Friday, May 11, 2018

Ancient MAY DAY - Beltane Celebrations & Morris (Maris) Dances

19C Wilson's Almanac depicts a combination of Morris & Maypole dancing with Hobby Horses,  English Morris Dancing may be the modern survival of a primitive pre-Christian ceremonial of ritual dance & drama ensuring & celebrating the renewal of Spring. This rite once flourished all over Europe & even today dances similar to the Morris can be seen in parts of France, Spain, Romania & Portugal.

May 1 marks the Celtic festival of Beltane, also called: Lá Bealtaine (Irish), Là Bealltainn (Scottish Gaelic) & May Day, which many neopagans  &  wiccans around the world observe to celebrate the onset of summer.  Also known as May Eve, May Day,  &  Walpurgis Night, happens at the beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring  &  the flowering of life. A goddess manifests as the May Queen  &  Flora. A god emerges as the May King  &  Jack in the Green.

The earliest documentary references to Morris dancers are mainly from Church accounts in the early 1500's - "Silver paper for the Mores-dawncers - 7d". "for VI peyre of shones for ye Mors dauncers - 4d" (1509/1510). It was certainly thriving in Shakespeare's time; Will Kemp's 'Nine Daies Wonder' was a Morris marathon from London to Norwich in 1600.

One popular theory points to evidence of similar dances in England, derived from the Druids' Maris dances, in celebration of the god Maris.  By Elizabethan times, the Morris was already known as an "ancient custom," & had become established in many areas, mainly the Cotswolds, the Welsh Borders & the North West of England. It was also a favorite entertainment at Court. A Morris dance team often featured a "Fool" or an "Animal" (a dancer in disguise, often as a dragon or hobby horse).