A few years ago I saw the Green Man in his wintry Twelfth Night incarnation, this month he appeared in his Berry Man guise celebrating October Plenty. He took us to the Globe at Bankside where offerings were made to the theatre in the form of a Masque, attended by the goddesses Ceres, Juno and Iris.
We then processed through the Bermondsey backstreets to Borough Market for food, drink, games, dancing and storytelling to celebrate their Apple Day.
‘Oh what dreams are made on apple soil…by Golden Spire, and Howgate Wonder. Mobb’s Royal, Ballyfatten all together, as Hounslow Wonders which is Chad’s Favourite, Greasy Pippin or Shoreditch White. Bloody Ploughman, Sops in Wine and craves a Hoary Morning or Knobby Russet. Is Biggs’ Nonesuch best by far?’
(from Pomona’s Speech by Daniel Hopkin)
And here is Pomona: ‘I am the ancient Apple Queen, As once I was so am I now.
For evermore a hope unseen, Betwixt the blossom and the bough.
Ah, where’s the river’s hidden Gold! And where the windy grave of Troy?
Yet come I as I came of old, From out the heart of summer’s joy.’
(Pomona by William Morris)
Other cornucopias were all around, a fine tribute to October’s Plenty.
The Ravensbourne Morris, joined briefly by a female dancer to add to the fertility rites, entertained us, as well as storytelling in the orchard, a band and a play ‘The Pregnant Farmer’.
Over it all presided the Corn Queene, lit by the autumn afternoon sun, whose offering should ensure that a like harvest will come in the following year.
Another insurance for the future is the ‘Execution of John Barleycorn’, enacting the ancient myth of the Great King who is sacrificed, dies and is reborn in the agricultural cycle. As a result of the death of John Barleycorn, the personification of cereal crops and what we make from them, bread and beer can be made.
Finally came the stripping of the Corn Queene, with her constituent parts offered to those attending, and an auction of the symbolic breasts, as well as a contribution from the Berry Man of his conker necklace.
With thanks and acknowledgements to the Lions Part (organisers and performers), Borough Market, Common Ground, The Ravensbourne Morris, Roots and Shoots, Shakespeare’s Globe.