HISTORY

Penzance Guizers.

Penzance Guizers were formed in May 2012 to learn the art of guising

from Tudor times to the present.

The workshops, run by Helen Musser, cover all forms of Cornish dance

and it’s revival history, historical folk and court dance, with an accent on

technique.

Winter 2014 saw them developing their skills in another Mummers Play.

They have performed in public on many occasions including Montol,

Lafrowda, Golowan and during the Twelve Days of Christmas, guising

with their own regular band, with the Turkey Rhubarb band and at a

Jacobean event with Ros Keltek.

In the summer of 2015 they performed at the International Day of

Dance in the National Botanical Garden of Wales, Carmarthen.

Corol an Vro danceFolk Dancers

17th Century maypoleNewlyn Tea Treat Furry Dance 1909

What’s a Mummer?

Sourced from https://mummerscat.com

A History

In medieval Europe, ‘mummer’ was a term for a costumed performer

or reveller. There are several theories about where the word came from:

  • An old French word, momer,  meaning “to mask oneself.”
  • The English word ‘mum,’ as in “quiet,” because mummers commonly performed silent pantomimes.
  • Momus, the Greek god of mockery and satire, who is traditionally depicted lifting a mask from his face.

 

The practice of mumming has historically been associated with holidays

and celebrations. In France, January 1st was a day when the common

folk donned masks and costumes to trade roles with the powerful for a

day in a festival known as The Feast of Fools. In England, masked

celebrations took place on the last Tuesday before Lent, a tradition

connected to the wild merrymaking of Mardi Gras and Carnivale .

In England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, mummers’ plays were

performed to celebrate special occasions. This tradition is depicted

by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where four

commoners come together to perform a mummers’ play for the

wedding of two nobles, only to be caught up in Puck’s pranks.

Mummers’ plays were traditionally performed on Mayday, Christmas,

Twelfth Night, New Year’s Eve/Day, Easter, and just before Lent, as

well as at special celebrations such as weddings and coronation.

 

Modern-Day Mummers

Mumming has survived into the present day in a number of forms.

Mummer’s plays are still performed in parts of England and some

English-speaking countries, either in the street, at public houses,

or as the mummers travel in costume from house to house (a practice

known as ‘guising’). They are usually performed during the Christmas

season, but sometimes on All Souls Day or Easter.

In Philadelphia, the Mummers Parade is an annual spectacle that takes

place on New Year’s Day. Each year, thousands of mummers march in

elaborate costumes, alongside floats built by competing clubs.

In Newfoundland, ‘mummering’ is a Christmas folk  tradition in which

groups would disguise themselves and wander from house to house at

night, with faces covered. The mummers often carried musical

instruments, playing, singing, and dancing for their hosts in exchange

for food or drink. At each house, the visitors would let the hosts try to

guess their identity, only unmasking when a correct guess was made.

It is easy to see the origins of many aspects of Halloween in mumming

as well. The “trick-or-treat!” called out by children as they go from house

to house, the wild costumes and disguises, and the spirit of impish

revelry we associate with October 31st are all deeply rooted in this

tradition.

 

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