Bodmin Riding in its ancient form, was a guild riding festival attached to the Saints Day of St Thomas Beckett. Dating into medieval times, the festival used to mark the famous hanging of Bodmin Mayor, Nicholas Boyer, who was one of the amazingly high number of Cornish people killed for their part in the 1549 prayer book rebellion. The exiting thing about Bodmin Riding today is the central ritual drama of the hunting of the Beast of Bodmin.
The original beast of Bodmin of course came part of the national consciousness in the 1980’s when a serious of what appeared to be puma like big cats, were seen on Bodmin moor. The modern riding festival has done something rather clever with this single idea, creating a ritual drama straight from the Cornish traditions of Guise dancing with the beast as its central character.
The ritual drama associated with the beast begins on the morning of Bodmin Riding.
The day the beast is chased and ultimately captured by a group of young men known as the Heliers. Once the capture occurs the beast ceremonially placed on trial by the “Radagaziow”, a trial which is acted out in the form of a mummers play, filled with the history and heritage of Bodmin.