Spring Equinox 2020 marks the tenth anniversary since Cassandra Latham Jones handed her business of Village Wise Woman to me.
I previously qualified and worked as a holistic therapist and therefore was accustomed to dealing with clients, however this alternative way of working, meant clients would be dealt with in a different way. It is similar to counseling (which I now possess a Diploma for) as clients will contact you concerning various dilemmas in their lives and we discuss the appropriate methods to help them.
Cassandra has a unique way of working and had built a good reputation over the years, so she was a hard act to follow. I had been a Cornwall resident for only ten months at this time and the local residents did not know me well, however I had adequate experience to provide the services required. Over the years I have settled into our 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 created 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, wise women walks and workshops. Notifying a client concerning the list of items we require for 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 makes work and keeping accounts easier.
I understand why we have a ‘code of ethics’ and that it is better not to cast spells for clients to influence others against their will. These can have huge repercussions and there are occasions when I have witnessed this after others had cast spells for selfish desires or without sufficient contemplation concerning their requests.
Learning the process of creating charms has been enjoyable and is reminiscent of times I used cross-stitch and crochet during my childhood and adolescence. I also have skills required for intricate needlework and the corresponding ingredients for each charm still holds a fascination for me as each one is unique to the client. For example, if I constructed two fertility charms neither would not be identical in appearance or their contents.
Another aspect where needlework skills came to the fore was in creating clothes for our hearth dolls which inspired me to create more for other dolls with specific images and purposes. After observing this activity, Cassandra informed me that my work with dolls is one of my greatest talents.
I have witnessed many Tarot readings and I now know Cassandra’s cards so well that I have the ability to provide readings 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 always wonderful 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 the sacred space although the words I now use are different and have a deeper connection with the ancient land around us. We prefer a couple to have a relationship of at least a year before taking this important step, some of our couples have been legally married a considerable length of time and others have their spiritual ceremony with us and attend a registry office if they require the legal contract.
I would love to experience more 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 in moving 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 needed to pass 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 very successful as many are intrigued by the work we do and enjoy spending time with us to experience this for a day.
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 also learnt more information during our ‘Walks with Wise Women’ 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 advertised and networked to reach more people who need assistance and that the business has grown considerably compared to the time when she worked alone.
So there you have it…..ten years of organizing and working within the business of Village Wise Woman. It is so important to have an occupation one enjoys that will never become mundane or boring!
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 her 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 to continue assisting our community!
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 performing at various folk festivals and mistakenly assumed 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 the skulls were utilised. 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 waving to the people who lined the streets. On our arrival at the hill fort we stood around the 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 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 this performance 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 and to 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 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 to excellent effect.
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 now ‘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. I was relieved to be out of that particular 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 have some fond memories of those early days. Cassandra asked me to mention that I am the only Teazer that has been taught by her and I am proud of this. 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………