The Flower Quean

Abel_Grimmer_002The Harvest Festival has been an integral part of country life for millennia and many parts of the country have their own particular way of marking it. The tradition of the ‘Flower Quean’ is a celebration unique to the area around the Mazehouse

In many harvest traditions the last sheaf of wheat to be cut is honoured, sometimes being used to make a corn dolly or traditonal effigy, often being ritually buried in the fields to bless the next year’s crop. In the locality of the Mazehouse this role is taken, not by corn, but by a collection of flowers.

The flowers are gathered throughout the year and carefully dried before being assembled into specially shaped bunches known as ‘Flower Queans’. During a Harvest Supper at the parish church of St Dymphna’s the various ‘Flower Queans’ produced by members of the parish (usually, but not exclusively, the women) are judged by the vicar and the church wardens, to choose the true ‘Flower Quean’ for that year.

The Harvest Supper usually ends with a number of parlour games and contests, with the winner being awarded the honour of looking after the ‘Flower Quean’ for the rest of the year.

Although there is some evidence in parish records of similar rituals existing in the past, the current tradition has it’s roots in the last century when the vicar at the time decided to revive the local folklore, which probably also accounts for the consciously archaic spelling of the name.

It was as part of this recreation of the traditon that the ceremony became associated with the local folklore of King Lucy and the Woman of Flowers.

While the ritual may have been inspired and created from genuine local folklore, it is impossible to know how much of it has any actual antiquity despite the efforts of many antiquarians to discover pagan roots to the ceremony.

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