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The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

May Day brings a peculiar spring ritual in Padstow, Cornwall. It begins at midnight on May first, when the villagers erect a May Pole and sing to awaken the Hobby Horse, or 'Obby 'Oss in the local dialect.  

In the morning, the ‘Obby ‘Oss emerges. It consists of a large round platform supporting a black apron. The man who carries the beast puts his head through a whole at the centre of the structure. He wears a mask with a tall pointed cap, a menacing otherworldly image. At one end of the platform is a tail and at the other, a stylized head with snapping jaws. Simpson and Roud have noted that, ‘by no stretch of the imagination does it look like a horse’.

The costume-wearing man cavorts along the streets, accompanied by a ‘teaser’ who leads the ‘Oss in a traditional dance to the sound of accordions and pounding drums as the participants sing the ‘Day Song’.

The tradition has it that any woman caught beneath the apron will be married or pregnant within the next year. There is some speculation that the 'Obby 'Oss is more of a dragon than a horse, which harks back to the possible origins of the ritual. There's more to the Padstow May Day festivities, which you can read about at Folklore Thursday. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: SGBailey)


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