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Charlton-on-Otmoor Garland


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In another variation on the garland theme, a wooden cross on the rood-screen of the parish church at Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire, is decorated with box and yew leaves, making it look more like a person than a cross. This greenery is replaced twice a year—1 May and 19 September (the patronal feast day). On May Day, local children also go to the church, in procession, carrying a long rope-like garland made of leaves and flowers, and each also carrying a small cross made of flowers (see Shuel for photograph), and these are used to decorate the church. There is a church service, and they sing the May Garland song. The cross, which is always referred to as ‘she’ or ‘my lady’ is presumed to be the remnant of the pre-Reformation custom of having saints’ images in the church which were taken out and carried in procession round the parish on set days. It is known that two images formerly stood on the rood screen—one of St John and the other of the Virgin Mary. These vanished at the Reformation, but the villagers replaced them with two hoped garlands, although it is not recorded how they managed to get away with that. The larger of the two garlands was still carried, once a year, to what had been a local Priory for blessing, while the other was carried round the village. One garland disappeared, and the other was replaced by the present cross.

Shuel, 1985: 31, 35;Kightly, 1986: 123;Hole, 1975: 59.


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