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Obby Oss Mask, Padstow, Cornwall, England

Obby Oss Mask, Padstow, Cornwall, England


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Filename: TRURI-2007-88.jpg

Size: 4121 x 6182 (2.8MB)

Date: 21st November 2017

Source: Royal Cornwall Museum

Author: MIKE SEARLE

© RIC, photographer Mike Searle

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Royal Cornwall Museum

Royal Cornwall Museum Photo Prints and Wall Art

Obby Oss Mask, Padstow, Cornwall, England

Masks such as these are used in the Padstow Obby Oss May Day celebrations. It is worn during a dance that celebrates the coming of Spring. It is also linked to fertility rights; any woman caught under the skirts of the Oss was thought to become pregnant. Each year, on the 1st May, the town is decorated in greenery and the Oss (horse) parades the streets, followed by a teaser who holds a padded bat. The procession is accompanied by accordions, drums and singing. The mask is worn with a black skirt that covers the wearer completely. Some have suggested the similarity to West African, Malaysian and New Guinea masks may be due to Cornish contact with these areas. The mask was made by the Bate family, and first worn by Walter Bate (1907- 1977) who was known locally as The Old Colonel because he had served in Kitcheners army. He was also a highly respected member of the lifeboat crew having been recognised for distinguished service. TRURI : 2007.88

Royal Cornwall Museum is the UK's Greatest Museum For Cornish Life & Culture

TRURI : 2007.88

Media ID 18833267

© RIC, photographer Mike Searle

Black Face Horse White


EDITORS COMMENTS
This print captures the essence of the Obby Oss Mask, a significant symbol in the vibrant May Day celebrations of Padstow, Cornwall. The mask is an integral part of a dance that joyously welcomes the arrival of Spring while also being associated with fertility rites. Legend has it that any woman caught beneath the skirts of the Oss during its spirited parade through town would soon find herself expecting. On every 1st May, Padstow transforms into a lush green haven adorned with foliage as locals and visitors eagerly await the procession. Led by the majestic Oss, resembling a horse-like figure, accompanied by a teaser wielding a padded bat, this enchanting spectacle fills the streets with accordion melodies, rhythmic drumming, and harmonious singing. The Obby Oss Mask itself is an intriguing creation worn alongside a black skirt that conceals its wearer entirely. Some speculate that its resemblance to masks from West Africa, Malaysia, and New Guinea may be attributed to historical Cornish interactions with these regions. Crafted by the skilled hands of the Bate family and first donned by Walter Bate (1907-1977), affectionately known as The Old Colonel for his service in Kitcheners army and esteemed role within the lifeboat crew for which he was honored for distinguished service. This remarkable artifact now resides at Royal Cornwall Museum where it continues to captivate all who behold it.

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