steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Wicker in St Werburgh's

St Werburgh's is just a five-minute walk from my house, by a path between the allotments and the railway line, and (as I think I've mentioned before here) it's quite a different world. An inner city enclave formed by the convergence of several railway embankments, this area of Bristol is almost inaccessible by car - and certainly not a place you would just "stumble across" if you were exploring the city in any conventional way. I've promised in the past to try to describe it, but I don't think I can quite do it justice here. However, these brief entries should give you something of the feel. As you might guess, it's the perfect place to have a Wicker Man event.

I went last night with my friend Marie, and we approached down this long tunnel, which was lit with candles along its length, as one would expect.

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I wore my horse's head mask, and I'd lent Marie a garland left over from one of my magical jaunts to the Gower last year. Beyond the tunnel, the woodland amphitheatre that the Werburgh folk made for themselves a few years ago had been kitted out with a screen, but first there was a "trail" to follow through the woods. There we came across many an unworldly scene, including a couple of naked women (and one man) making much of a bonfire. They plucked a late apple and offered it to me, and sent us down towards a place where a rather stern priestess was making runic gestures, and occasionally screaming as if she had been kanchoed by the gods. Elsewhere we sat in a roundhouse (a permanent feature) and listened to a really excellent harpist, dressed in something approximating Venetian masked ball garb (she neighed at me as she played, recognising in me no doubt a devotee of Epona). And here and there, lit by red and green lights and hundreds of candles, strange moppets and scarecrows and gibbets abounded, throwing their eldritch shadows against the leafy canopy. The isle was full of noises.

The trail was also punctuated by woodland screens, hung between branches perhaps like the webs of giants spiders, showing clips from 1970s documentaries about the supernatural and paranormal. A Devon dowser demonstrated his craft. A pair of Glastonbury hippies (this was 1970) explained that St Michael's chapel was built on Glastonbury Tor in order to discourage UFO visitations. A Sgt. Howie-ish policeman emphasised that the ritual slaughter of sheep on Dartmoor was just not on.

After a visit to the compost toilet (scatter your own sawdust!) we settled down to watch the main feature in the amphitheatre, cider in hand, and very thoroughly softened up we felt too. Not that the film needs any preparation to work its reliable magic. The final shot of the Wicker Man's head tumbling from its torso to reveal the westering sun was matched by the introduction of flames onto the stage, and a couple of fire workers - half jugglers, half shamanic ritualists - rounded off the evening's entertainment. After which there was a general invitation to the Miner's Arms.

An excellent evening, all told. There's one more evening to go of this event, and if you can go, I highly recommend it.
Tags: bristol, real life
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