Let’s start with the Ooser himself. He was represented by some kind of popular mask worn in mummer style occasions. The Ooser was never truly famous, even back 120 years or so ago. Even when this evocative carved wooden head and moving jaw was at the peak of its powers , the Ooser was known only across a small handful of farms. I grew up in the area, never heard of the Ooser however drunk I became in the folkloric pubs where these traditions and stories typically traverse the generations.
Almost inevitably the Dorset Ooser has something to do with the devil, something to do with morality, something to do with fertility and something to do with players and dancers. Cider and immorality would have become involved too, emerging after dusk. The original Ooser was lost in 1897, a hand carved replica now resides in the Dorset museum in Dorchester, and Morris dancers borrow it for their symbolic prancing when it calls them.
These beasts of yore live on through heart and soul events. The Dorset Ooser is a lucky old mask to get the attention of such an authentic event organiser as Badger Trail Events. The Spring season could not be more appropriate as this lush valley regenerates with a whorish and moreish display of flowers and feathers, nature’s petticoat reveal of enlarged herds of deer and rampant rabbits. It is all there to live for.
Add ‘post-lockdown’ into the mix and you could not ask for a more symbolic occasion for celebrating the strength and joy of emerging into the light amidst like-minded wayfarers. Even the masked parade walk to the start line added to the ritual. We lined up in patience and supplication.
At yesterday’s finish line, I had warm tea from a charity shop mug and cake made by some benevolent angel, in a throng of faces slowly replacing the ruddiness of exhaustion with the rosiness of sunburn.
We bloomed and our sap was restored.
My 4hrs 26 minutes of endeavour and 61st place of 245 was as irrelevant as those numbers sound.
Many thanks to Badger Trail Events and the volunteers for imagining this event and making it all happen so perfectly.