Morris in History – Archives
- Many theories have been proposed as to the origins of the Morris. The commonest theory is that it is a remnant of pre-Christian druidical fertility rites, and used to be danced in midwinter to ensure the return of the sun after the winter solstice and in spring to ensure that the corn fields would grow and flourish. There are many factors which appear to prove this theory:
- To this day the Morris is still traditionally performed at Christmas time, and at dawn on May 1st.
- The connection between fertility and the long, thick and hard sticks used by Morris dancers is obvious.
- There continues to be an unshakeable association between the Morris and the mightyBarleycorn (in the form of partaking of the fermented extract thereof).
- Because the Morris has continued to be danced throughout the centuries, the sun has continued to return every spring, and the corn harvest to thrive every summer. That the sun has returned and the corn grown every year is beyond doubt, so this is regarded as the most incontrovertible proof of the power of the Morris.
- Another theory has it that Morris dancing was in fact only invented recently by a certain Cecil Sharp, Esq., on Boxing Day 1899, when he came across a group of itinerant quarrymen, and taught them a some simple exercises to help them keep warm.
- However, recent research has revealed the true origins of the Morris dance. It is now accepted that Border Morris, which comes from the English counties along the border between England and Wales, is in fact the oldest form. It is also the simplest and most violent, involving loud yells and beating the hell out of each other with stout sticks. It derives from a ritual display as performed by the English when any Welshmen dared to venture across the border. The English, being in those days by nature xenophobic, devised the dance to illustrate to the Welshmen what they should expect if they were to venture any further. This can be compared with the posturing of other species of wild animals, in which the animals rarely actually fight with each other, but simply try to frighten each other off by putting on the fiercest display. This also explains the outlandish appearance of Border Morris dancers, and the blacked faces used as a disguise to make themselves harder to recognise at any subsequent police identity parade.
- The reason that the Morris developed along the Welsh border first, rather than the Scottish border, was simply that it was not necessary because of Hadrian’s Wall. However as the wall fell into disrepair, the Morris also developed in the north of England to compensate, but being developed later, was somewhat more subtle. The warning to potential invaders from Scotland wearing kilts is obvious when you consider that Morris dancing in the north is either performed in heavy wooden clogs involving a lot of high kicking, or involves the use of swords. These days, Morris dancing is still uniquely English, but is now performed to entertain rather than to frighten.
- Having started from humble beginnings in 1991, the Hook Eagle Morris Men perform dances in the Border Morris style, and have had such meteoric success that we are now universally regarded as being simply the best men’s Border Morris side in all Hampshire. By a strange twist of coincidences, we are also the only men’s Border Morris side in all Hampshire.