Balance: Penzance’s Winter Solstice festival

Penglaz in all her glory. Photo: http://www.cornishwitchcraft.co.uk

This from the Montol 2011 website:

“This Winter Solstice event is 5 years old and involves the revival of recorded traditions in Cornwall but in particular, West Penwith. It originated as an idea to have an event in PZ to ‘balance’ with the Midsummer’s Golowan Festival.

Reflecting the ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’ of the sun, Rivers of Fire are created, lantern-lit processions from different areas of the town, meeting at the highest point, Lescudjack Hillfort, an ancient fortress site. Here, the community gathers to watch The Lord of Misrule light the beacon, fireplay, dancing, drumming and the magical, mischievous Turkey Rhubarb Band. The site is lit by natural light from numerous lanterns and torches, crafted in the previous week at community workshops.

All return to Chapel Street in one ‘River of Fire’ where the guising, music, acrobatics, singing and mayhem begins, masked and dressed in tattered or ‘mock posh’ attire, as recorded in the history books. Later, another band-led torch lit procession begins from the top of Chapel Street, leading to a lower beacon behind the Barbican for community dancing, music and the Chalking of the Mock ceremony.

Visually spectacular, you will not be sorry if you pay a visit to Penzance on this mid winter night. Make a mask, dress up (or down!) and come along!

Montol 2011 Schedule of Events
(as at 14/11/11)

Friday 9th December, 8pm

Montol Fund Raising Ceilidh at the Magpies Football Club. Penzance. Callers and folk group ‘Smash The Window’.  Entry £5

Thursday 15th December. From 7.30pm.

Guising Tour of a Mummer’s Play around the pubs of Penzance.

Saturday 17th December. 10am to 4pm.

Exchange Gallery Penzance. Community Lantern/Mask Making Workshops. FREE!

Sunday 18th December. 7.30pm

St Mary’s Church Penzance. Montol Carol Concert. A rare chance to sing these Cornish Carols and watch a Cornish Candle Dance.

Tuesday 20th December from 8.30pm.

The Pirate Inn. Alverton. Another chance to watch the Guise Mummer’s Play during our regular Folk Night.

Wednesday 21st December. Montol Eve.

6pm.

Rivers of Fire Lantern Procession leaves St John’s Hall Penzance. Other ‘Rivers’ from various areas around the town.

6.30pm.

Lescudjack Hillfort Performance including the Lighting of the Beacon by the Lord of Misrule, fire-play, drumming, dancing and the Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band. Procession returns to Chapel Street.

8pm to 10pm.

Chapel Street Party. Guising, music, plays, fire/circus acts, Cornish dance and festive food stalls.

10pm.

Torchlit Procession led by the Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band from New Street to the car park between PZ Gallery and the Barbican. There, another Beacon will be lit, the ‘Mock’ will be ‘Chalked’ and more dancing will commence!!”

As yet there seems to be no attempt to further ‘de-Pagan’ the event. Last year the local press was full of outrage and horror and two of the people involved in the event – who happened to be witches – were treated abysmally and not allowed to participate. As a result it all felt a bit flat, although the Pagan elements were still very much in evidence. Cast a spell to encourage a bit more open mindedness and respect!

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