Molly dancers and morrismen

I saw some Molly dancers recently. The spectacle  seemed to have elements of traditions of guising and the masque (performers in disguise),  mumming, pantomime (the Dame: man dressed as a woman) and Saternalia’s reversal of social roles, with a Lord (in top hat) and a Lady (Molly).

The Cutty Wren ceremony occurs on Boxing Day night (St. Stephen’s Day, 26th December), in the small village of Middleton, near Leiston, Suffolk.

molly-dancers

Old Glory Musicians (link to Old Glory website)

The first Monday after the twelve days of Christmas (Twelfth Night) is Plough Monday, when ploughmen processed with their decorated plough from village to village, dancing for money, food and drink. Molly Dancing is danced in hob-nailed boots with a ” Molly,” a man dressed up as a woman, and seems to be the East Anglian form of the English folk dance style of morris dancing. Performed by firelight there is also certainly a ancient pagan atmosphere about it, on a par with the Shetland’s Up-Helly-Aa and other winter, year’s end/beginning, birth/rebirth/fire festivals.

A traditional festival in Wales Mari Lwyd:

The Saturday before Plough Monday is the day when the Straw Bear is paraded through the streets of Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire.

Further reading:

Richard Humphries, For a bit of sport: Molly Dancing and Plough Monday in East Anglia (R & K Humphries, 1986)

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