Amongst the many joys of living in a county as ancient as Dorset, one of the greatest must surely be participation in the the rich steam of festive events which together make up the official calendar of Dorset's traditional events [see Olde Threadbone's Almanac 2018, The Threadbone Press]. Hardly a week goes by than some festival or other (many dating back to as early as 1968) is upon us and woe betide the busy mother who hasn't got some costume or other ready in keen anticipation of yet another heritage-based school dressing up day. ["Got any spare pipe-cleaners Marjorie?"; "Were IS that Draino Stephanie?" etc etc.]
So with St Danglemass only just behind us and Singe the Vicar's Rubrics merely days away, it's good to know that the hiatus will be filled with the sounds and thrills of Dorset's 18th most popular event: Helloweener.
Believed to be based on an ancient practice of welcoming the smallest pig into the village and dressing it as a small child before tossing it into hot fat and roasting it whole, this simple yet merry practice has become both institutionalised and stylised over the years. Of course no civilized society today would even contemplate the anthropomorphising of an animal by inflicting upon it the indignity of dressing it up in jodhpurs, slippers and a shorty-raincoat; so, happily, that particular aspect of the ceremony disappeared as long ago as 2016. Nor would we be inclined to subject an animal to a pre-immolation parade, its confusion and discomfort clear for all to see. So nowadays we practice what some would regard as a rather sanitised version of the original festival, even "farming-out" some aspects of the ritual to third parties [eg Weeners R' Us: Hog-roasts for All Occasions, Stoborough: contact Jimmy Little at weenersrus.stoborough.org.uk]; yet even shorn of its more unenlightened elements, Helloweener remains both a powerful and a popular marker of the Dorset village year.
In one village, however, residents have elevated this hitherto basic and unassuming festival to new heights, making it - in some critics' view - an object of almost hieratic art and - in others' - a complete bastardisation of the original "earthy and honestly brutal pagan rite".
[TOP] Stanton St Gabriel: in the eye of the storm. [BOTTOM]: Relieved Vicar [Rubrics intact]
with an angry Ms Anodyne Killjoy
Supporters of Stanton St Gabriel's Bio-ethical Helloween believe that "In removing all references to the pig and celebrating instead the culinary bio-ethical progress which over many years has come to separate us from the savagery of our ancestors", they have recaptured the true spirit of Helloween as it might have once been intended. "Stripped of decades of elaboration and unnecessary frippery, we have returned to the central point of the festival: joy in the bounty of nature and our culinary bio-ethical responsibility to its conservation and enrichment" said festival organiser Ms Anodyne Killjoy. So with the pig gone and no trotters in bootees to admire, what can the residents of Stanton St Gabriel expect tonight?
"It's a big surprise", Ms Killjoy asserts: "people of all ages will be thrilled with the reveal". Pressed to say more, she was clearly reluctant: "All I can say is it will involve vegetable matter, exquisite carving and a much missed culinary bio-ethical pioneer who has inspired us to make these changes". Watch this space ....
Artist's impression of the icon likely to be central to tonight's Stanton St Gabriel's Bio-ethical Helloween. Tight-lipped organisers are giving little away.