Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/172

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English Folk-Drama.

on this tradition. It has evolved and descended from Aryan custom, possibly some sacrificial rite in dramatic form to the goddess Gefjun, the goddess of agriculture — Gefjun personifying the ploughed land as Frigg represents the fruit-bearing earth. In the myth of Thor and Hrungner we see how the thunder god crushes the mountain of rock to prepare the way for agriculture ; and the Gefjun myth about the ploughing with four oxen represents the subsequent tillage. In Blomefield's History of Norfolk we read : "Anciently, a light called the 'Plough Light' was maintained by old and young persons who were husbandmen, before images in some churches, and on Plough-Monday they had a feast, and went about with a plough and dancers to get money to support the plough-light. The Reformation put out these lights, but the practice of going about with the plough begging for money remains." No doubt the begging in the first place was for the maintenance of the lights, a derivation, possibly, of sacrifice to the goddess Gefjun.

The dancers alluded to by Blomefield were the sword-dancers ; and here again we have the phenomena of amalgamation and continuity with modification. The result was a play called the Plough-Monday play, the process being analogous to that we have already discussed, where the sword-dance entered into and gave shape and coherence to existing dramatic traditions.

It is impossible for me to do more now than indicate the outline of this important branch of English folk-drama. With the plough we get the horse, and the horse again places us in connection with the fabulous horses of Aryan mythology. These godlike animals, commemorated in English traditions, become identified with the horses familiar in agriculture : thus we get the hobby-horse, and a whole cycle of observance, of which the effigy of a horse, or a horse's head, is the pivot. This element is a common factor in the problem of folk-drama ; this and the doctor who cures the wounded combatants, or raises them to life