Flora Day

In Helston, Cornwall (England) today is the Furry Day, otherwise called Flora Day or The Floral Dance. It is one of the oldest surviving early summer festivals in Britain. There are several explanations for word Furry, even that it derives from the goddess Flora and the Roman Floralia or the Latin word Feria meaning a fair or holy day.[1] The festivities, as Marian Green says, echo “the idea of the dance of life, and now at the very beginning of summer, the dancers welcome the strength of the returning sun”. [2]

Preparations for the big day begin in mid-April when gatherers cut branches of sycamore, beech and other greenery used to decorate the town. Furry Day itself starts after sunrise when the dancers take to the streets and circle the old town.  This is followed by the Mummers’ play known as the Hal-An-Tow when Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, St George and St Michael, along with several other characters, act out battles in which good defeats evil (i.e. summer defeats winter) and sing the ancient Hal-an-Tow song, which includes the chorus: 

With Hal-an-Tow! Jolly Rumble, O!
For we are up as soon as any day, O!
And for to fetch the Summer home,
The Summer and the May, O,
For Summer is a-come, O,
And Winter is a-gone, O. [3]

Afterwards, around 1,000 children take part in the children’s dance, dressed in white.  At midday, the Furry Dance itself takes place, led by the mayor, driving out the memory of winter and bringing with them the warmth and blessings of summer. [4] At the final dance of the day, the many visitors from all over the world are invited to join in, and the whole town is filled with dancers. 

[1] Marian Green, A Harvest of Festivals, Longman Group Ltd., London, 1980

[2] Marian Green, A Harvest of Festivals, Longman Group Ltd., London, 1980

[3] Palmer’s Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs

[4] https://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/history/helston.shtml, accessed 27.3.19


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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