The month of May is a magical one, something I was reminded of again recently when I read an interview we had with Lisa Knapp (read it here), she was inspired to release an EP dedicated to the month. There are many famous traditions and rituals. One of the most famous is the Obby ‘Oss festival of Padstow in Cornwall begins on May Eve (May Day) with a gathering outside the Golden Lion Inn to sing the “Night Song.” Its origins are unknown although written records mentioning Obby ‘Oss date as far back as 1803. Many believe it to be the remnant of an ancient springtime rite. The following film was made by Alan Lomax, Peter Kennedy and George Pickow.
Padstow, a fishing village on the coast of Cornwall, celebrates May Day with an ancient custom: two osses (hobby-horses) dance through the town streets accompanied by drums and accordions. All Padstownians participate in the event, which has now become a tourist attraction drawing over tens of thousands of annual visitors. Folklorists Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy and filmmaker George Pickow collected footage at the festival in 1951, producing a pioneering work in the use of sound, low-light photography, and conversational presentation of narrative. A favorite of Margaret Mead, who used it in her classes, the film circulated widely and continues to have influence today, especially in the neo-Pagan community.
In 2004, filmmaker John Bishop and folklorist Sabina Magliocco (with Jaynie Ali Aydin and Noah Bishop) returned to Padstow to see how the custom was faring fifty years later. Here’s a clip from Oss Tales:
For the Educators and Curious the film is available on DVD through Media Generation (media-generation.net), a website really worth checking.