Terry Pratchett wrote a wonderful book under the title of “Wintersmith” that mentioned the essential role of the annual silent performance of the Dark Morris in ensuring that winter arrives as it should. I was reminded today, the winter solstice, of this tradition and, as a former morris dancer/musician myself felt the need to reacquaint myself with the details.
To quote from the book:
In the spring, on Mayday, Morris dancers “dance the sun up” lest it fail to warm the land for the coming summer. Mayday is a festive occasion and many will drag themselves out of bed before dawn to watch and cheer on the dancers and the sun. Later in the day, perhaps after a nap, there will be more dancing, Morris as well as the maypole, with feasting and frolic and beer.
On or near the first of Ember – the day after the winter solstice, I suspect – there is another dance, the last dance of the year, the “Dark Morris”.
There is no crowd of cheering spectators, no merriment, no music, no sound. The dancers trade their bright white beribboned costumes for black shrouds and perform in darkness and silence without bells, sticks or swords (or better, with bells of octiron that create a lacy counter-tinkle of silences). This is the Dark Morris, without which winter may not arrive to complete the cycle, water the land with snow and prepare for the renewal of spring. Winter begets summer, death begets life.
Unfortunately … The Dark Morris dance in “blackface” and that is nowadays (and quite rightly so) unacceptable hence, … one assumes, the Dark Morris may no longer be being performed quite as the gods originally intended and thus the winter may not arrive properly with a full load of cold and snow. We have to ask – are The Dark Morris doing what they do properly, have they devised a magically functioning alternative to blackface or are they slacking on the job … in fact, are they out there today dancing in the winter at all?
After all, this is magic which means ALL the details must be as tradition ordained for things to unfold as they should.
Could this be, perhaps, the real underlying cause of climate change?
Note: There is a link above to the book, Wintersmith. For some bizarre reason Amazon.ca list the works of Pratchett as “children’s” books. Do not be fooled – these are books for adults, kids would almost certainly miss most of the satire, jokes and subtle references.