Folklore and Customs

Filly Loo

Traditionally held in the village of Ashmore on the Friday evening nearest to Midsummer’s Day.

The festivities begin when Folk and Celidh Band ‘Hambledon Hopstep Band’ begins to play, calling the villagers out to take part in the first dance, led by a Green Man. Dancing continues throughout the evening with Morris Men and other dance groups.

The culmination of the event is the torch-lit procession at dusk with six antlered deer-men and four other colourful costumed characters: a Maid Marion, a bowman, a hobbyhorse and a fool.

The procession and dance is accompanied by a solo melody in a minor key. The procession ends with the torches in the ground around the large village pond and every reveller joins hands for a final dance.

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Pack Monday

The Pack Monday Fair was held on Old Michaelmas Day, 10th October in Sherborne. It started with the arrival of the Teddy Rowe’s Band who paraded the streets making as much noise as possible with tin trays, saucepans, horns, bugles and whistles. Teddy Rowe was the master mason employed in the 15th century to build the great fan vault in the nave of Sherborne Abbey Church. When the work was finished, the workmen packed their tools and paraded in joy around the town (hence ‘Pack Monday’)

Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant is a chalk hill figure near the village of Cerne Abbas. It depicts a large, naked man, with a large erect penis. Its origin and age are unclear. It is often thought of as an ancient construction, though the earliest mention of it dates to the late 17th century. The Cerne Abbas Giant has become an important part of local culture and folklore, often associated with fertility.

Abbotsbury Garland Day

Held on 13 May each year, celebrations have taken place in the village of Abbotsbury since the early 19th century. The custom involves children (origiinally only the children of fishermen) which were blessed in a church service and some were then rowed out to sea and set free in the water. The children would then spend the rest of the day playing on the beach.

From around the time of the First World War, other children started to take part. The village school gave the children a day’s holiday and they would construct two garlands, one of wild flowers and the other of garden flowers. These were fixed to poles and paraded from house to house.Two garlands would be placed on the local war memorial.

Abbotsbury village school closed in 1981 and the children no longer get a day’s holiday. This has led to the celebrations taking place in the evening or on the nearest Saturday.

Dorset Ooser

The Dorset Ooser is a hollow wooden head that featured in the nineteenth-century folk culture of Melbury Osmond. It had a humanoid face with horns, a beard, and a hinged jaw which allowed the mouth to open and close. Its main recorded purpose was as part of a local variant of the charivari custom known as “Skimity Riding” or “Rough Music”, in which it was used to humiliate those who were deemed to have behaved in an immoral manner.

The Ooser went missing around 1897. In 1975 a replica was produced by John Byfleet, which is on display at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. The mask is occasionally removed from the museum for use in local Morris dancing processions held by the Wessex Morris Men on both St. George’s Day and May Day.

Singing Longbarrows

A set of longbarrows – ridges in the hillsides which are very ancient burial sites – extend along the Ridgeway between Weymouth and Dorchester. At certain times they make strange sounds and have been nicknamed the ‘Singing Marys’.

Marching ghosts

An old Roman road runs through Thorncombe Woods near Dorchester. There have been several reports, including one from a policemen, of ghosts of Roman legionnaires marching along the road.

Laurence’s pub

The former Antelope Public House in Dorchester town centre (now no longer there) had a story of a motorcycle figure which would appear by the old fireplace. It was thought to be an apparition of Lawrence of Arabia who used to visit the pub.

Maiden Castle

The hill fort outside Dorchester is a magnet for UFO sightings. It is said that here are a lot of very ancient ley lines that run through the site and it could be that they are attracted to the energies from there.

Dorset Knob Throw

This event has been held since 2008. The Dorset Knob Throwing and Food Festival event in Cattistock involves participants throwing the locally-made, round biscuit (from Moores bakery of Morecombelake) as far as they can. This unique savoury biscuit has been made by the Moores family since 1880.Additional knob attractions include Knob Eating, Knob Painting, a Knob & Spoon Race, Guess the weight of the Big Knob and Knob Darts. The Knob The event is held on the first Sunday in May.

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