Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/468

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und the reference to selling geese (p. 348), seem to point to a Harvest Home or Michaelmas rejoicing as th^ occasion. Yet the allusion to Christmas is unequivocal, and it is to he noted that the Fool is addressed invariably as " Old Father." The following reference, which occurs in Wallis's " History of Northumberland," may be significant upon the Christmas aspect of the piece, together with its date (October 20): The saltatio armata of the Roman militia, on their festival Armilustrium, celebrated on the 19th of October, is still practised by the country people in this neighbourhood on the annual festivity of Christmas, the Yule-tide of the Druids. Young men march from village to village and from house to house, with music before them, dressed in an antic attire, and before the vestibulum or entrance of every house entertain the family with the motus incompositus, the antic dance, or chorus armatus, with sword or spears in their hands, erect and shining. This they call the sword danced As far as I have been able to ascertain at present, October 20 is an exceptional date for the performance of a play like that here printed, and it is just possible that it is a reminiscence of the date of the Roman festival of October 19. Those who wish to compare this piece with Christmas mumming plays can refer to the Folklore Record (vol. iii. part i. p. 87), when they will probably be struck by differences as much as by analogies. The present piece is of a heterogeneous character, but I am inclined to think it is a Lincolnshire variant of the " sword dance" of the northern counties (Northumberland, Yorkshire, &c.), which was played during the Christmas season; and that these per- formances are analogous to the Christmas mumming plays of the midland and southern counties. In these northern sword dances the " Fool " and " Bessy " invariably figure as characters; and the Cicely of our piece is the Lincolnshire counterpart of Bessy. In the southern mumming plays female characters are absent, except in the case of Old Bet" or " Betty," an old dame who figures in some of them, and the Bessy (our Cicely) of the North-of-Trent sword dance suggests some connection with Maid Marian. Brand suggests, however, that both the Fool and Bessy are derived from the ancient festival of fools held on New Y^ear's Day.