It is the annual visit of the Winchester Morris team who will be dancing outside the Town Hall at around 8.30pm.
The team will first be dancing in Overton, so the timing may change slightly, but with Morris goes ale and, if a wait is needed, that can be enjoyed across the road or round the corner!

And as the Winchester Morris have just celebrated their 60th birthday, raising a glass of traditional ale may be an appropriate welcome to to give them.

Morris Dance is one of the oldest English traditions and no one really knows its origins, though if you ask you will probably get as many answers as there are members in the Morris team.

Enjoy the pure Englishness of it all.

Event Details

Date: May 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

Comments (1)

  • Graham Burgess

    Morris dancing by Graham Burgess..

    One theory for the origin of the words Morris dancing is that it is Moorish.
    I think we should look deeper. The word More and Moor hint at plenitude, in the case of the word MORE a plenitude of whatever follows that word, in the case of Moor, spreading, flat landscape and lots of it. Gypsies kept many of the traditions of the countryside as they continued with many of the old traditions after others had migrated their lives into cities. Gypsies still travel to carry out agricultural tasks when the work-loads are especially high for short periods.

    Applied to dancing it might have arisen because a lot of very special, high quality,pagan dancing and lots of other symbolic activities took place at a location in Egypt that was in some places so flat it was often flooded. In fact the flat areas either side of the Nile were the places where more crops were grown than anywhere else in that area. Sir A Evans (hieroglyph mer = irrigated land).

    Lake Moeris had a plenitude of essential life-giving water and the evidence is that there were very sophisticated systems of water control there. There was a massive city and an enormous labyrinth. This was a building with many rooms and as Pliny defined “not to be confused with those things (mazes) we find in the fields “
    Adding an O that refers to birthing to the mer may gives us a clue to the fact that the land around Moeris was particularly productive.

    Having grown and harvested crops around Moeris they indulged in many celebrations and dancing was amongst them.

    The first stage was cutting the crop and after nine dews in stooks in windrows it was taken to a high spot for the next stage in the process, the thrashing. The wind was the engine of the winnowing. Hen means a high place and geat means an enclosure frorm which our word gate comes. So henges were places where the thrashing took place. A ring of stones was put round, the threshold. The Greek for the thrashing floor was Halos.
    The haystack consisted of a rigid pole and at the very top and at various places below rings were put in place to which were attached the ropes or riggbands that held the pyramid of straw in place. I believe the top ring was called the halo. The s in halos referred to its proximity to the fleshy humans, the halo is above all of us and something worth respecting.

    Many of the dances were associated with work and I believe Morris Dancing was allied to another dance that we call Flamenco. Both at a very basic level involved stamping. Much later when religious development became more hierarchal the power moved from local or travelling shamans , possibly capable of dancing really well, to a group of religious priests called Flamens. Their costume included a sheepskin hat with a turned olive branch sticking out of the top. I believe this was an allusion to the top of the haystack. In Ladakh this system of keeping water out of the haystack is still in use.
    Some steps in Moeris dancing hint at the moving aside of corn stalks so as to facilitate the thrashing by stamping. In the picture below we see the thrasher has a stick for the same purpose and it is called a goad.He stands on a wooden slab that has stones (flints ?) embedded in its base to facilitate the thrashing.
    If the rig or rick (pole,pal, phallus. Fellah (Egyptian) prick, fellow) was present in their agriculture at the centre of the giant haystack we might look for remnants of it in the dance and in the names of dances. If the ropes that held the stored-hay in place dangled when the safe spring arrived we might look for remnants of them.

    The Morris Dancer is essentially male and thus allied to the tree. The tree of life in this case was the erect woody structure of the rig. The female was the earth upon which it stood. I say “upon which” as there was sometimes a piece of hard wood or stone between male and female and that was called “the tabernacle”. That name is still in use describing the point where a ships mast meets the hull on vessels which have to lower their mast when passing beneath low bridges. Male meets female again. So what was the original “feast of the Tabernacles”.

    Hanging from the rigg- pole riggbands and hanging from the maypole and the trunk and limbs of the morris-dancer ribbons. A key time of celebration was when the results of a successful harvest, a successful storing of the food and a successful progression through the winter had occurred and the grass was growing again. The riggbands were dangling loose, the riggbolls were discarded as the crop had all been consumed or doled out.

    So the morris dancers are a singular group dancing as it were for society or the audience. Morris dancers also moved around the community rather than be focussed in a key place, namely The Harvest House.

    Participation in Maypole dancing has other levels of symbolism and a key one is consolidation of society in respect of tying into Natures forces and key structures in their lifestyle.
    Not everyone could dance round the maypole at once but a goodly mix could and they could allow others to take over during the celebration or in sequence. Key to it all is that in order for the dance to work the energies of the individuals had to be concerted.

    They did not hold each other or indulge in personal gesticulation. They were
    connected as in destiny (destino to bind) by the ribbons. The ribbons were the cords that attached them to the rig and their feet were the means of connecting with the earth. Trees have trunks, limbs and we twig things. The symbology is still with us. The end result in a maypole or mayspal dance is only achieved by planned and concerted effort. The beautiful end-result is appreciated by all’

    There are records of a haystack near Andover coming to the end of its seasonal life and the layer of twigs placed below were full of rats. The area was fenced off and terriers put inside. So numerous were the rats that the dogs were exhausted and men then moved in with sticks and killed the rats.

    The clashing of sticks might also have arisen from them simply picking up sticks from the discarded bundles of twigs that formed the bolraces, the horizontal aeration sections that ran through the haystack. They may have symbolised the riggbolls, the posts that the ribbons were tied to when the haystack was full of hay and which were left fully exposed when the last straw was disposed of and hopefully the springtime was bringing new life.

    Sometimes the aeration beneath the haystack was enhanced by the carving of a drainage groove in the ground. Initially a simple spiral but then sometime in the Neolithic someone invented what we call the Type 1 Classic Maze. One route to the centre but with an amazing internal rotational symmetry.

    Another tool used to frighten birds and animals was the hand held sistrum an early musical instrument.

    The maypole and maze was only one of the key symbols that man used in his
    celebration of life. Throughout the world we see dancers dressed up as animals and these animals were those that roamed wild where they lived. In theatrical mode their attributes were celebrated.

    Birds were a source of valuable messages about seasonal transition. They flocked in millions at key times of the year and man listened to their messages. “A little birdie told me”, I think alludes to this old message bringing.

    There was an intensive aerial agriculture as birds of prey flying with the migrating flocks were caught, trained and used to capture birds for food. The falcon performs best by hovering between the prey and the sun. The sun blinds the prey . This real fact was the source of the Horus symbology.

    Geranos was the dance of the Cranes and alludes to the fact that they were key indicators of seasonal change.

    Research into rig dances such as riggadoon (rig adorn) reel (once spelled righeoul) Rigolleto would reveal much more.

    The thrashing floor used to be called halos and the call to the dance until the 18th century was O Hal O Hal and we still go to dance halls. One wonders about the heoul stone at Stonehenge.

    Graham Burgess.

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