Monday, April 05, 2010

Pace Egg Play and Morris Men

"Hapus Pasg" it said on the card, which is "Happy Easter" in Welsh.

I'm interested in this Easter-beginning-with-P thing because in French of course, it's Paques.

One of the many interesting but not terribly useful things I learned at university was that the word Easter comes from the Old English Eostre so we don't have that Easter-beginning-with-P thing because we got the word Easter from the German root.

If you're still awake, I will get round to what I wanted to tell you about, which was a Pace Egg Play. And of course "Pace" in this context means "Easter".

Years and years ago, when mylovely cousin Lynda was still alive and I was nobbut a teenager, we went with all my favourite Barrow-in-Furness relatives to see a Pace Egg Play on Easter Monday on the Furness Peninsula in the Lake District.

They are still performed today - they are a strange mixture of ancient fertility plays to do with the coming of Spring, with a bit of Christianity and a bit of the Crusades thrown in. There are stock characters - - St George, patron saint of England, of course, and the Doctor, and the Black Prince, and the King of Egypt. The scripts are very old and generally in rhyming verse. One of the characters will generally kiss some female members of the audience, and they may well have babies the following year.

The actors all have their faces blacked - - or they did when I saw it. There was a bit of a fuss in recent years as some people thought that "blacking up" might be racist - - well, of course, it's not at all, it's a ancient tradition and I think it's because you're not supposed to recognise, say, the local shoemaker because he is now playing the King of Egypt.

When I saw it, those taking part took a perverse delight in kissing any young attractive female members of the audience, and smudging as much black onto them as possible.

And, as with all these ancient Mummers' plays and Morris dances, it was performed several timed during the day, and always - with a strong lack of coincidence - outside a different pub.

So a large quantity of beer was generally consumed during the course of it all and by the end of the day the kissing was distinctly more affectionate and the lines of the play distinctly more approximate.

It was great fun and very entertaining, and a distinctly enjoyable, if wildly inaccurate, rendition of some of the greater moments of English history.

Oh, let's finish with some Morris dancing now, shall we?



I love this kind of thing. It's been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years and perfectly captures the glorious eccentricity of the British character. And yes, it's still perfectly legal.

6 Comments:

Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:05 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

The Easter-beginning-with-a-P thing is not really French as the Spanish call Easter Pascua. It goes all the way back to the Jewish Passover which is really Pesach in Hebrew and relates it to the Old Testament paschal lamb, Jesus being the New Testament equivalent. That is, in the OT, Yahweh said to the Israelites, "When I see the blood [of the slain lamb] [on your doorposts], I will pass over you [and your children will not die like those of the Egyptians this night" versus, in the NT, John the Baptist said to the crowds, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."

Also, the word Easter is much more akin to the pagan god Ishtar and the pagan goddess Ashtoreth (spring, fertility) than many Christians would like to admit. I think we should call it Resurrection Day instead.

6:11 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

But the Morris dance is nice, too.

My verification words for this and the previous comment both start with a p.

6:15 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

There are quite a few welsh words that are similar to French euqivalents.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

"the lines of the play distinctly more approximate."
I love that line! Great post! I have never seen Morris dancing. One of the disadvantages of this watered- down existence in the colonies.

9:43 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

DAPHNE - To explain the nasty "Anonymous" contributor on my blog. Recently I came across a blog called "...Is a C**T!" in which people - celebrities, politicians etc. were run down and labelled "C**TS". I left a comment in which I said that this was most unpleasant and not at all amusing and couldn't the architect and contributors find better things to do with their time? That's why the little moron keeps leaving those nasty comments. My policy is no response - simply delete. Why should I give even a whiff of oxygen to such unpleasantness?

12:39 am  

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