Satan was bent on home-improvement the night of the Furry Dance.
He was flying through the air carrying a huge boulder with which to (probably) set off Hell’s entrance.
A great battle ensued between St. Michael and Satan, during which Satan dropped or threw his boulder.
It fell to earth, trailing a terrible tail of fire, and shaking both the air and the ground with a mighty reverberation.
The spot where it eventually landed became known as Hell’s Stone.
Over time, Hell’s Stone softened into the pleasant market town of Helston in England.
Of course, St Michael won his battle with Satan. The local people were so overcome with joy they began dancing in the streets.
And the tradition of The Helston Furry Dance was born.
You may prefer the Great Fiery Dragon origin. This creature (possibly a meteorite?) is supposed to have fallen to earth at the spot now known as Angel Yard.
When the terrified locals saw that their town wasn’t actually going to be destroyed, they were so relieved they began dancing through the open houses.
They’re still dancing – on Furry or Flora Day, each dance is about four miles long.
The band might walk twenty miles!
Most people claim that the odd name Furry comes from the Celtic word feur, which meant a festival.
One of the ancient customs was shaking down the festival-goers.
Many years ago the groups who gathered decorations were entitled to charge strangers an entry-toll to visit the town on Furry Day.
Even if you were a Helstonian, you might have to pay.
Any local found working (a big no-no) on Furry Day was carried on a pole to a wide crossing on the River Cober.
There he was given a choice: leap over or pay a fine.
Since leaping over meant in reality leaping in, most victims dug deep and paid up.
The dancing couples danced hand in hand, all over the town.
They claimed the right to dancing through any person’s house, in at one door, and out at the other, and so through the garden!
Still, they can be forgiven for traipsing through your house, as they drive out the memory of Winter and bring the warmth and blessings of Summer.
The Furry Dance
The Furry Dance Was a Pop Hit
When they’re not fighting a dragon or Satan, people are singing the famous Hal-an-Tow song.
In a quirk of fate perhaps weirder than the whole Satan-boulder episode, the Hal-an-Tow song was a pop hit for Terry Wogan in 1978.
1. Robin Hood and Little John, they both are gone to fair, O,
and we will to the greenwood go to see what they do there, O;
and for to chase the buck and doe, to chase the buck and doe, O,
and for to chase the buck and doe with halan tow, sing merry, O
with halan toe, sing merry, O.
2 We were up as soon as day for to fetch the summer home, O,
The summer and the May, O, for summer is a-come, O;
And winter is a-gone, O, and summer is a-come, O,
And winter is a-gone, O, with halan, etc.
3 Those Frenchmen they make such a boast, they shall eat the grey goose feather, O,
And we will eat up all the roast in very land where’er we go;
And we will eat up all the roast: sing halan, etc.
4. Saint George next shall be our song, Saint George he was a knight, O;
Of all the kings in Christendom King Georgie is the right, O.
In every land that e’er we go, sing halan tow and George, O,
Sing halan tow and Georgie, O.
5. Bless Aunt Mary with power and might; God send us peace in merry England;
Pray send us peace both day and night, for ever more in merry England.
Pray send us peace both day and night: with halan tow, sing merry, O,
With halan two, sing merry, O.
If you like this festival, you might enjoy catching a non-existant Earl at the Earl of Rhone or the bizarre May Day celebration of the Obby Oss.