What did you do on the hottest June day for 40 years? No-one knew exactly what to expect for the second Midsummer Crawl, even those who were in on the planning, but the outline of events was in place. As before, we convened at the Apni Haveli (formerly the Woodman) opposite an oak tree for initial mingling before the assembled party read out snippets of information about how Midsummer is celebrated in various countries round the world. These gave an inkling of what was to follow. Then came the adorning of the willow headdresses which culminated in revealing John as the Oak King, with Dee as his consort, The Goddess. It was explained that tonight they would consummate their union in an act so overwhelming that the Oak King would perish and be replaced by the Holly King who would steadily gain in power until midwinter. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of innuendo throughout the evening.
Thereupon all set off, blowing bubbles on the way, to the Who’d a Thought It up the road. The activity here was for the women to gather names of 9 sacred herbs written on small cards which The Goddess had strewn around the garden. Meanwhile, the men drew lots. On the women’s return the couples were matched up, willow rings were exchanged and the Oak King declared them married, since fake marriages are a Midsummer custom in some parts of the world. Meanwhile, the other customers looked on with amusement, and one bloke came over to introduce himself, see above. Once Dee had shown everyone how to dance a simple dance step, the parade danced via the back roads towards The Star, to the accompaniment of wrist bells for the ladies and The King’s Knee Tremblers* for the men, and with natural confetti showering all around. Here, we picked up a few extra punters and chatted up the locals who wondered what on earth we were doing.
At The Star, Erik read several Midsummer poems in the garden, including audience participation, then joss sticks were lit for the journey to The Ship. Here, the activity was to draw effigies of witches, bulls, cocks and cats. These were duly burnt in a small tin, and while the women practiced jumping, the men prepared the Midsummer Fire. In reality, this was a trio of tealights in a facsimile of a fire pit, but it served the purpose. Once everyone had jumped over the fire thrice, The Oak King led us to the holly tree that stands adjacent to the Rugby Club. After a quick group rendition of various animal noises with an ‘authentic’ Swedish accent, the old year was wound down by walking three times clockwise round the holly tree, before the new year was wound up by walking three times anticlockwise, accompanied by the hullabaloo of bellowing animal cries. As with so many Art Plumstead open air events, those who wished to, adjourned to The Old Mill.
*these are made from can lids lashed together like castanets and secured to the knee with knicker elastic from the £1 shop. They make a splendid clattering noise and are ideal for drawing attention to oneself.