What is Morris Dancing?

The Morris tradition is extremely old: just how old, nobody knows.

The oldest written reference is thought to be from the annals of the Goldsmits's company of London, recording a payment of 7 shillings to the 'Morys' dancers in 1448. However it is possibly much older than that, with elements of the tradition appearing to be of pagan origin, performed originally at the yearly sun festivals at the beginning middle and end of the dark days of winter. One man would tend the fire bone-fire disguised as a woman; this character is known today as the Molly.

Although both church and state have often disapproved of these traditions and sometimes even outlawed them, the common people have kept them alive.

Like all living things the dances have changed over time. Different styles have arisen in different parts of the country at different times. Dead Horse base their kit on Whitstable Longshoremen of the early 1900s and we paint our faces black as a mask or disguise.

Why is it called 'Morris'

Clerks, writing in the 1400s, had no standard spelling, and wrote in a mixture of Middle English, Norman French and bad Latin. It is possible that 'Morys' was a phonetic spelling. There are a couple of possible intended meanings (both Latin): Morés meaning 'customs/traditions' and 'Moros' meaning 'dark'. Either is possible but we will never know!

"Dead Horse - Bumpy in the middle; Dangerous at both ends"


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