Some weird Pagan shit.

Straw Bear Festival in Whittlesey.

On Plough Tuesday, the day after the first Monday after Twelfth Night, a man or a boy would be covered from head to foot in straw and led from house to house where he would dance in exchange for gifts of money, food or beer. The festival was of a stature that farmers would often reserve their best straw for the making of the bear.

The custom died out in about 1909, probably because the local police regarded it as begging, but it was resurrected by the Whittlesea Society in 1980.

The festival has now expanded to cover the whole weekend when the Bear appears (not Plough Tuesday nowadays, but the second weekend in January instead). On the Saturday of the festival, the Bear processes around the streets with its attendant "keeper" and musicians, followed by numerous traditional dance sides (mostly visitors), including morris men and women, molly dancers, rapper and longsword dancers, clog dancers and others, who perform at various points along the route.

The Bear dances to a tune (reminiscent of the hymn "Jesus Bids us Shine") which featured on Rattlebone and Ploughjack, a 1976 LP by Ashley Hutchings, along with a spoken description of the original custom (which partly inspired the Whittlesey revival).

"Sessions" of traditional music take place in many of the public houses during the day and evening, and a barn dance or ceilidh and a Cajun dance round off the Saturday night. The bear "costume" is burned at a ceremony on Sunday lunchtime, (just as, in Germany, the Shrovetide bear costumes are also ceremonially burned after use).


By: dwarfedgiant (335.60)

Tags: straw bear whittlesey whittlesea peterborough pagan odd weird festival beer

Location: Whittlesey, Peterborough PE7, UK