Monday, 27 July 2015

May Queen throne in Lustleigh

Earlier this summer I went on what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the South West of the country - an area thick with folklore and legend. While there I was taken to the village of Lustleigh in Devon. Visitors to this picturesque civil parish are greeted by the quaint little church and the stone cross on the tiny green in front. However, there are older traditions kept alive in this settlement.

Further down the hill is an orchard bounded by a tiny brook. The field has been put to use as a children's play area, but looming over the grass is the largest of the many boulders which protrude from the earth and the top of this stone has been carved into a throne. This is the seat of the May Queen - the girl who, in true Wicker Man style is chosen to personify the May Day holiday and the fair weather and fecundity of the spring. My guide told me that, once a year, all the young girls are dressed in white smocks and line-up in front of the church to be blessed by the vicar, in a ritual that seemingly embodies the Christian aptitude for subsuming much older customs into liturgical practice.

The names of the Queens are carved onto the rock face and date back to 1968. No doubt the re wakening of public interest in folk ritual was the impetus to begin carving the names. I'd be interested to learn if earlier names are recorded anywhere, or if the tradition was broken before that year.





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