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A 19th-century photograph of the Dorset Ooser
The Dorset Ooser is a wooden head that featured in the nineteenth-century folk culture of Melbury Osmond, a village in the southwestern English county of Dorset. The head was hollow, thus perhaps serving as a mask, and included a humanoid face with horns, a beard, and a hinged jaw. Although sometimes used to scare people during practical jokes, its main recorded purpose was as part of a local variant of the custom known as "rough music", in which it was used to humiliate those who were deemed to have behaved in an immoral manner. It was first brought to public attention in 1891, when it was owned by the Cave family of Melbury Osmond's Holt Farm, but it went missing around 1897. In 1975 a replica of the original Ooser was produced by John Byfleet, which has since been on display at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. This mask retains a place in Dorset folk culture, and is used in local Morris dancing processions held by the Wessex Morris Men on Saint George's Day and May Day. The design of the Ooser has inspired copies used as representations of the Horned God in the modern Pagan religion of Wicca in both the United Kingdom and United States. (Full article...)

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