Press release: Asheville's Samhain Public Witch Ritual
Coven Oldenwilde's 17th Annual Halloween Public Samhain Witch Ritual will stir up downtown Asheville on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, from 8 to 10 pm, with a 21st-century Asheville spin on an age-olde British tradition: the Pub Moot and Mummer's Play. Masked and costumed mummers will appear like a magical flash mob at four downtown brew pubs in turn and perform a quick, funny, poignant play enacting the annual harvest-death of John Barleycorn, the personification of reaped hops and grains that make ale. They'll be cheered on by other attendees who will each seed themselves among the patrons at one of the pubs -- Thirsty Monk, Jack of the Wood, Hannah Flanagan's, and Pack's Tavern, which the mummers will visit in that order -- and then follow the mummers to the next pub in turn. The rite will culminate in a Spiral Dance around the Magnolia trees beside Pack's, and free divinations if weather permits. (Attendees are encouraged to tweet about the mummers' progress with hashtag #flashrite.)
Along with bombastic John Barleycorn, the mummer characters include a Witch leading their charge, a Healer clothed in 1000 knots [actually 6,666, we discovered in our final count], Death bearing his bloody scythe, and Ol' Charmer, a ghost horse, guided by two silent Priestesses. After each performance, a motleyed Fool will reward the players' labors with half-pints of an appropriate local brew.
The mumming tradition in Europe goes back thousands of years but is as lively and popular as ever (as a YouTube search for "mummers play" will reveal). Beneath their odd costumes and broad humor, the plays are seasonal magic rituals meant to ensure that light and warmth will rise again after being slain by dark and cold, and that health and prosperity will win out over death and dearth. From one town or village to the next, they adapt universal themes and characters to local traditions and concerns -- as Lady Passion has done in creating Asheville's first mummers play.
For further details including the play's script, a map of the mummers' route, and photos of Ol' Charmer and previous Asheville Samhain Public Witch Rituals, visit: Samhain