Monday, 9 September 2013

Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance

Abbot's Bromley is a small village in Staffordshire which has held an annual Horn Dance since 1226. Twelve dancers, including six Deermen (from the Bentley family up until 1914, from the related Fowell family up to the present day) are accompanied by a hobby horse, a bow man, a Maid Marian (a bloke in drag) a Fool, a boy with a triangle and a man with an accordion. The ensemble perform their rites at various stops on a prescribed route. After a twenty mile round trip, they go to the pub.

The antlers used in the dance were carbon dated in the seventies, and found to be from circa 1065 ad. They are Reindeer antlers, which must have been imported from Scandinavia (even in 1065, Reindeers had been extinct in Britain for about 8,000 years). As ever with these ancient rituals there is an ongoing debate about just how ancient it is, with some experts suggesting that the dance may have originated much later in the 16th century, making it a mere 500 years old. Either way, it's the oldest traditional dance we have in this country.

Since 1660, it has been celebrated on Wakes Monday, which is today, so you'd better get your skates on if you want to see it.

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