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Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss

DigiTrad:
CORNISH MAY CAROL
DRAWING NEARER TO THE MERRY MONTH OF MAY
MAY DAY CAROL
MAY DAY CAROL (2)
MAY MORNING CAROL
MAY MORNING DEW
QUEEN OF THE MAY


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Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 06:36 AM
Azizi 03 Apr 05 - 11:10 AM
DMcG 03 Apr 05 - 11:18 AM
DMcG 03 Apr 05 - 11:24 AM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 12:32 PM
DMcG 03 Apr 05 - 12:44 PM
Tradsinger 03 Apr 05 - 01:16 PM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 01:29 PM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM
Folkiedave 03 Apr 05 - 02:51 PM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 02:56 PM
Folkiedave 03 Apr 05 - 03:38 PM
Folkiedave 03 Apr 05 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,Little Robyn without a cookie 03 Apr 05 - 04:04 PM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 04:59 PM
Folkiedave 03 Apr 05 - 05:11 PM
Alexander 03 Apr 05 - 05:47 PM
DMcG 04 Apr 05 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,Little Robyn 04 Apr 05 - 03:45 AM
The Shambles 04 Apr 05 - 03:52 AM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 07:54 AM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 08:05 AM
Azizi 04 Apr 05 - 09:28 AM
Folkiedave 04 Apr 05 - 11:55 AM
Tradsinger 04 Apr 05 - 12:58 PM
Azizi 04 Apr 05 - 01:11 PM
Folkiedave 04 Apr 05 - 01:51 PM
Azizi 04 Apr 05 - 01:56 PM
Little Robyn 04 Apr 05 - 04:09 PM
Les in Chorlton 04 Apr 05 - 05:03 PM
breezy 04 Apr 05 - 05:27 PM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 06:14 PM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 06:16 PM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 06:23 PM
Azizi 04 Apr 05 - 07:08 PM
Alexander 04 Apr 05 - 11:48 PM
Sandra in Sydney 05 Apr 05 - 09:59 AM
breezy 05 Apr 05 - 10:19 AM
manitas_at_work 05 Apr 05 - 10:26 AM
Folkiedave 05 Apr 05 - 12:51 PM
Cats 05 Apr 05 - 03:38 PM
BB 05 Apr 05 - 04:13 PM
Alexander 05 Apr 05 - 04:38 PM
Alexander 05 Apr 05 - 04:43 PM
Folkiedave 05 Apr 05 - 07:20 PM
MuddleC 05 Apr 05 - 11:59 PM
LadyJean 06 Apr 05 - 01:43 AM
Folkiedave 06 Apr 05 - 05:13 AM
BB 06 Apr 05 - 02:24 PM
Cats 06 Apr 05 - 02:29 PM
Les in Chorlton 06 Apr 05 - 03:03 PM
GUEST 06 Apr 05 - 04:26 PM
Moses 07 Apr 05 - 08:12 AM
Jacob B 07 Apr 05 - 05:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 07 Apr 05 - 06:09 PM
GUEST,Grace 17 Apr 05 - 09:43 AM
Cats 17 Apr 05 - 12:15 PM
Little Robyn 17 Apr 05 - 03:55 PM
GUEST 06 May 05 - 01:41 PM
BB 11 May 05 - 06:11 AM
Dave Bryant 11 May 05 - 08:02 AM
manitas_at_work 11 May 05 - 08:23 AM
BB 12 May 05 - 03:28 PM
Cats 12 May 05 - 04:08 PM
Manitas_at_home 13 May 05 - 04:19 AM
GUEST,teaser 13 May 05 - 04:19 PM
Torctgyd 16 May 05 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,Azizi 16 May 05 - 11:32 PM
GUEST,Azizi 16 May 05 - 11:39 PM
GUEST,Teaser 17 May 05 - 06:13 PM
Azizi 17 May 05 - 06:47 PM
Azizi 17 May 05 - 06:52 PM
Little Robyn 18 May 05 - 03:06 AM
breezy 18 May 05 - 11:54 AM
Little Robyn 18 May 05 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,Teaser 18 May 05 - 07:33 PM
Azizi 26 May 09 - 03:31 PM
Jack Blandiver 26 May 09 - 03:49 PM
Azizi 26 May 09 - 04:05 PM
Jack Blandiver 26 May 09 - 05:28 PM
Azizi 26 May 09 - 05:49 PM
Cats 27 May 09 - 04:16 AM
Azizi 27 May 09 - 07:29 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 27 May 09 - 08:10 AM
Little Robyn 27 May 09 - 08:36 AM
Azizi 27 May 09 - 09:20 AM
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Little Robyn 27 May 09 - 03:59 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 06:36 AM

The thread about Padstow's politically incorrect Darkie Days appears to have run its course. Perhaps it's time to start discussing Padstow's May Day celebration where the Obby Oss (Hobby Horse) dances through the streets. This is an ancient Pagan ritual that might date back more than 3,000 years. Check out the following site for pictures and information. http://home.freeuk.net/bribbonobbyoss/


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 11:10 AM

Thanks for the info Alexander!

I'll check it out.


Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: DMcG
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 11:18 AM


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: DMcG
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 11:24 AM

What happened there? I'll try again ...

Very old, I'll grant you, but why do you say 3000 years? Can you give any references to documents showing it was around in 1066-ish, for example?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 12:32 PM

Paging DMcG: Back to 1066? The Battle of Hastings?? Historians tell us that the Padstow Obby Oss definitely pre-dates Christianity. St. Petroc brought Christianity to Padstow in the Sixth Century. The festival clearly dates back to Celtic times, the celebration of Cale Me, the First of May. Donald R. Rawe wrote in his book, Prospects of Cornwall: The original Padstow hobby horse seems to have been quite small, a relative of the little Morris hobbies that attend or attended many folk customs. Morris dances and customs have their fertility associations, and Padstow's May Day and horse mask certainly have theirs; the event must go back to the Celtic summer festival of Beltaine and probably before that, to the Bronze or Neolithic Age. The greenery brought into the town, the symbolic mating with young women abducted under the skirts of the Oss, and many lines in the age-old song, all create an atmosphere of procreation and rebirth." END All of the above pre-dates 1066, I'll try to dig out documentation and get back to you.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: DMcG
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 12:44 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I'm not hung up on 1006 as a date, by the way, merely that that was a time around which lots of documentation of various kinds was produced.   What I'm looking for is evidence of the Obby Oss existing in Padstow at various dates, by which I mean documents produced at that time (I believe the jargon is primary historical sources.) I understand that St Petroc founded a monastery in the 6th century. I would be surprised if there was a pagan celebration happening every year on his front doorstep without some reference to it in the monastery records for example, so there should be something quite specific about it in the record.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Tradsinger
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 01:16 PM

Alexander says "Historians tell us that the Padstow Obby Oss definitely pre-dates Christianity." What historians and what is their rationale? Whilst the event seems old, there is no actual evidence of the Obby Oss in Padstow before about 1830. There are references to Cornish Hobby Horses going back to the early 16th Century in the old Cornish drama Bewnans Meriasek (The Life of Meriase) written in 1502, but nothing earlier so far as I know.

I am posting this not to knock the event - I have been to Padstow many times and it is a fantastic day, but merely to refute the tendency and belief that just because something looks very old, then it is very old. It is possible that the event is less than 200 years old, unless anyone can prove otherwise.

Oss oss

Gwilym


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 01:29 PM

Paging DMcG again. It's nice to encounter somebody who knows something about St. Petroc. You are quite correct St. Petroc did found a monastery in Padstow in the Sixth Century. Unfortunately, this first monastic settlement was burned by the Vikings in 981. All local monastic records were destroyed at that time. This Viking raid is recorded in the monastic records of the Bodmin monastery. This is a great loss, because the only people maintaining accurate historical records back then were monks.    There's a local legend that the Obby Oss was used by the women of Padstow (the men being out at sea fishing) to frighten away a Viking raider. The legend states that they danced down to the beach and the Vikings fled fearing a monster. Legends change of course, and another version has the French fleeing in terror. Frankly, I have been sorely tempted to start another legend claiming that the Padstow Obby Oss frightened away the Spanish Armada.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM

Paging Gwilym: I completely understand the point you are making. This is an interesting challenge, and I'll attempt to prove the antiquity of the Obby Oss. Frankly, I doubt that I will succeed for all the reasons stated previously. For myself, I'm confident that it's a Pre-Christian celebration, because it's clearly a fertility rite with sexual connotations, something severely suppressed by Puritanical Christians, who decried even the Helston Furry Dance as, "A sort of barbarous carnival..even the "genteel" residents allow themselves to be infected with the general madness." For myself, I state, Long Live Such Barbarous Carnivals!!!

Oss oss wee oss!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 02:51 PM

"Systematic research into its history was carried out by E.C.Cawte and Roy Judge two of the Society's [Folklore Society that is] new breed of rigorous archival scholars. The former revealed that the oldest known record dates from 1803 when the horse consisted of a stallion's skin and the man inside splashed water over the crowds from the town's pools..............all previous descriptions of the county are barren of references to it including some like that of Richard Carew that paid particular attention to its [Cornwall's] customs".

Richard Hutton - Stations of the Sun, A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.

At the moment without further evidence I am inclined to go along this road. Much of the "relic of a pre-christian era" view is derived from books such as the "Golden Bough", fanciful but not academically rigorous. When scholars take a closer look much of this is found to be less than accurate.

Now that should get a debate going.

I'll get me coat.

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 02:56 PM

Folkiedave? William Shakespeare 1564 - 1616 once lamented, "For O, for O, the hobby horse is forgot." Wouldn't this suggest that hobby horses were around prior to 1616 and almost completely forgotten by then? The Cornish historian Thurston Peter claimed Pagan origins of this celebration.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 03:38 PM

Let me make it clear I am quoting. My opinion would tend to go along with it.

There is no question that Hutton is suggesting hobby horses did not exist just that there is no record of the Padstow one.

As far as Peter Thurston is concerned when was he writing, and what evidence did he quote?

Best regards,

Dave


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 03:45 PM

Sorry, Thurston Peter......apologies.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Little Robyn without a cookie
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 04:04 PM

According to Donald Rawe, Thurstan Peter gave an address to the Royal Institution of Cornwall at Truro in 1913. He said,
"I believe the (Padstow) Hobby Horse and the (Helston) Furry dance alike to be ancient pagan festivals of revival and of fruitfulness....."
Rawe also mentions that "a hobby Horse custom existed in 18th and 19th Century West Cornwall. The creature was known as the Penglas" which seems to be similar to the Mari Llwyd in Wales.
He also says "The earliest written reference to a hobby horse is actually in the old Cornish drama Bewnans Meriasek (The Life of Meriasek) written in 1502. This at least points to the conclusion that hobby horsing was general in Cornwall at the time."
Oss Oss
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 04:59 PM

Thanks for your assist Robyn. Donald Rawe was my brother's closest friend and he lived very close to our home on Dennis Road, Padstow. "Be you a Cornish maid then Robyn?" "You'm surely not an emmit like these others 'ere be you?" Padstow's Darkie Days celebration certainly took a bashing here. However, judging by the number of photographs showing "Padsta" maids as Teasers, the feminist movement appears to have won their battle. It would have been unthinkable for a young female to be a Teaser in my day. They always ran screaming in fear of the Oss. Frankly, I'm not sure what this proves. That females today are more secure in their birth control techniques? Possibly that females today aren't afraid of being trapped underneath the skirts of the Oss? Because, "They'm totally shameless!!"


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 05:11 PM

Thurstan Peter gave an address to the Royal Institution of Cornwall at Truro in 1913. He said,
"I believe the (Padstow) Hobby Horse and the (Helston) Furry dance alike to be ancient pagan festivals of revival and of fruitfulness....."

This was of course at the height of the time when such beliefs were common-place. I am not criticising such views which were of their time.

However there was no evidence then, and I suggest there is none now for such an assertion. Just because someone says it it so does not make it so. And he clearly "believed" it to be so, not that it was so.

Hobby horses in Cornwall in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is hardly supportive of the idea that this is a Pre-Christian festival.

However I am not dogmatic about this and I am happy to agree with any primary evidence prior to the date that E.C. Cawte mentions.

Best regards,


Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 05:47 PM

I am currently following up on two possibilities. The first is that Padstow's Obby Oss was created by Walter Elias Disney in 1929. The second is that Padstow's Obby Oss was invented by Rick Stein the famous TV seafood chef in order to promote the opening of his new restaurant in that town. Frankly, I'm leaning towards the second possibility, because Disney Studios would have sued the crap of out Padstow years ago. Padstow's Town Council will be meeting later this year to debate the possibility of re-naming Padstow - Padstein, and also re-naming the Obby Oss - the Rickie Oss.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: DMcG
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 02:08 AM

Ah, but the fact Thurstan Peters gave a talk about the 'Obby 'Oss in in 1913 proves it existed in 1913, so we can rule out both Disney (in 1929)and Rick Stein!

You said that the Puritans decried the Helston dances. I presume you mean they explicitly mentioned Helston, rather than decrying dancing in general. That raises the question of whether they mentioned Padstow. If so, proves the celebrations is that old. If not, it doesn't prove anything but does give some indication the Oss might not be as old as the English Civil War.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Little Robyn
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 03:45 AM

I know it's been going since time immoral!
Now, if you can put a date on that.....
Hi Alexander. I'm actually a Kiwi but my Gr,gr,gr,grandad is up in the churchyard. In fact, he carved many of the headstones there and signed his work as well. Have a look for anything with PT at the bottom right, or P Trescowthick. Or you'll find him and his family not far from the door, on the side that goes to Church Lane. He died in 1872 and I was in Padstow in 1972, for his 100th anniversary.
Are you still in Dennis Road? My friends, Alan and Enid are at Tremorva, also in Dennis Road and they usually telephone me as the Blue Oss goes past. But last year the route was changed and the Oss turned off before their house. Do you know what's going to happen this year? If the Oss goes past number 46, and if you're there at the time, you might be able to say 'Oss Oss' to me in person. We usually hear from 'Our Barry' who is a distant kinsman of mine.
Oss Oss,
Keep 'er gain',
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 03:52 AM

I think the whole event is offensive to horses and should be banned.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 07:54 AM

Robyn? I have another Kiwi friend who's called Robyn on the SayWhatClub. You're a different Kiwi obviously. I was born and raised in Padstow, but I reside in Redmond, Washington State, USA now. If you're a relative of Barry Kinsmen perhaps you should know that I was a classmate of his in Padstow Primary School. Have you read his book, Good Fellowship of Padstow which clearly describes this era? I'm one of the older children (2 years) one of those who he kindly describes thus, "Although I was a gentle, and rather timid child I was never bullied by the older children who were often quite protective towards me when they played cricket with me,. Padstow was a tough community, but underneath the aggressive exterior there was a greawt deal of care and kindness." Hey? The Shambles?? Are you still a Dutchman??? (big grin)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 08:05 AM

Robyn? It's too early in the morning, I thought you were talking about Barry Kinsmen and you're talking about Barry who's your kinsmen. Sorry about that, I should have a cuppa tea before I write anything. I was born in Alexandra House, 30 Dennis Road, Padstow. My brother still lives in Padstow on Moyle Road. My sister owns a flat at the far end of the Quay in what was known as Brabwyns Yard when I was a child. To get to it you have to pass underneath the flats in the building that used to be an Ice Factory back then. Perhaps we should take this exchange out of this arena? You're a guest, does that mean I can't send messages to you directly here? If so, feel free to contact me as lodenek@comcast.net Anybody still doubt that I'm a Padstonian?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 09:28 AM

Hello Alexander!

As a real outsider, may I respectfully ask the meaning of "Obby Oss"?

Is this the origin of the phrase "Hobby horse?"

Also are the "Oss Oss" calls that various posters have ended their comments with in this thread traditionally used as with farewell statements or are they otherwise related to this Obby Oss custom?

Thank you for any information,

Ms. Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 11:55 AM

When I was lucky enough to entertain some of the Padstow Carol Singers in Sheffield in 2000 I seem to remember that it was called Padstein even then.

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Tradsinger
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 12:58 PM

Azizi asks about the phrase 'Oss 'Oss. This is shouted from time to time during the day in the Obby Oss processions. One person shouts "Oss oss" and everyone shouts back "Wee oss". Why and what does it mean? Haven't a clue, but it's what they do in Padstow on May Day.

Oss Oss

Gwilym


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 01:11 PM

Gwilym,

Thanks for that information. So this is a call & response tradition?! Interesting!!

I was guessing that someone would say that 'oss' mean 'hoss' {horse}and 'wee oss' mean 'little horse' or alternatively that 'wee' was 'Whee!, a call of some indeterminate meaning that signifies pleasure..

But I guess that's too simplistic...

????


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 01:51 PM

When you do something and you have forgotten why you do it it's a tradition!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 01:56 PM

So nobody has ever asked WHY they say these phrases?

Nobody has a clue??

Maybe asking all these questions spoils the fun.

Excuse me. I was just curious. I mean no disrespect.


Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 04:09 PM

Azizi, you are correct - an Oss is a horse but said with a Cornish accent. And the Wee just means little. Obby is Hobby.
Saying Oss Oss to someone is a form of greeting - it can mean 'Hello' or 'Goodbye', 'How are you', 'Good luck', 'Cheers' or even 'Have a nice Mayday'! It's a very versatile phrase but it's also an 'in-crowd' password - only those people that know about Padstow will use it. In NZ we have personalized number plates available for cars and my little blue van has WEE OSS. I'm still waiting for someone to come up to me on the street and say Oss Oss! It hasn't happened yet and I've had that plate almost 10 years.
Alexander, I was talking about your Barry and I have a copy of his book. Years ago we discovered he had Henwoods in his family tree and my Henwoods were the ones who came to NZ 150 years back. We haven't actually found a link, apart from the name, but I like to think he's one of my kinsmen. I stayed in Padstow in 1972 and again in 1990 (it's a long way from NZ) and the locals always accepted me as one of their own.
I somehow lost my cookie temporarily because I'm not usually a guest - I have a page here and some photos you can visit if you're interested and I've contributed to some of the Padstow threads above over the years.
Oss Oss,
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 05:03 PM

It seems to me that some things have survived and we call them living traditions. Like songs and dances, these strange rites should be supported because they can be a bit magic.

They are actually 'living' - they have survived and changed as living things do. The challenge is to save what is best whilst keeping the tradition alive.

In this context we can look again at black faced dances which, lets be honest, some of us, some black and some white, feel uncomfortable. Not because they suggest some racist past, but because we live in a racist present.

The Brittania Coconut Dancers are a living tradition and a piece of magic. Would they be any less living or any less magic if they coloured their faces blue, green or red? I think not.

Back to the Oss. Another amazing peice of magic. When people seek to believe they have a choice scholarship or relgion. Scolarship demands evidence, religion demands faith and people can decide to believe what the like. The study of the English tradition in its broadest sense, has been heading from a psedo-religious understanding where people said all kinds of things to a scholarly understanding wher the evidence is slight.

But, we a saved by great songs,tunes, dances and magic rites.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: breezy
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 05:27 PM

Oss oss wee oss is a rallying call

bit like.....

and wait for it

oggy oggy oggy........






in your own time

will it be in seconds?
minutes?
hours ?,

days?

even longer


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 06:14 PM

Robyn? I know the Padstow Henwood family very well. What a small world we live in! Barry Kinsmen was almost our school mascot. Somebody very small, gentle, mild and precious to us all. We were all very protective to him and anybody who threatened Barry (even verbally) was put in his place severely. I love his book because he recalls all of my own early experiences so clearly. For example, putting up our hands and asking, "Please Sir...Might I go to the office?" meaning the outdoor freezing cold unheated toilet. Precious memories....
Alex(ander) Ainscough


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 06:16 PM

The Padstow Carols are another interesting thing about my hometown. How many places have their own unique Christmas Carols? This is a wonderful tradition to maintain.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 06:23 PM

Azizi? I was fascinated to learn that Wee Oss means Small Oss. I always suspected that it had something to do with urination. LOL That's just the way my juvenile mind worked I suppose. I also thought that Hospital had something to with the Oss piddling. ROTFL


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 07:08 PM

That's funny Alexander, and like you say very typical of the connections children make to words and their everyday experiences.

As to the blackening up tradition:
No comment beyond "Been there. Done that". {meaning that I've commented at length on that other thread and I don't need to go down that road again}.


Peace,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 11:48 PM

Another early childhood word association was my brother's who's old enough to remember World War II. He thought Germans were Germ Men. That's because our Mom was always worried about germs infecting us, and he thought the ultimate scary thing would be germs as big as men. The thought that Britain was at war with Germ Men made complete sense to him. The germs even killed one of his playmates. He was playing in the Padstow school yard, fell down and grazed his knee, and died of tetenus which we called lock jaw back then.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 09:59 AM

Somewhere or other I have a photocopy of an Elizabethan painting showing some mummers, one of whom is wearing a horse costume. The painting shows the mummers with a Tudor palace in the background.

Now, if I could only remember the name of the palace (or where I left the photocopy) someone might know if mummers are still in the area. However this would not prove they have existed in an unbroken lines since the painter took up his brush.

sandra


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: breezy
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 10:19 AM

days then


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 10:26 AM

Isn't that the famous one besides the Thames at Staines. Four dancers in a line, a hobby horse, a Maid Marion and a collector?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 12:51 PM

In answer to Alexander's question about carols probably the most famous "local" carols are those found in Sheffield and North Derbyshire. Type "Village Carols" into Google.

Other similar traditions as well as Padstow, can be found in Odcombe (Somerset), Netherton (Nr. Wakefield) Beeston (Notts) and a number of other places have one or two carols.

Interestingly they have also survived in Glenrock, Pennsylvania USA. See:
www.glenrockcarolers.org . These were taken over from the Manchester area in 1848.

Cornish Miners'Choirs also survive on the West Coast of the USA where carols are certainly in their repertoire. A simple internet search will find those for you.

Best regards,

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 03:38 PM

Alexander and Folkiedave... I live in Rillaton and have come down to sing the carols for over 25 years. I was one of those who went to Sheffield in 2000 and had the privilege of singing them there. Christmas isn't christmas until I have sung the carols. I'll see you on the corner opposite the Golden Lion at 10.35 on May 2nd... perhaps we can have a pint or two.
Oss Oss


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: BB
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 04:13 PM

Someone overheard on Mayday in Padstow: 'What are they saying?' 'Oss, oss, we're off!'

In Combe Martin in North Devon where the Hobby Horse ceremony 'The Hunting of the Earl of Rone' was revived some thirty years ago, an attempt has been made not to call the Hobby Horse an 'oss, without success! People will insist on using the term, and there's nothing can be done about it!

As to pagan origins, Folkiedave's right, there is no evidence, and pagan origins of most folk customs are generally not believed by most of today's scholarly folklorists. And when it comes down to it, the participants generally don't give a damn about origins, although they may quote the pagan bit to keep outsiders happy when they enquire, because that's what is expected; what matters is how they feel about it NOW, the fact that they're having a bloody good time, and that it should continue from the past into the future.

Oss oss - not long now!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 04:38 PM

Thanks Folkiedave for the information on other carol sources. I'm off to look them up. Barbara? I'm going to adopt the same attitude, who cares how old the Oss is, I love it anyway. By the way the Cornish no longer call outsiders emmits, they call them piles. I asked one old Padstow man why, and he replied, "Cos they 'ang around in bunches, turn bright bloody red (sunburn) and they'm a pain in the arse!!" Trust the Cornish to bite the tourist hand that feeds them, huh? LOL General comment: What do others know about the Night Singing early on May Day in Padstow? This is the most touching Padstow tradition in my opinion. Cats: I'll be with you at the Golden Lion in spirit. Tell the Lorraine and Alex Rickard to pull you a pint or two or three and put them on my account. This thread is making me sooo homesick!!! Oss Oss!! WEE OSS!!!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Alexander
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 04:43 PM

Cats: If my credit's no longer any good with Lorraine and Alex Rickard at the Golden Lion, try asking if my brother Jim Ainscough is around and if so, tell him to buy the drinks. That will piss the old bastard off!! LOL


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 07:20 PM

I'm going to adopt the same attitude, who cares how old the Oss is, I love it anyway.

Hear!! hear!!.

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: MuddleC
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 11:59 PM

oi - oi- oi !



-oggy




(wait for moon to revolve around earth again ......)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: LadyJean
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 01:43 AM

There's a hobby horse in Salisbury too. I remember him and the Salisbury giant in their folklore museum. Or was he a victorian invention?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 05:13 AM

Not a 19th century invention at all.

Thre is some information about St. Christopher and Hob Nob, here:

http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getfaq.php?id=273

and since a misunderstanding seems to have grown up let me stop it now. I am not denying the existence of hobby horses prior to the 19th Century, nor do I believe all folklore is a Victorian invention.

I do believe that each custom needs to be properly researched and investigated and merely re-iterating what other people have declared to be true is not evidence. I am happy to share my own knowledge - such as it is.

Let me quote another example. The Ancient Fire Ceremony that takes place at Allendale in Northumberland and the eve of New Year had a number of pre-christian connotations. It was even described (and some still describe it) as a remnant of a Baal Fire Ceremony - itself a contradiction in terms.

Shame when folkorist Venetia Newall pointed out that its origins were actually recorded at the time in the Hexham Courant of 1858 thus dating its beginning rather more accurately.

Best regards,

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: BB
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 02:24 PM

Night-singing?   Magical - the sound of unaccompanied voices rising up at midnight! Great if you're outside the Golden Lion, but wonderful too if you're above it in the town, and hear it drifting up. Makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up just thinking about it!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 02:29 PM

Night singing has always been the very best bit for me and always makes me cry without fail. It's the waiting in total silence and the single voice calling Unite Unite...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 03:03 PM

'I'm going to adopt the same attitude, who cares how old the Oss is, I love it anyway.

Hear!! hear!!.

Dave Eyre'

Me too Dave.

But as for the living tradition ............. Who gets burned on the Lewes Bonfire?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 04:26 PM

thank you 'muddle c'

thank goodness, I was beginning to worry

see you on the harbour for your prize.

I'll have a Chris Cross guitar.


but if its raining, the London Inn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Moses
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 08:12 AM

Is that you, Breezy, above with the Chris Cross Guitar?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Jacob B
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 05:48 PM

As an American who has never had the good fortune to visit Padstow, I'd appreciate it if any of the experts in this thread could shed some light on the meaning of the song I know as The Padstow Mayers Song. As I know it, the verse goes:

Oh where is Saint George
Oh where is he now
He's out in his longboat
All on the salt sea oh
Up flies the kite
Down falls the lark, oh
Aunt Ursula Birdwood, she had an old yow
And it died in its own park, oh

Is that correct? What does it mean?

Jacob


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 06:09 PM

See that list of links to past discussions? Well...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Grace
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 09:43 AM

Yes that verse is correct.a few errors....ewe not yow and she died in her own park oh. also... oh where is he oh.Grace Trevan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 12:15 PM

St Georges colours are red and white which are also the colours of the celtic sun god. Ursula Broadwood was, supposedly, the woman who brought out the Oss onto Stepper Point and danced with it there when there was about to be an invasion, French I think, but I'm not sure. When they saw this apparition on Stepper, they turned their boats and fled, thus ending what was to have been the last invasion of England.

See you may day


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 03:55 PM

Cats, I believe the Birdhoods had land up toward Crugmeer or Tregirls. Would that make sense of the Park-O bit?
MuddleC - OI!
and Oss Oss,
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST
Date: 06 May 05 - 01:41 PM

just tolet u know padstows obby oss isan ancient festival apperently they used the obby ossto frighten away foreign boats from the harbour


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: BB
Date: 11 May 05 - 06:11 AM

It felt a little strange this year with a change of MC for the Old Oss Party, and Nigel Rowe gone, but a good one nevertheless. It wasn't as crowded as some years - I think many people may have thought it was on the Sunday - Padstow was heaving that day!

Interesting to note that all Ricky Stein's businesses were closed for the day, although I assume the hotels were still open! Whether that was him being altruistic or pragmatic remains to ponder.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 11 May 05 - 08:02 AM

I know it's two counties away, but is the Minehead Hobby Horse still extant and how far does that tradition go back ?

I can always remember a British Railways map of South England which gave snippets of information about lots of places, referring to it's existence. That would have been in the 1950s.

At one time the members (I think there were 3 people inside it) used to turn at Sidmouth.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: manitas_at_work
Date: 11 May 05 - 08:23 AM

I'm sure the Sailor's Oss was at Sidmouth last year. Certainly a group from Padstow.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: BB
Date: 12 May 05 - 03:28 PM

Certainly Minehead Hobby Horse is still going - but I don't think you'd get more than one in the Horse at a time! A few years ago there were at least three horses there, and there is much debate, I believe, about which is the 'traditional' one. I also believe there are only a few involved who actually live in Minehead, although, to be fair, back in the '60s, there were a number of accordion/melodeon players playing for the Old Oss in Padstow who weren't from there. They were called in by the Old Oss Party because there were so few Padstonians playing - a situation that, thankfully, has changed completely.

Minehead's celebrations go on for three days from 1st - 3rd May.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 12 May 05 - 04:08 PM

There might have been some folkies from Padstow at Sidmouth last year, but the Oss most definitley wasn't. I think the Minehead Oss was though.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 13 May 05 - 04:19 AM

Sorry, I did mean Minehead.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,teaser
Date: 13 May 05 - 04:19 PM

Aziz
Sorry i'm a bit late entering this conversation but i've only just sobered up from Padstow. But I fear you have been sold a Bum Steer (if you pardon the pun)
I was always lead to believe that the OSS! OSS! WEE OSS! call was nothing to do with a small horse or inciting the OSS to urinate, but a calling tradition It is considered lucky to be visited by the OSS. and indeed you can observe many of the locals and some visitors alike deliberatley going out of thier way to touch the OSS. So the call is used firstly OSS OSS to attract the OSS's attention followed by the cry WEE OSS! this is so because the Cornish people instead of sayin US say WE so the cry is calling the OSS to come to US. OSS OSS US OSS (in English)but dos'nt sound so good
PS. Excellent Night Singing this year Mew verses not heard before and no hanging around drinking. Shame about Seans happy b/day though
We'll call once more unto your house.... OSS OSS


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Torctgyd
Date: 16 May 05 - 01:07 PM

oi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 16 May 05 - 11:32 PM

OSS! OSS! WEE OSS! means {come to} us horse! instead of small tiny horse?

Are you teasing, Teaser?

If you pardon the mixed metaphor, your story sounds fishy to me.

{smile}

****
BTW, I'd never heard about about this custom before coming to Mudcat. I appreciate those who have posted information about it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 16 May 05 - 11:39 PM

and I never thought that OSS! OSS! WEE OSS! had anything to do with inciting the horse to urinate.

LOL!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Teaser
Date: 17 May 05 - 06:13 PM

Azizi
I am not codding you on or even taking the pi~~ when I told you my understanding of the OSS! OSS! WEE OSS! call.
I have been attending the 1st.May at Padstow for the last thirty years at least and as yet have not come accross a more valid explanation but (and there's always a but). I am only an emmet from the Midlands, so what do I know? If there are any Padstonians out there who can verfy my theory or can tell me what they believe to be the true reason I along with Azizi would be only to pleased to know.

Azizi, I do not know where you dwell in this wide world, but if you have even half a chance of getting to Padstow on May Day GET THERE!!
OSS! OSS!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 06:47 PM

Teaser,
Sorry. Your name led me to believe you were kidding about that explanation.

And thanks for the invite.

I assume you are saying that I should try to experience subsequent May Day celebrations since this was has already come and gone, right?

At this moment in time, I live in Pennsylvania {Pittsburgh to be exact-best known for its Steelers football time and Pirates baseball team}. It therefore is very unlikely that I would ever journey to Padstow.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Life is always full of possiblilites.




Ms. Azizi


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 17 May 05 - 06:52 PM

Sorry, I meant 'Steelers football team' instead of 'football time', but I guess that word works too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 18 May 05 - 03:06 AM

OK, Teaser, since you admit to being an emmett, I thought we should check Donald Rawe's book on the subject:

Many strangers to the town are mystified by the Mayers' cry 'Oss-Oss!' and the thunderous response from Padstonians of 'Wee Oss!' This 'war cry' seems to be a relic of Morris rather than of Padstow itself. Baring Gould quotes the dramatist John Fletcher (1579-1625) who in his play 'Women Pleased' wrote this speech for a Puritan character:
This beast of Babylon (the Hobby-horse) I'll ne'er back again,
His pace is sure prophane, and his lewd Wi-hees!'
The similarity between 'Wi-hees' and Wee Oss suggests that these are in fact two versions of the same cry.
Violet Alford (Folklore, 1939) interpreted it as meaning 'Come to us, Oss'.
Baring Gould (1889) reports 'Wee Oss! Follow my Hoss!' uttered in a peculiar tone.
Miss BC Spooner held 'Wee Oss' to be an equine imitatory whinny to encourage the Oss, and quoted an old Padstow woman as saying, 'He's pretty wheeing'.
But, comparing Fletcher's speech with Padstow practice, it seems certain that it was originally a cry to encourage the Oss to capture and mate symbolically with the woman he was pursuing.
Thurstan Peter says that 'O Wee Oss' was shouted in 1913 by everyone when the Oss pursued some 'victim'.
Miss Alford, in 1968 recorded that Swiss carnival hobbies recited poems and ended them with 'Whee-hee' and declares that traditionally, and as recorded by 'our Elizabethan dramatists' this should be answered by the female 'Ti-hee'.
The derivatation of 'Wee Oss' therefore appears to be from the horse-whinny.

So there, take your pick!
Oss Oss,
Wee Oss!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: breezy
Date: 18 May 05 - 11:54 AM

The Teazer is the person who also leads and dances in front of the Oss


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 18 May 05 - 03:36 PM

And emmetts are ants - or tourists!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: GUEST,Teaser
Date: 18 May 05 - 07:33 PM

Excellent and intriguing research Robyn. I thought I'd got this one sorted but as you point out so aptly there can be many and varied theories on this subject. I Guess this is what makes this custom so special and unique. I for one are more than greatful to be able to play a small part (if only in a supportive role) in such a tremendous living tradition .
Any more information greatfully recieved.

OSS! OSS!
WI-HEE OSS!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 09 - 03:31 PM

I happened to pick up a historical romantic novel from a used book store that includes a chapter about visiting Padstow and experiencing the May Day celebration. The novel is Amarantha by Melanie Jackson (New York, Dorchester Publishing Co; Leisure Books Edition, 2001).

I'm interested in what Mudcatters might make of these excerpts.

Here's the first one:

..."The Obby Oss is really more than a horse. A sea horse if that makes sense, though I do not understand why your uncle thinks of it as a Trojan Horse survival. As for the connection of the village to the sea, Padstow is a coastal town. The sea represents many things to the people who live there. It is their livelihood, the place where they see miraculous rebirth-and a place where some go to exile and even death. It is everything to them.

"Rebirth? From the sea? You surely do not mean like Jonah from the whale?"

"Yes, in a sense. He smiled. "For the farmer who lives inland, the Beltane fire is about renewing the land. But in Padstow, they must renew the sea as well. They do not sacrifice to an earth mother, but rather to the waters of the ocean that feeds them-hence the virgins given to the sea monster."

"Why a virgin girl, though? It seems so unfair. Why not a boy? Or a warrior? Or someone old and wise? Any of these would be a sacrifice."

"Because a virgin woman is a thing most precious and rare-and the most desired of the gods of renaissance. Only women can create life. Fair or not, that is the way of it. And the beast must be fed".

pp 122-123

-snip-

The book specifies no date for its actions but the former fiance of the main character, Amarantha, leaves her to join the Jacobite cause-so I suppose a date for that time can be determined.

I'll quote more of this book in my next post to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 May 09 - 03:49 PM

Padstow 2009:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCHvQzarkTE


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 09 - 04:05 PM

Here are more excerpts from the Melanie Jackson's novel Amarantha:

After this discussion between the young, handsome, mysterious Rector (the first person quoted) and Amarantha (the second voice quoted) , the actual scene with the Padstow villagers and the Obby Oss is given as such:

"Hmm... I hear drums" she said, prudently changing the subject. "Or is that thunder? Or perhaps the sea? I can smell it now.:

"Yes, there are drums. There will be a great deal of music today-flutes, whistles, fiddles and bodhrans. But above all, there will bedrums." Tamlane listened for a moment. I know this song. It is an ancient Kernow verse."

"What is it about? It seems a bit frantic."

"It is. Oddly enough, though, it is a love song." ...

Gold will fade. Silver will fade,
And velvets and silks, too.
Every known cloth will fade,
But not so my longing.

The sun will rise. The moon will rise.
The sea will rise up, too.
Winds will rise, and grass will rise,
But not the heart that's longing.

pp 124-125

-snip-

Amarantha and Tamlane arrive at the village and soon get separated in the midst of the crowd.

""Amarantha would have liked to know more about the dancers in the procession-the Teazers, her uncle had called them-but there was no chance to talk for the percussive beat of dancing feet and pounded drums filled the air and made the very earth beneath them seem to tremble with the blows.

Suddenly, the mob about them cheered and then began to sing, adding their voices to the musical din.

"What are we going to do?" the women asked?
And the men replied: Kill a little fish."
"How will you take it home?" the ladies cried.
In my belly!"
How wilyou eat it then?"
With my teeth and hands!

The mob surged swifty and renewed its wild cheering, waving long sticks in the air. Amarantha was pushed away from Tamane's side by a band of women..

"Stop! she commanded.Amarantha turned her head all about, but the masked and cloaked revelers were too close to permit her any view of her guardian...

The music changed, grew hypnotic and deafening. The mob began to chant.

Earth and water and fire and air-
Wind and flame and sea and stone-
Bold and blackthe Obby Oss comes!


Other young girls decked as sacrifices with wreathes of bluebells and hazel twigs. were herded into the street and ringed with chanting dancers. They were giggling so Amarantha assured herself that there was no need to be alarmed,but the rabble of grotesque masks and caped bodies was drawing tighter and tighter, threatening them with pointy sticks, and the shrieking voices were all but piercing her ears...

The Obby Oss comes!...The Obby Oss has come! Choose! Choose!

Something dark blotted out the sun. Amarantha spun around and was confronted by a midnight back monster... She had one moment to take in the fact that the beast looked a bit like Uncle Cyril's drawing of the horse god Epona and then the creature reared back and she was engulfed in its tattered, smothering skirts and a tangle of legs.

pp 127-129

-snip-

The story continues with Amarantha finally finding a way out of the "creature's bunting". She is reunited with the Rector Tamlane and tells him of her encounter with the Obby Oss. Tamlane said that because she was chosen by the Obby Oss "Legend says you shall have a child before the next Beltane".

And that's the end of that books account of the Padstow celebration.

I am respectfully sincerely interested in any opinions about these excerpts. Were they historically accurate?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 May 09 - 05:28 PM

Were they historically accurate?

I think a happy trawl through the various YouTube films from Padstow will answer that one, Azizi!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 09 - 05:49 PM

I viewed three of those videos from the link you provided today. Thanks.

I did note the black caped Obby Oss in the one YouTube video which was very much like the description in the book. And I also noted that there were snare drums and lots of accordions in those videos, but I didn't see or hear any flutes, fiddles, and whistles, and bodhrans-nor did I see any women wearing bluebell flowers and hazel twigs or men holding long pointy sticks (which I presume are phallic symbols). Furthermore, I didn't see any "grotesque masks and men wearing capes" that were mentioned in that novel. But this might mean that the celebrations had changed in details over time.

While that is interesting, what I'm most interested is information about the meaning of the rituals which probably can't be found by viewing videos unless that information is written in the video summary or readers write about it in their comments.

Prior to reading that chapter in that novel, for instance, I never thought of Obby Oss as a sea horse, and I didn't think about the celebration as having anything to do with the sea.

I know that I have expressed my opposition to the blackening up custom-which I didn't see in those videos by the way, but I shared those excerpts, and am asking those questions out of genuine interest-admittedly as an outsider- in how traditional customs continue and change, and what those customs mean to those who maintain them.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 27 May 09 - 04:16 AM

There is no blacking up in May Day in Padstow. The tradition of being taken under thre Oss skirts is alive and well and is standing next to me. My neice was taken under the Old Oss skirts and within the year she was married and on My 1st the following year my great nephew was born. He does not yet know how very special he is but will when he goes to Padstow next year to spend his birthday there.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 09 - 07:29 AM

Thanks for that response, Cats.

Another Mudcatter sent me a pm saying that the book's author may have seen a picture of Obby Oss, but little else in that book's passage was true to past and present customs. For instance, that Mudcatter noted that whistles, flutes and bodhrans are characteristic of Irish music and never had anything to do with the Obby Oss custom and besides, the musical instruments called bodhrans aren't even 100 years old, so they wouldn't have existed in the Jacobite period.

Also, that Mudcatter informed me that blacking up is or was associated with another Padstow celebration and wasn't ever practiced during May Day Obby Oss celebrations.

I very much appreciated receiving that private message. I'm sharing this information for the public record since other people who know very little about this celebration might happen upon this discussion.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 27 May 09 - 08:10 AM

I find it interesting that the colours of the Padtow "oss" are very similar to the colours used by the Bacup coconut dancers. Is this to do with the availability of colouring agents and pigments for paints in the past?
The Minehead sailors horse (not seen the town horse), in contrast, is predominantly hessian with circles painted on. I have heard it suggested that this is supposed to make it look like a Viking longboat as commonly depicted with shields arranged along the sides (which I'm also told is not correct!).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 27 May 09 - 08:36 AM

Azizi, I think your novel has some very fanciful ideas that are not really based on fact - at least, not in Padstow.
The verses you quote don't ring any bells - the words of the May songs have changed a little over the years but not that much.
The Blue Oss song is here.
You are right about the instruments - maybe 150 years back there was a pipe and tabor playing the music but apart from 1972 and 1990, when I played recorder in the Blue Oss band, mostly the bands have a lot of squeeze boxes of varying sorts and sizes, and lots of loud drums going Boom ba ba boom all day long. There is a huge crowd and anyone trying to play a flute is likely to get their front teeth knocked out. By the end of the day, my recorder had been bumped into so many times, my lips were swollen and blood stained.
Some of the description in your book could relate to the Halanto at Helston on 8 May - the youths with sticks - branches, waving in the air and the girls with garlands in their hair, but it doesn't really sound like Padstow.
"the rabble of grotesque masks and caped bodies was drawing tighter and tighter, threatening them with pointy sticks, and the shrieking voices were all but piercing her ears..."
There's a little about Helston at this site.
There are photos here.
But the story sounds a little sinister - almost as if there's about to be a human sacrifice - 'virgins given to a sea monster' and in both Helston and Padstow, the atmosphere is very open and happy and not at all sinister. Yes, in Padstow there is death and resurrection but it's the Oss that dies, not any of the young girls and in the Halanto there is mock fighting - as St George fights the dragon and when St Michael chases off the fiend, but it's all good wholesome fun.
I think the author has combined a little bit of reality with a lot of imagination in order to make an interesting story.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 09 - 09:20 AM

Thanks, Little Robyn for your response and for your links. Yes, I gathered from the pm I got from another Mudcat and from Cats and your comment that the author of that book was using quite a bit of creative license.

Robyn, your link to the celebration mentioned the Hal-and-Tow. Has there ever been any connection made to Hal and Tow and the American "heel and toe" plantation dance that became famous (maybe I should say "infamous") as the performance of the song "Jim Crow" or is this just a coincidence that those phrases sound the same?

**

Also, [and I ask this with all due respect' is there only one Obby Oss during the Padstow celebration, or could there be more than one man dressed up like Obby Oss?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Cats
Date: 27 May 09 - 09:31 AM

There are 2 'Oss, the red or Old 'Oss and the blue or Peace 'Oss.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Padstow's Obby Oss
From: Little Robyn
Date: 27 May 09 - 03:59 PM

There have been several osses over the years - there was a white one called the Peace Oss, when the soldiers got back from WW1 and there are photos of it somewhere but I think it only lasted the one Mayday. I imagine by the end of the day the white 'skirt' would have been filthy, having been swung around and dragged in the dirt all day.
But there are children's osses too, as well as the two main ones.
When I was there in 1972 the scouts had their own one and there was another even smaller one, about the size for 8-9year-olds.
The Red Oss is also called the Old Oss and is supposed to be the original faction. The Blue Oss was the Temperence Oss (Blue ribbon) but today there's just as much alcohol involved in both sides.
The Halanto has been covered on other threads here and there has been much debate on the meaning of the word. Nobody really knows for sure - maybe there were Cornish settlers who took the song to America in the early days - it's possible, but my experience has been that the early settlers in NZ just left all that stuff behind in the 'old country' and knowledge of it had died out within a generation. My grandmother was a first generation kiwi and she knew nothing about Padstow or Mayday, even tho' her sister, born on Mayday, was named May, and her grandmother, who ended her days living in the same house, was actually born in Padstow. My grandmother was almost 80 when I told her about it.
Jean Ritchie and George Pickow, have a film "Oss Oss Wee Oss", that shows some of the Padstow festivities but I don't know if there is anything similar for Helston (apart from the video we took).
You really need to experience it in person to fully appreciate it.
Robyn


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