has a unique way of working and has built a good reputation which means that she is a hard act to follow. I had been a Cornwall resident for only ten months when I began and local residents did not know me well, however I had adequate experience to provide the services required. Over the years I have settled into the village community by frequenting our local Inn, some of the church services and village events, as well as performing at local festivals in West Penwith.
In a short period of time I developed an organized correspondence system when dealing with clients. I have a selection of email folders for inquiries, readings, distant readings, spells, charms, handfastings, rites of passage, feedback, property cleansings, wart charming, wisewomen walks and workshops. Notifying a client concerning the list of items we require when working with them now comes naturally to me and I converse with the confidence that comes with experience. Cassandra taught me to do my own accounts, which is quite an easy task with a small business. I admire her for managing this considering she has ‘discalculia’, however it was less of a problem for me as I am good with numbers and nowadays modern technology lessens the burden of book-keeping.
I understand why the ‘code of ethics’ is necessary and it is wise not to cast spells for clients who desire to influence others against their will. These spells can have huge repercussions and there have been occasions when I witnessed the consequences when others have cast spells for selfish desires without forethought.
Learning the process of creating charms has been enjoyable and is reminiscent of past occasions when I used cross-stitch and crochet during my childhood and adolescence. I have the skills required for intricate needlework and the corresponding ingredients for each charm still holds a fascination as each one is unique to the client. For example, when I construct two fertility charms neither would be identical in appearance or their contents.
Another aspect where needlework skills come to the fore is in creating clothes for hearth dolls which inspired me to create more clothing for other dolls with an uncanny likeness and purposes. After observing this activity, Cassandra commented that my work with dolls is one of my outstanding talents.
I have witnessed many Tarot readings and I now know Cassandra’s Tarot cards well, therefore I have the ability to provide readings from them myself if she were unable to do so. The psychic impressions and messages I receive during a consultation compliment her readings and never fail to add to the advice given. Our distant readings for clients unable to visit have proven to be extremely accurate and given guidance and help to many all over the world.
The Handfastings we provide are fabulous occasions, we have taken on the role of Celebrants at wondrous sacred sites and other unusual venues. My past ceremonial training comes to the fore when setting up a sacred space although the words I now use have changed, with a deeper connection to the ancient land around us. We prefer that they couple are in a relationship at least a year before taking this important step, some have been legally married a considerable length of time and others have their spiritual ceremony with us and attend a registry office before or after our ceremony if they require the legal contract.
I would love to experience more of these ceremonies on the beach or by the sea which in my opinion adds to the romance of the occasion.
Our property cleansings are quite an adventure, from modern houses to period properties, cottages, hotels and public houses. The history and varied lives that people once led can leave residual energies that seep into the foundations of buildings and affect them in startling ways. The spirits of deceased owners can form an attachment with their former properties which they have difficulty in releasing. Some spirits are harmless and the present occupiers are quite comfortable with their presence, however there are others that can cause problems and require guidance and persuasion to move on.
I have experienced on many occasions the remarkable difference of energy and atmosphere within a property after the cleansing, during our return visits.
Spell casting is an exciting aspect of our work, particularly when a specific time is set for a client to work along with the practitioner. There have been occasions when the required result has occurred within 24 hours and also instances where a period of time has passed before reaching a successful outcome. Throughout this past year I have worked with one particular client casting many spells for an ongoing legal case and each spell produced a successful outcome for each stage of the process.
Our workshops have been successful as many are intrigued by the work we do and enjoy spending time with us to experience this.
We have met some wonderful individuals and had many fascinating discussions. It is also heartening to hear feedback on how the experience has changed their lives in a positive way.
I have learnt more information during our ‘Walks with Wisewomen’ as Cassandra repeats the folklore and stories of various sites on each occasion. She is delighted with the way our work has become ‘second nature’ to me. It is not an easy path and I have been severely tested throughout the years. Cassandra is also pleased with the way I advertise and network to reach more people who need assistance and that the business has grown considerably compared to the period of time when she worked alone.
So there you have it…..ten years of organizing and working within the business of Village Wisewoman. It is so important to have an occupation one enjoys that does not lose its fascination or become mundane!
I thank Cassandra for her patience and tuition over the last eleven years. Her methods are often unorthodox and there were times I did not understand them, or how it would benefit me, until I put this tuition into action. This scene from the movie Karate Kid is a good example of what I am referring to:
I look forward to the next ten years of becoming older and wiser as I continue assisting our community!
It was on 26th June 2009, that I first ventured onto the streets of Penzance for my Teazer performance under the tuition of Cassandra Latham Jones. I had previous experience of Morris dancing and performed at various folk festivals, however I mistakenly assumed the role of Teazer could be something similar.
It all began with a telephone phone call during November 2008 from an acquaintance who asked if I would be interested in training for the role of a Teazer. She briefly explained what it would entail and I agreed to try, as it would also provide an opportunity to join a community event after recently moving to Cornwall. I had visited the home of this particular acquaintance and their partner on a few occasions during the time they were creating one of the new Penglaz ‘Osses as the original ‘Oss had retired. They were extremely excited about this project and I witnessed the gradual development of the new Penglaz’s creation. It was the first time I had seen a horse’s skull and heard about the folk tradition in which these skulls were utilised. Cassandra contacted me soon after hearing of my interest and invited me to attend the 2008 Montol festival near the winter solstice, so I could observe her first performance with the new Penglaz.
The acquaintance who introduced us was also a photographer for the event and suggested I wore a mask and dark clothing in the procession that evening, as the majority of people wore in ‘mock formal’ attire.
On arrival I joined the back of the procession at St Johns Hall with my former husband and son. When it began, I made my way to the front to 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, while waving to people who lined the streets. On our arrival at the hill fort we stood around a large fire beacon to warm ourselves and then visited a pub with the photographer, her partner and another friend of theirs.
The crowd seemed to increase in numbers for the second procession and once again I followed them 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 previously performed at festivals with my former Morris team, I was one of many performers, but on this occasion it was a little disconcerting that Penglaz and the Teazer were the main characters and focus of the event. There would be greater pressure on this performance and I voiced my concerns to the photographer who assured me it would all have a positive outcome.
During my interview with Cassandra on the 26th January 2009, I was informed of a second Penglaz and an ongoing disagreement between the other rider and Cassandra, but she assured me I would not be involved in this matter. Cassandra and I met regularly for practices at a yard owned by an engineer known to the photographer. My son and husband both rode Penglaz and each of them had a unique interpretation resulting in varied personalities of the ‘Oss during each performance.
My former husband gave Penglaz a cheeky character, while my son being only seventeen years of age at this time was unpredictable, mischievous and Cassandra says he was and still is 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 sent me explanations and descriptions of the Bucca elemental (of the sea and storms) spirit that works through the ‘Oss and Teazer.
I modeled my Teazer kit on the one Cassandra wore, as the Teazer ‘cross dresses’ to represent the ‘male and female’ aspect and ‘topsy turvy’ Cornish energy. Cassandra attended a ‘guild meeting’ and presented its members with video footage of our practices, announcing I would be her apprentice Teazer and apparently it had the guild members’ approval.
My first appearance was on Friday 26th June 2009 on Mazey Eve. My former husband volunteered to ride Cassandra’s Penglaz (the one and only time) and we were understandably a little nervous on our first appearance particularly within a community we were unfamiliar with. (On reflection I am sure 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 instructed to wait for Cassandra outside a local inn while she attempted to locate someone. A local man approached me asking why I was there and when I explained, he stated that I would never be as good as Cassandra and continued to tell me how long he had known her and revealed rather 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 cheering and looking up at her. We made our entrance from the large black doors to lively music provided by 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 on many occasions 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 it 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 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 and protecting her from over-enthusiastic intoxicated revellers, who step into her path, or attempt to get too close as this could result in injury. There were specific signals Cassandra used to direct Penglaz, to laugh, dance and also stand still if needed. The stomping and snapping move of the ‘Oss is one that takes practice as the timing of snapping the jaw and stepping need coordination. My son Rhys accomplished this move quickly and with a spectacular result.
After my first performance as Teazer, I received some positive feedback, plus a few criticisms from one, who thought I should teaze the ‘Oss in exactly the same way as Cassandra. At first I could not understand what he meant, however after years of experience I understood, as he advised me to watch Cassandra’s feet. Mine now move in the same way as the energy has ‘grounded’ within the performance. Another person did not agree with two Teazers being on the street instead of one, but Cassandra explained it was the best method for training. Whatever their viewpoints, I knew that I had done a good first performance for someone with no previous knowledge or experience of ‘Oss Teazing. My role with Cassandra and Penglaz in Penzance continued for two years and then we left the festival over further political issues. (See Original Penglaz Reinstated). I was relieved to be out of this situation within the Golowan festival, as it allowed us freedom to perform in our own way. After leaving we re-named our ‘Oss Penkevyll and our Guise team Boekka.
Boekka has had three changes of colours, image, performers and riders throughout the years, however what remained constant was that Cassandra and I remained united as Teazers. I performed alongside her for eight years and then, after 25 years of Teazing, she handed on the role of head Teazer to me.
My Teazer role has developed over the years and the strongest connection and change occurred at the All Hallows Gathering in 2016 after my release from a situation that was, on reflection, draining the energies. The Teazer role needs total focus and I discovered dividing my energy between Morris dancing and Teazing did not work well.
I now have two apprentice Teazers as well as new ‘Oss 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 own and ride an ‘Obby ‘Oss by the name of Morvargh (Cornish for Sea Horse).
I have learnt some valuable lessons in the last ten years and am not the same person who moved to Cornwall eleven years ago, but I have some fond memories of those early days.
Cassandra also asked me to mention that I am the ONLY Teazer she has taught and I am proud of this fact.
It has certainly been an eventful but rewarding journey!
We are now seeing the signs of Spring and during our journey to Sennen Cove I noticed the vibrant yellow flowers on the gorse and the white blackthorn flowers now in bloom along the hedgerows. The sun shone today, however the breeze still carries winter’s chill. Sennen cove car park was full and many people were on the beach either surfing, walking their pets or playing games with their children.
I had work to do for a client and on a beach as large as Sennen, it is easy to find an area where one can spend time alone. As I walked to my chosen area, a ‘seaweed besom’ welcomed me, so I grasped the handle and took it to the sea.
I connected with the sea spirits and awaited their response.
It was then time to work.
The circle is drawn for an ‘area of focus’ as the sea spirits along with the other elements naturally surround one with their protective energies.
I mix a special recipe for libations to the spirits.
There is constant communication with the sea spirits during this process.
The seaweed ‘besom’ works well on the sand.
It sweeps away anything no longer required and is then cleansed within the sea.
Just beside the working space lay a small mound of sea lettuce that I used as a garnish on my dinner.
A productive afternoon. On my return home I received feedback from my client:
I felt transported during the hour. Still feel released and greatly revived. No going back now. Oddly, I feel free of karma. I hadn’t realised that was something that I wanted.
Thank you so much. A”
With thanks to wonderful Cassandra for her continued support and the photographs.
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.
Our Guise team Boekka had a wonderful time at our 6th Chepstow Wassail this year.
On arrival at the room of Castle Inn I was delighted to be greeted by an old style four poster bed!
Most of us arrived on Friday and visited the Mythos Meze Greek restaurant before spending the rest of the evening at the fabulous Greenman Backpackers bar where they have a wonderful selection of gin. We sampled a few of them!
It was wonderful to see Linsey, Hannah, Sam and Lizzie the members of Beorma Morris who were once members of Wytchwood Morris who performed at the All Hallows Dark Gathering up until 2016. We have missed them.
Black Pig Morris
The gin was extremely popular!
Linsey brought us a gift of Amaretto marmalade and a home-baked cake as a thank you for inviting them to the Wassail.
We awoke to drizzling rain Saturday morning, but fortunately the rain had ceased by midday. At 1pm a meeting of the Maris was scheduled at the ancient and atmospheric Moot Hall in the Greenman Backpackers Hostel.
With 35 Maris and Beasts in the hall we ventured outside to get some air….
We also met a Mari/Beast with a difference…..
On our way back to the Castle, Morvargh stopped to see some little curious admirers…
The Wassail ceremony at the Orchard was wonderful. I encouraged our team to practice the Wassail song and they sang it well! There was a large crowd with a fabulous atmosphere.
We then joined the wonderful Morris dancers to watch their performance!
We made our way to the Drill Hall for the Mari Pageant. Waiting backstage next to the green room was quite a task with 35 Maris.
When we eventually appeared on the stage, Tim the Compere had his work cut out…..
After our appearance on stage we had a further wait backstage for the group photo. This provided a chance to have a good chat and a ‘catch up’ with the wonderful Phil and Viv Larcher.
The group photo on stage was rather a ‘squeeze’…..
From there it was time for Welsh and Cornish to gather at the Wye bridge to meet the English side.
When we met the English, the flags were exchanged and each Morris team performed a dance.
As Boekka are now performing Teazer dances again, Mike Lewis requested that we also performed a dance. I am pleased to say that it went well, Sam from Beorma complimented us on the performance and this was a valued compliment from such a good dancer.
…and there you have it…..an action packed day. Unfortunately there was an incident at the Chepstow Museum so we were not able to use it this year. I will end this post with a video of a performance of ‘Poor Owd ‘Oss’ with Linsey and Sam joining in with the ‘coconut shell’ percussion. A perfect end to an exhausting but wonderful day.
See the fabulous images of this event captured by th.e wonderful John Isaac here
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………
Yesterday evening we attended the Harvest Home auction in our wonderful pub the St Buryan Inn. We arrived early to dine there, Cassandra reserved a table along with Vanda our Rector. While having our meal we were able to update one another on recent work as Vanda takes great interest in the varied spiritual events that occur in all areas of Cornwall.
It was not long before we were joined by other friends and local residents within the village before the auction began.
Local produce filled the table and it was wonderful to see three pumpkins as they have been absent for the past two years.
Our local resident Pauline bakes wonderful Cornish pasties, she provides a few smaller ones, but the giant pasty is awaited at the end of each auction as it is understandably purchased at a high price.
The pub was full of locals and there was a happy friendly atmosphere within our community.
I also purchased my first pumpkin from the auction as Cassandra usually does so each year if any are available.
Barry our wonderful caller does well each year and Penzance Food Bank will receive £354 from this superb event.