The thing I love about England, and the thing that I can easily forget. Is its total eccentricity. People can get sucked into the belief that to experience the weird and wonderful we’re going to have to involve some airfare and go somewhere wild and exotic. Not so, England is built up on superstitions, pagan rituals, festivals, and all the other things that add to our rich and bizarre tradition but are often overlooked.
Well I find myself back here for a while, I’m living in England, in Stafford in fact and I’m working at a school. I find myself rediscovering through the eyes of the Australian gap students the eccentricity of the English countryside.
Abbots Bromley is a tiny little village with more pubs than shops and seemingly 12 horses for every inhabitant. It could be any small English village. Apart from that each year in the beginning of September for the last 300 years abbots Bromley has held a processional horn dance.
Originally a fertility ritual where a smacking with a pigs bladder was an aid to procreation the festival evolved to be believed to bring luck to the pubs and farms that it visits on its procession. Indeed it does bring luck to the pubs, despite the wet weather the coach and horses was bursting with more people than I had actually ever seen in Abbots Bromley at one time.
For the actual horn dance young men of the area first pick up the horns and take them to be blessed at the church they then do the horn dance all around the surrounding area being given a pint at each pub they pass. They then return to the village, I imagine pretty shit faced, finish off the dance and return the horns so that next year the spectacle can be repeated again.
I’d heard about the horn dance and not really understood what would happen, after actually seeing the dance I had more questions that I had started with. Luckily the incredibly friendly landlady of the coach and horses was available to try and make a bit of sense of the proceedings, though its hard to make much sense of men dancing around with antlers on their heads while wizards watch. Oh wizards, I may not of mentioned that among the many families and locals watching the procession there is also a contingent of wizards who turn up to take in proceedings. Admittedly the man sat next to me on the train in the navy suit could be a wizard, I’d never know. But the cloak and robe wearing guys bedazzling the streets of AB were of the more showy kind of magical person than my tie wearing fellow passenger.
The horn dance means a lot to the people of the area, it’s rich in tradition and pulls in visitors from far and wide every year, quite a feat for what is essentially men dancing around with antlers all day. Its absolutely surreal to watch, more than a bit confusing but in
It’s made me remember that I don’t know my country, I can feel bored being back in England, with an inflated sense of already knowing this country. I don’t, there is still so much for me to see and try and make sense of. I want to see everything and travel the world, it seems like my own country is a good place to start.