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Dorset May Day Celebrations

 

Annually on the First Day of May, various inhabitants of Dorset welcome the dawning of Summer by waking before Dawn and greeting the sun at the top of the Cerne Giant.

Wessex Morris Men along with various fools, animals and co-horts ascend the woods under dark skies and this year the moonlight was bright enough to show the way without torchlight.  As the sky lightens, two strong men appear with a barrel of specially brewed ale for the occasion and set it upright.  They’ve hauled it all the way up the hill, having brewed it out in the woods under the watchful eye of local herbalist Eleanor Gallia.  This gift is shared among the Wessex Morris men who then dance up the sun on the site of an ancient maypole situated within the Trundle.

The Wessex Morris have a tradition of bringing out the Ooser for this great occasion.  The Dorset Ooser is a copy of a mythical mask thought once to be common across Dorset, possibly worn as part of a fertility ritual to represent a powerful horned beast.  The last Ooser was lost many years ago and so one of the founder members of Wessex carved a copy of the photograph that was kept in the museum in the 1970’s.  It is incredibly heavy and worn with a great harness by the tallest man in the Morris while the morris men dance around on the maypole site.  The Ooser then descends down the hill into the village to be paraded into the village centre while men and villagers dance and drink.

The copied Ooser was looking a little forlorn at the end of last year having had many outings so it was decided to give him a whole new outfit and as Dorsets biggest fabric shop, Livingstone Textiles was the obvious place to come and hunt for new material.  He now has a new fully lined suedette cloak and a sackcloth apron as well as some new fur on his head and beard and as you can see from the photographs, he looks magnificent.  Read more about hime here and learn more about the real Mayday celebrations around the UK here.  We were lucky enough to have the great story teller Martin Maudsley with us on the day and you can read his spine tingling prose about the event here.

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