Yesterday morning I was sat on the sofa with my laptop feeling nervous about celebrating Yule. Was there any public Yule type festivities I could join in with I wondered? Was there some way I could do something with my non-pagan fiance and step son which they might enjoy and might have deeper meaning for me on Yuletide Eve?
Like a cyber detective I baited google which such words as yule, 2008, cornwall, december, festival, celebration. And what i found was this and you can see some photos here.
I shan't repeat everything from the Montol website here but in short Montol is a festival celebrated on the eve of the winter solstice in the Cornish town of Penzance. Historical sources have been used to revive traditions that almost died through the zeal of the temperance movement, traditions which the town's authorities actively prohibited until World War One. The festival has recently been revived as a traditional but non-religous event with both Christian and Pagan roots acknowledged.
In order to get f (for fiance) to agree to go to this event I played the, 'this is the last chance to do something Christmasy with s (for stepson) before Christmas' card. And off we went (with the promise of me paying for some nice food afterwards as a little healthy bribery). We found a relatively small crowd of people stood outside the hall watching a band wearing masks with people arrayed behind with candle lanterns made of withies and greaseproof paper, many of whom were also wearing masks.
And then the road was closed and procession was off as people and lanterns streamed out of the hall. A second band appeared and the onlookers fell in behind them and we were off! Accompanied by modern classics such as the entertainer, soul man and superstitious reproduced in brass and surrouned by a crows of masked folk wielding flamable paper objects containing flames we promenaded through town and up to the hillfort.
I had never even known that there was a hillfort in Penzance but there we were on a warm, overcast, still night on top of a hill overlooking the whole of Mount's Bay. Our snake had grown as it climbed the hill and other snakes had appeared accompanied by a samba band. Others awaited us at the hill top and our small crowd had grown until it was hundreds strong.
Until this point S, who being a near teen had been vocal in an attempt to mask the fact he was a little uncomfortable, became very very quiet. Why is it the promise of a fire being lit is so fascinating to us all? This fire was no small tame fire on a hearth. A metal cage sat atop a pole and waited filled with food for the little fire wielded by a lady who danced around the circle. It caught quickly and the beacon fire must have been visible for miles. This fire was a wild beast in a cage clawing at the dark of the sky, throwing sparks into the wind...
Following the walk back to our car, it became evident that S had enjoyed it a lot and F had too and might even wear a mask next time! I was left with a deep peaceful feeling and fledgling mask designs floating through my dreams....
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