The Ickeny is Norwich Pagan Moot's 'oss. He comes out at our rituals, especially at Twelfth Night, when He appears in his dark winter garb, embodying the dangerous and chaotic forces of midwinter, which we ask to gallop away across the heath, safely away from our hearths and homes. Later in the year, He reappears in His summer garb, bringing the blessing of his dynamic energy to our endeavours.
The horse has always been important in Britain and is celebrated on ‘Celtic’ coins and in the great Uffington White Horse. It appears in many folk customs and processions. The tourney-style hobby horse is perhaps most widespread, and seems to blur the boundaries between horse and dragon, so it is interesting that Norwich's Snap Dragon is of this kind, and is very similar to the processional horse, Hob-Nob, in Salisbury. Indeed, Norwich's Lord Mayor's Procession now has a tourney-style St. George on horse-back to accompany the Snap Dragon.
Sometimes the tourney-style 'oss can be quite stylised, as with the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss.This is what Norwich's other 'oss, Kett's Horse is like.
But there is also a darker ‘oss: a tall, mysterious figure with a horse’s skull (carried on a pole or mast), most famous from the Welsh Mari Lwyd traditions and the Montol Festival in Penzance. In Norwich, we have borrowed the idea of the ‘Oss from our friends in Cornwall. Our ‘Oss, the Ickeny, is named after the Norfolk dialect word for anything unruly, but particularly difficult horses. He may look scary, but He is a focus for the image of those untamed forces of Nature that we need to keep at bay. So He enters the circle we form on Mousehold Heath at Twelfth Night and our Champion drives Him out to gallop across the heath safely, leaving just enough of His energy for us to set about our tasks for the year.
It was after the Harvest Moon 2015 conference that some of the speakers and organisers gathered at Matthew Fox's house and Gemma Gary from Cornwall talked to us about the Montol Festival and its 'oss. Inspired by this, Harvest Moon purchased a horse skull and various people contributed to the construction and dressing of an 'oss for Norwich and Norfolk, which was named 'The Ickeny', from the Norfolk dialect word for disobedient horses, which may in turn derive from the name, Iceni, of the people who lived here 2000 years ago.
The following winter saw the first public Twelfth Night Wild Hunt Ritual (January 2016) on Mousehold Heath, beginning with a procession from St. James' Hill, led by the Ickeny and a Whiffler. Subsequently, the Ickeny passed into the care of the Moot and the Twelfth Night Ritual has taken place on the closest Saturday to Twelfth Night on the Heath, every year since (except 2019, when all the key personnel were ill!)
He appears at Spring and Summer rituals, and at the annual Boudica's Brocante too. Occasionally, He can even be spotted at other people's events!