Foresters Morris
and Sword Dancing Club
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History of the morris



Foresters Morris as part of the Chatsworth House Spectacular.
More here.



Morris dances are ancient English ritual dances. Long ago these were performed to bring fertility to the worshippers and increase their harvest, flocks and herds, and to ensure plentiful children to maintain the strength of the tribe. They were probably connected with the worship of the Mother Goddess, and some modern teams of morris dancers represent her by an accompanying Man-Woman. Our team includes a fool, who probably represents the priest who celebrated the mysteries, and a Man-Beast, a creature also connected with fertility. Our beast is a stag, as we come from the area of England associated with Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, once the haunt of deer. The deer could be hunted only by the King or Nobles, but fed Robin and his men.

The dances are men's dances and came from villages where they were performed at Whitsun (Pentecost). Changes in industrial development led to many country people moving to the towns, and as a result most of the traditional teams died out. In 1899 Cecil Sharp encountered one of the few traditional teams still existing, and was much impressed by their vitality. He spent the rest of his life collecting these dances and teaching them to people who felt that they should be preserved. Gradually clubs sprang up to maintain the Morris as a living tradition, and, more recently, some of the traditional village teams have been revived.

The Cotswold hills are a traditional stronghold of the English Morris with most towns and villages boasting their own teams up to the last century. English Morris Dancing was once part of the seasonal magic of the countryside. It was one.of the functions of the Morris to encourage the earth and everything within it to revive and flourish Bampton-in-the-Bush Morris Dancers claim a continuity of several hundred years and we welcome them as we do Chipping Campden, together with several teams from the Midland Region to the Festival.

The Cotswolds are by no means the only part of England where Morris Dancing belongs. In Lancashire and Cheshire we find spectacular Clog Morris which was frequently performed as part of the Rush Cart procession.

There are also sword dances, and seasonal plays connected with the death of the old year and the rebirth of the new, which hark back to pre-Christian beliefs.

See also the transcript of a BBC programme on morris dancing.

I've also added to this site some photographs of Cecil Sharp's original wooden 3-hole pipe, made to a special order for Sharp by Dolmetsch in the 1920s. When I showed the pipe to Carl Dolmetsch in the 70s, he said "Oh that one, that was a special. The name was Sharp. I made six of them for him."



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Updated Wednesday 01-May-2024 12:14
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Eric manages web sites for
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