History - Cornish folklore explored

Ref: C3530148

Cornwall is well known for its folk customs e.g. the Padstow Obby Oss, Helston Furry Day, St Columb Major hurling etc. with some living customs going back to the medieval catholic 'broad church' days of St George and Robin Hood. Recent revivals include Golowan, and new customs crop up usually 'following a discussion in the pub'. This course will explore possible origins and purpose through seasonality, life cycle customs, protection against evil, social control and sense of place. From Parker's Edwardian Pageants through living customs to tinners and fishermen's superstitions.

Course aim

The course aims to introduce students to the richness of living Cornish folk traditions; to show the origins, where possible, and the purpose changing nature of these and other lost customs, over time.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Morris and other dancers and singers welcome.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe how apparently very different folk customs can have a common origin.
  • Use and understand words like secular or pagan, superstition or broad church.
  • Explain how folk customs can create a sense of place e.g. Padstow Obby Oss, Helston Furry Day.
  • Classify folk customs according to seasonality or purpose.
  • List some historic threats to folk customs e.g. early 19th century animal rights movements.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • The tutor will be available to discuss any issues or progression with students as required or recommend further reading or folk events to attend.

What else do I need to know?

  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • Notepad and pen. Internet use will be encouraged e.g. finding out about folk customs around the world.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • See R. Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England (1994) and Stations of the Sun (1996). For Cornwall see R. Hunt, Popular Romances of the West of England (1865), M.A. Courtney, Folklore and Legends of Cornwall (1890, rep. 1989) etc

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information http://pearl.open.ac.uk/

Download full course information sheet

History - Cornish folklore explored


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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