Morris Dancing

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Morris Dancing

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Originating as pagan fertility dances, Morris (or Morrice) dances have been performed by teams, or "sides," in almost every village in England for hundreds of years. They can also be found, in various forms, in other European countries. In some of the dances the dancers leap high in the air, in the same way that the Witches did to show the crops how high to grow (sympathetic magic). In one of the traditional dances the men "dibble," or bang, sticks against the ground, simulating planting seeds. They then bang the sticks together to frighten away any negativity. Similarly, the waving of handkerchiefs, a part of many of the dances, is done to frighten away any negative spirits that might inhibit fertility. Mumming plays were often performed as an adjunct to Morris dancing.

The name is possibly derived from "Moorish." In fact, some sides perform with blackened faces, suggesting that the origins may be found in North Africa or in Moorish medieval Spain. Yet nothing like these English dances can be found in the Moorish lands. It seems more likely that they are a holdover from preChristian fertility rituals and that the face-blackening may have been done originally as a disguise.

Most sides consist of six dancers accompanied by one or two musicians, a young boy dressed as a girl (and called Maid Marian), a fool, and a hobby horse rider. The dancers wear bells attached to their legs, tuned to harmonious notes. Crossed ribbons, much like the sautois of Voodoo, were worn over white clothing adorned with ribbons and flowers. Morris dancing was banned by the Puritans but was revived at the Restoration. Today it is practiced not only throughout Great Britain but also in America and other countries. Many Modern Wiccan and Pagan groups enjoy Morris dancing as part of their regular activities.

References in periodicals archive ?
Linda Morgan, 50, started Morris dancing last year, after seeing an advert in a local paper.
It has also been suggested that Morris dancing was viewed as a profane, heathen practice by the Church, and so performers blackened their faces to avoid being identified by members of the clergy and accused of witchcraft.
The next volume, which, I'm told, may be available in time for review next year, will undoubtedly chronicle the apogee and ultimate demise of morris dancing and related performances in the region after 1914.
He started Morris dancing when he was at teacher training college in Huddersfield.
I was a little bit reticent before knocking on the door; part of my fear was whether Morris dancing, being quintessentially English, was going to be a hotbed for right wing attitudes," he said.
Morris dancing continued in popularity until the industrial revolution.
The country has a good history of morris dancing and the North East has some of the best folk dancers, as picture three, taken at the Newcastle Rag Folk Dance Festival in 1976 shows.
The youngster - a member of an award-winning Morris dancing team - was walking near her home in Liverpool' when she was hit.
It's long been shrouded in mystery, and research John Cutting spent some thirty years dancing, teaching and researching the Morris dance from its roots until 1850: HISTORY AND THE MORRIS DANCE: A LOOK AT MORRIS DANCING FROM ITS EARLIEST DAYS UNTIL 1850 follows its evolution and answers many questions.
IT'S enough to make the most patriotic Scot set fire to his kilt - it seems we are to blame for inflicting Morris dancing on the world.
John Forrest, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750