Trigg Morris Men's Mummers Play

The Origins of Mummers Plays are believed to be rooted in the oldest of pagan ceremonies combined with the "Lord of Misrule" customs, and were a traditional part of Christmas at the Court of Edward III (1327-77).  In the early Middle Ages the Church introduced Saints and Old Testament Prophets into the drama to produce Christian Miracle Plays, but perhaps it was the other way round.

Despite the efforts of the Clergy and the popularity of the Miracle Plays, they never quite succeeded in ousting the old pagan Mumming Plays, which remain popular to this day.  In these the players disguised themselves by blacking their faces or by wearing masks, and garments made from ribbon or strips of paper, a custom that still survives at Marshfield in Wiltshire.  The practice is based on an acient belief that if the Mummers were recognised, the magical power of their play would be broken.

Although there are many regional variations, the main plot of the traditional mumming play revolves around a battle between Saint George and an enemy who is variously called The Turkish Knight, Bold Slasher, or the Black Prince of Paradise.  The climax comes when one or other of the protagonists is killed.  The Doctor then intervenes and miraculously restores him to life.  This simple story symbolises the eternal struggle of good & evil, light & darkeness, fertile spring & sterile Winter - an expression of man's preoccupation with the cycle of the seasons.

You Gentlemen of England
I'll have you to draw near,
And mark these words which we shall say,
And quickly you shall hear.

Repeat the last line, e.g. "and quickly you shall hear", then
With your ha'pence and strong beer
And we'll come no more a guising,
Until another year.

The winter it is with us now,
So dirty wet and cold,
To try your good nature
This night we do make bold.

Go down into your cellar,
And see what you can find,
If your barrels be not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.

So now we make an ending,
Of what we did begin,
For going out a Guising,
We think it is no sin