So to the second half of the Dark Gathering – the arrival of the Mari Lwyds and the Honouring of the Ancestors. Following a quick and much needed mulled cider it was time to line-up the drummers ready to send the signal to the Procession to commence. This is a part of the proceedings where the general public, if they have the ability, can join in with the tribal drumming.
Also this was the time for Penkevyll to emerge from her stable with her Teazers to call the Mari Lwyds to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic. As anticipated the Teazers led by Laetitia Latham-Jones danced and wove their magic upon the crowd and Penkevyll to the sound of trance-like tribal drumming.
Shortly after 6 pm the Lantern Procession headed off for the Museum led ably by Laura Marshall from Beltane accompanied by many differing characters including the famous Mari Lwyds.
Another new Mari was spotted this year, Mari Diemnt Du. Apparently this Mari has been specially created to appear at the Dark Gathering only. What an honour!
Penkevyll was delighted to greet her bone sisters again who she hadn’t seen for 10 months since her last visit to Wales in January.
She got very excited, bless her! 🙂
After meeting and greeting, Penkevyll with her Teazers disappeared inside the Museum and gradually the Mari Lwyds made their way to the door where they beseeched entry. Thus the Pwnco Ceremony began:
The Welsh verses are responded to in Cornish.
Once successful in their endeavours the Mari Lwyd party entered the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic and began to the bless the premises for another year. They were rewarded with the traditional libations of cake and ale.
Meanwhile outside in the dimpsey (West Country term for twilight) we were treated to a entrancing and salutary tale by two storytellers known as Stone Soup. It was hugely entertaining and required audience participation which it received with gusto.
As the final chants of “Chop, chop, chop! Feed, feed, feed! Bubble, bubble, bubble! Sweep, sweep, sweep!” died away, the night was shattered by three sinister drum beats. Our MC Steve started to explain about a ghostly apparition that could appear in deepest, darkest Dorset when an eerie, unholy rhythm involving drums, fiddle and voice commenced – what on earth was happening…?
High above the performance space red smoke appeared and from within this a vast horned head appeared – the otherworldly denizen had arrived!
Down the slope led incrementally by a gloriously creepy attendant was the Darkest Ooser!
Once the Ooser had toured the edges of the audience, delightfully scaring a few children in the process, it finally came to rest to watch the rest of the evening’s proceedings.
Sadly our usual singer at this point, Sarah Emery was unable to attend this year. However, her place was taken by Annie Douglas from Beltane Border Morris who sang the Traveller’s Prayer. Annie deserves particular praise as not only did she sing well but she did so in spite of an heavy cold and sore throat. What a trouper! Unfortunately I had not been able to obtain either a photo or footage of this until quite recently. Annie can now be heard on the final video of edited highlights at the end of this blog. 🙂
Now the scene had been set, Will Fox stepped forward and called up the spirits by the often not recognised or forgotten method of whistling.
Will offered his invitation to all present to acknowledge and honour the Ancestors, the most emotional and moving part of the event. Then it was straight into the singing of the Ancestor Chant in which most of the drummers took the beat and the words to the audience. Once started it is very difficult to bring things to a halt as you feel you could carry on for hours with that pulsating and compelling chant.
As expected we moved on to the famous Beltane Fire Dance. Each year we chose someone special to get to stand in the middle of this dance and this year the choice fell upon two young men who run an occult shop in New Orleans and travelled all that way just to attend the Dark Gathering. Their names were Jason Fawaz and Arkie Ring and I think it’s safe to say that they were ‘over the moon’ to be picked for this! Judge for yourselves in this photo. 🙂
Now it was time for the all important thanks and the announcement of the Guest Side for next year.
On the night and now as I write this blog I have reason to especially thank some amazing folk who have helped me immeasurably over the year and on the day of the Dark Gathering in particular. Let’s start with the businesses who generously gave us donations:
Boscastle Chamber of Commerce
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Kind permission for performing on their land from National Trust
I especially wish to personally thank Simon Costin and the Museum’s Events Manager (who wishes to remain nameless) for their invaluable help, guidance and assistance through what has been a very fraught year’s planning.
Grateful thanks also to the Performers, in no particular order:
Beltane Border Morris
You were hugely supportive and good humoured throughout.
Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl
Your willingness to help and your generosity was heart-warming – thank you so much.
Boekka and Penkevyll the Land’s End Oss
Bagas an Werin Mari Lwyd
Mari Diemnt Du
Mari Afon Lwyd
Morvargh the Sea Oss
Lisa Schneidau Storyteller
Huginn and Muninn
To all performers – you were fabulous and gave memorable performances – thank you!
Warm thanks to all our volunteers who were worth their weight in gold. 🙂
A special mention to our Pedlar, Michelle Elliot who sold many badges and worked tirelessly in cold and draughty weather. 🙂
Kim Shadowland who performed the vital function of filming live for all those who couldn’t attend for whatever reason. It was invaluable to all those folk up and down the country and around the world who love to watch the Dark Gathering as it happens – it also makes for great archive footage. 🙂
Thanks to Steve Podger who gave his very best despite difficult personal circumstances.
Finally the one person who has witnessed the whole, frustrating at times, process and given solid support and much needed assistance – Laetitia Latham-Jones. Bless you m’dear! 🙂
People thank me for my input but my reward is seeing so many people benefiting and enjoying what has turned out to be a wonderful community event. It’s a real team effort and it’s so uplifting to see people-power and goodwill in action at each Dark Gathering. Long may it continue!
Here’s a few random snapshots of this year’s Gathering:
It was time for the last dance – Haccombe to Death by Beltane Border Morris.
Amidst wild applause Beltane then lined up for a farewell song of Leave her Johnny.
So that was it. We’d made it despite setbacks and wild weather – the old gods were honoured and the Dark Gathering was over for another year.
Next year is going to be very special for a variety of reasons. Firstly the Dark Gathering will fall on Samhain. Secondly it will also be a Full Moon. Thirdly it will be a Blue Moon. Importantly it will be the seventh Dark Gathering which will mean, according to the folk world, it will be officially a Tradition! Yay! 😀
Incidentally it will also be the 60th Anniversary of the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle.
In order to celebrate all this we have decided to have two Guest Sides next year. They will be:
There will be other exciting additions to our line-up which I will share with you next year.
For now I will leave you with this rather wonderful video from William Hedj Breed with highlights from this year’s Dark Gathering. Enjoy!
See you all next year – I’m off for a well earned rest now! 😉