obby ‘oss mask
used in the Padstow 'Obby 'Oss May Day celebrations
Obby Oss Mask
obby ‘oss mask used in the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss May Day celebrations
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 Kitchener’s army. He was also a highly respected member of the lifeboat crew having been recognised for distinguished service.