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 year 2020 has many special dates and anniversaries but unfortunately the Covid Virus has 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).
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 us 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 onlookers did not agree 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 a TV program All Roads Lead Home and also in Paul Merton’s Caravanning Adventures.
Rochester Sweeps Festival was our first weekend away to an event and Kent is a 300 mile journey. Penkevyll caused quite a stir as it seemed that no one in Kent had seen a skull ‘Oss before.
In 2012 the Morris side connected to Boekka grew to 12 members. More dances and events were introduced and as we had no musician at this time, the teams performed with percussion only while Laetitia taught herself to play melodeon. We also hired a minibus and travelled to Scotland in March to perform at the Scottish Pagan Conference.
We were invited to perform for the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle at their Charmday event.
We also performed at Godolphin Fair
In Marazion on a hot summer day.
It did not take long for Laetitia to learn tunes for Boekka composed by Rhys our rider.
Rhys also played percussion on occasions for the Teazer dances choreographed by Laetitia.
Teignmouth Folk Festival
Pasty Day Redruth
By 2013 some members left for various reasons and others had joined us. There was a lack of regular commitment in 2012 so we were unable to reach a high standard of performance with a limited number of fit, outstanding dancers. We continued with our new members taught by Rhys. A local man who is a former Cotswold dancer joined us and he also rides Penkevyll on occasions. He has now been with Boekka for 7 years.
Bodmin Riding Heritage Day
North Inn Pendeen
May morning on Chapel Carn Brea
In 2014 two Morris team members left and it was difficult to get new recruits as performers were more interested in Cornish entertainment. Rhys tried to maintain a high standard of performance that some found it difficult to cope with. We continued with the few dancers we had and the Cornish Teazer and ‘Oss part of Boekka remained intact.
Teignmouth Folk Festival
Wreckers Day of Dance
Bodmin Riding Heritage Day
Chapel Carn Brea
St Pirans Day
St Pirans Day – we usually team up with the Whippletree band in the processions
In 2015 Rhys moved away from the area to pursue his career. Laetitia took over the role as teacher for the Morris dances as well as Teazer dances. She was also needed as a dancer and 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 rider we ever had, so Penkevyll did not tower above the other ‘Osses as much at this event. The rider also ran a local Morris team, so Laetitia danced with them on a few occasions.
St Pirans Day Redruth 2015
Trewellard Beer Festival
Wreckers Day of Dance
After Wreckers Day of Dance, Laetitia felt the Morris team was not progressing and decided to close down the Morris team linked to Boekka. She worked hard on keeping it going however the difficulty of recruiting in Cornwall and maintaining a high standard of performance was not possible. Laetitia was then able to concentrate on the Teazer and ‘Oss performances and become more involved with the local Morris team.
All Hallows Dark Gathering 2015
At this event Laetitia performed with the Morris team while Cassandra was Teazer for Penkevyll
2016 was a busier year, as well as performing with Boekka we were attending many events with the local Morris team. It seemed to work well together as our main ‘Oss rider at this time performed with both.
Chepstow Wassail 2016
Boekka was asked to perform at a Handfasting in Lamorna. Our other ‘Oss rider who lives locally volunteered to do this one. The torrential rain outside, meant that Penkevyll was well and truly soaked during her performance that evening!
St Pirans 2016
All Hallows Dark Gathering 2016
It was a busy summer, Cassandra and Laetitia had worked hard with the local Morris team, but it was not the type of performance that satisfied Laetitia, so just before the Dark Gathering I decided to leave the team. In retaliation the founder member decided not to ride Penkevyll at the Dark Gathering by letting us know at the evening before the event took place. Fortunately another Morris dancer who attended but was not performing that weekend, kindly offered to stand in until we found another rider.
In 2017 when Cassandra handed on the full role of Main Teazer to Laetitia, she was then able to concentrate on only this performance without dividing her energies. Life with Boekka began to settle into a good routine and the energies improved immensely.
Chepstow Wassail 2017
With Laetitia as main Teazer, Cassandra then focused on her drumming and met some excellent percussionists who assisted in her development.
St Pirans Day Redruth 2017
While Laetitia teazed Penkevyll at this event, Cassandra played percussion with the Whippletree band.
It was decided at Beltane 2017 to give Penkevyll a total change of image, getting rid of unwanted residue from the past and making a fresh start. Penkevyll had a new mane, new dress and her tatters were the Cornish colours of black, white and gold.
Even though Cassandra had already handed over the Teazer role she couldnt resist posing for with our new image and her ‘trusty’ snapper!
After giving Penkevyll this new image, Laetitia’s creative juices were flowing, so she purchased a small ‘Obby ‘Oss of her own who is known as Morvargh the Sea ‘Oss. It is a good idea to have a smaller ‘Oss so Laetitia can ride Morvargh if Penkevyll is unable to appear at an event. The foal is a welcome addition and popular with Boekka fans.
Tintagel Carnival 2017
All Hallows Dark Gathering 2017
Morvargh made her debut at the Dark Gathering 2017 during the afternoon. Ridden by Laetitia, she performed with Wreckers Morris during their Song of the Sea.
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 the utmost care and respect, as both of these aspects are extremely important. ‘Osses are not to be treated merely as puppets for one’s convenience and/or ego which sadly occurs, particularly now that owning an ‘Oss has become a growing fashionable ‘trend’. Laetitia also acquired two trainee Teazers that each connect with Penkevyll in their own unique way. One of them also rides Morvargh on occasions.
Chepstow Wassail 2018
Penkevyll’s riders were unavailable for Chepstow, however Laetitia managed to find a young, tall, muscular Welshman to ride Penkevyll during the afternoon, so 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 also began drumming with wonderful Beltane as she enjoys their wild rhythms which are second to none!
It was also wonderful for Laetitia to re-connect with her former Morris team from nearly 20 years ago. This gave her the opportunity to come ‘full circle; by performing her last Morris dance with Vixen at the All Hallows Dark Gathering… a place where magical things happen!
2019 had a wonderful start with the Chepstow Wassail as we suggested that Beorma Morris may enjoy this event. It was fabulous to catch up with friends we had not seen for a while as we have missed them performing at the Dark Gathering with us. They enjoyed the Wassail so much they plan to attend again.
This year the Maris had a Beauty Pageant competition where Boekka were also interviewed. There were 33 Maris and ‘Osses so we were waiting there for quite a while!
Laetitia and her Teazer performed a choreographed dance on the bridge around Cassandra and Penkevyll.
St Pirans Day Redruth 2019
Due to work commitments Laetitia left Penkevyll in the hands of her two Apprentice Teazers at this event and they did a magnificent job!
Tintagel Carnival 2019
Boekka were also joined by a visiting Mari Arianrhod from Wales for the Carnival procession.
All Hallows Dark Gathering 2019
Morvargh took more of an active role this year being ridden by one of our Teazers. Laetitia had stepped in as co-organizer after the sudden departure of the managers from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
The Chepstow Wassail had unfortunately been cancelled this year, so we attended the Brecon Wassail which is a smaller event, but were keen to meet up with some of our friends who would be attending with their Maris. Our Teazers also performed with the Welsh dancers, although we thought the dancing had gone better when we rehearsed the night before during our drinking session!
We also managed to fit in Cassandra’s wonderful 70th Birthday Party with special guests – the fabulous Beltane Border Morris. After that 2020 turned into one of the strangest years we have known, events are cancelled and it feels as though the whole world and our lives have changed beyond recognition! Let us hope that soon we can return to some sort of normality as there are so many performers missing the music and dance that is such 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!!
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………
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.
We enjoyed performances by Widders Morris and Styx of Stroud. Morvargh danced to the music and I had a wonderful ‘work out’!
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.
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.