Leah Gordon

Invictus: A Hooden Horse of Kent

In British Traditions on December 31, 2010 at 7:16 pm

There are a few of us, slightly cranky folks with cameras who seem to be chasing folk traditions around the country. Doc Rowe is the king of us all! An Italian woman who I have met on a couple of occasions emailed to say that the Mari Lwyd makes an outing on New Years Day and that if I spend New Years Eve in a motel on a trading estate in a remote village in South Wales I could get a chance to see it. It is a horse figure whose head is made from a horse skull. Seductive as that offer may have been I declined perferring the company of friends in Shropshire.

The Mari Lwyd led me to discover the Hooden Horses of Kent, of which there are a veritable harras (yes I have been googling collective nouns for animals). In fact there are a harras of horses in British traditions. In ‘ The English Year’ by Steve Roud he identifies two main types: the tourney horse and the mast horse. Although the scary, sexy, dark and dangerous Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss falls well outside of these typographies. The hobby horse with the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers is a tourney and is characterised my the man appearing to ride the horse. The Hooden Horses of Kent are mast horses which are more primitive and formless, leaving reality low on the list of priorities, and therefore wonderfully disturbing.

© Leah Gordon

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