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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
lady penelope Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin? (174* d) RE: Folklore: Blacking up for morris - origin? 14 Jan 09

"No reflection whatsoever on Gorton but an indication of something or other?"

That the morris dancer in question was pissed off at having piss taken out of him?

I'm sorry, but you can read any meaning into anything if you have a big enough crow bar.

As to this 'let's not dare to offend anyone' so called argument.

I came to watching border morris after I had been guising for several years. In guising (whether it's mumming or what ever) it's common place to black up or wear a mask. The point is disguise. Not to emulate any particular skin colour. I cannot be held responsible for what someone else wishes to read into my wearing a mask or putting makeup on my face.

I find the full face mask/veil worn by some muslim women to be offensive as it, to me and many other women - muslim or otherwise, represents the scandalous treatment of women in many parts of the world where religion is used as a stick to beat them. However, it is not up to me to demand that all women in Britain who have chosen to wear the veil be made to remove them because I find it offensive. It's their choice to wear the veil (or it should be). There are connotations and reasons for wearing the veil that I either don't know about or don't agree with, but the bottom line is that it doesn't affect me. It does not make a direct impact on my life.

Back to the original question. I need to go dig about, but I have read quotes from parish accounts circa 16 & 1700s that describe New Year wassailing and Halloween activities. In them they describe men, either singly or in small groups, dressed in black with blackened faces going from door to door. Sometimes singing, sometimes doing solo jigs or group dances (no mention of morris though)and then asking for money. In some of the accounts, it is noted that possibly they have blackened faces to prevent anyone reporting them to the parish for begging.

Whilst this does not preclude there being minstrel connotations with morris men blacking up, it suggests that it is probably not the only source of the tradition.

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