Guize Dancing, The ‘Gyptians & Kasek Nos

A keen participant in Penzance’s traditional Guize (pronounced ‘geeze’) customs, I am proud to be a member of The ‘Gyptians; one of the town’s Guise Guilds, and to perform as the ‘rider’ of Kasek Nos – Penzance’s Montol Beast, appearing each year at the culmination of Montol – the town’s hugely popular midwinter festival.

Guize Dancing (also referred to as ‘Geese’ or ‘Goosey’ Dancing) is a Cornish tradition encountered through the winter months, being at its most active around midwinter and the Christmas period.

Gemma MontolGemma playing the Shruti Box in The ‘Gyptians

 

Central to Guizing is disguise – to the extent that a performer’s visual identity is completely concealed. This is traditionally achieved via the use of masks or veils of black lace decorated with sequins or buttons. ‘Guize Beasts’ are another traditional and perhaps the most striking form of complete disguise. Such beasts might be formed by the performer, or ‘rider’, being concealed by an animal skull, such as that of a horse or bull, or a headdress of horns or antlers, and the body hidden by hides or fabric.

The ‘Gyptians, more formally known as The Glorious Company of the Egyptian House, and also known as The Tinkerlers Shop, are a revival and reinvention of a Guize group dating from the 1830s which went by the latter name. We are named The ‘Gyptians after the famous and iconic ‘Egyptian House’ in Chapel Street which is the Guild’s ‘home’. It is both a ‘Processional Guize’ and a ‘Visit Guize’ in that the Guild performs both processionally through the streets as well as visiting various public houses to perform musically, to bring a blessing (or to bring down ancient Egyptian curses upon those who upset the Guild…) and of course, to partake of the establishment’s drinks.

In both processional and visit performances, the Guild is accompanied by its very own and much loved Guize Beast; the wild and anarchic ‘Ramesses’ draped in black and bearing the gilded skull of a young ram found washed up on a Hebridean shore.

Ramesses the ‘Gyptian’s Guize-Beast

 

In addition to performing with the Guild, I am also the ‘rider’ of the Montol Beast or ‘Oss Kasek Nos, guided through the streets by the ‘Teazer’ performed by Zoe Young. Kasek Nos, formed from a mare skull and draped in ghostly grey tatters, can be seen in Montol’s late night procession when the ‘Oss is ceremonially summoned from the famous ‘Admiral Benbow’ pub to follow the procession down towards the seafront to perform in the ceremony of ‘Chalking the Mock’. Here, a member of the public is chosen at random by Kasek Nos. The chosen ’victim’ then chalks a rough ‘stick figure’ on the ‘Mock’ which is the Cornish version of the Yule log. The Lord of Misrule announces to the crowd ‘According to our tradition this represents the end of the old and the beginning of the new!’ before the Mock is put onto the ceremonial fire.

Kasek NosGemma as Kasek Nos with the Teazer Zoe Young

 


Kasek Nos & Chalking the Mock video

 

10872969_830944840277514_7357704453488593708_oKasek Nos being called from The Admiral Benbow

 

Chalking the MockChalking the Mock

 

10848977_856784427677003_5203931849831671765_oOutside The Egyptian House

 

Photos of The ‘Gyptians at Montol

Jane Gyptians

Ramesses & Leader

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For more information about Montol and Guize traditions, please visit:
The Montol Website
The Cornish Culture Association

The Above images have been gathered from various places. With thanks to Arts & Craft Photography and Andrew Brown. Thank you to all other photographers. If your photography is on this page, please let me know so I may credit you or remove your image as per your wishes.