The MSA has been dressing for All Souls since 2010. It brings a nice balance to the year’s events, falling opposite in the calendar to the larger May Day dressing festival.
The origin of All Souls’ Day
Lionel Shorestone started this event for the Remembrance time of year, and set it out as an opportunity for people to remember and honour their dead loved ones. Lionel managed a comfortable balance between his Christian worship and his Druid celebrations. The All Souls time falls on the Druid festival of Samhuinn (pronounced saa-wain). May Day falls on the Druid festival of Beltane. Beltane is the 3rd and last of the fertility festivals, when the veils to the other side are thin; similarly Samhuinn is the 3rd and last of the harvest festivals, also when the veils are thin.
Christian festivals, sensibly, also tend to sit on the festivals of the natural year. Globally, All Souls’ Day (also known as ‘The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed’ and ‘The Day of the Dead’) is held annually on 2nd November, falling the day after All Saints Day (aka All Hallows Day, which is preceded by All Hallows Eve, or ‘Hallowe’en’).
Malvern’s All Souls Celebration
Malvern’s All Souls well-dressing celebration, which the MSA organises, is for people of all faiths and beliefs to remember and cherish departed loved-ones in their own personal way. This year, for many it was also a chance to express their experiences of and feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected so many lives in so many different ways. Event organiser Rick Banbury sent out the invitations, which carried a very different message from that of previous years, saying:
“All Souls is a time for standing still and honouring and remembering those who have gone before, our close relatives. They have left us their torch to carry, that was given to them and we will pass on to ours. In this time of great turbulence, when previous norms are remembered with nostalgia. I used to love hugging friends and even shaking acquaintances by the hand! Now it is all different and here is an opportunity to expresses how we are coping with this difference. So, you are invited to a moment of stand still, to hold and to have, to be and to be part of, the Malvern Community and the Greater Community.”
In recent years, Hayslad in West Malvern and the Clock Tower in North Malvern have been dressed for All Souls, so for a change this year, Lower Wyche Spout (in Malvern Wells, to the east) was chosen. It has a magnificent view across the Chase. Our lovely volunteers produced lots of paper leaves on which people could write their own dedications, and would provide ‘Remembrance Trees’ with branches to which the leaves could be tied.
After many weeks of meticulous planning and a great deal of hard work, on the sunny morning of Sunday 25th October, the well-dressers gathered at the spout, and the transformation began. It wasn’t long before passers-by took notice, and the first ‘pilgrims’ started arriving at the spout. There, they wrote their dedications, and spent time in quiet reflection / contemplation.
On Saturday 31st October, the Rainbow Guardians of Earth dance include a beautiful and very colourful ceremonial procession through the surrounding landscapes (photo below courtesy of Jane Tavener).
The Wellhead Blessing was carried out by the Reverend Dave Bruce at 11am on Monday 2nd November. He posted a video of the event on Facebook along with the following note:
“Thank you to those who have put the well dressing up to provide a place for those who have lost loved ones to remember and grieve. For those who have not been able to make it to the well dressing here is a video of the Well blessing that we did yesterday. I hope that it may bring comfort and peace to those who have lost loved ones.”
The dressing and associated events were deemed a great success by all who took part and came to enjoy them. Rick Banbury summed it up by saying, “The Covid calamity made this year’s dressing a little more muted and less visited than previous, but it again had a serenity and purpose all of its own, and it did its job of giving folk a public place to name their loss”.
Wellhead Dance photograph links
The MSA’s ‘official photographer’ Jan Sedlacek was also there to record the event, and he took some wonderful photos, some shown above. Click on the links to see all his photos.