"There for the Rush-bearing.......thanks to VT!" Sowerby Bridge by leics
Sowerby Bridge Travel Guide: 56 reviews and 333 photos
Sowerby Bridge, a small town in West Yorkshire.
I'd probably not have set foot in it were it not for the 'Fish, chips and mushy peas' VT meeting wonderfully organised by Ricky52.
And it was here that I made the remark 'I've just had one of the best half-hours of my life!' As I'd been missing from the main party for around that time it was not, perhaps, the best way to express my pleasure in having just watched several displays of Morris dancing!
There is a rush-bearing in many villages around this area. It's the ceremonial taking of rushes to the church, for covering the floor in winter.
But watching the girl placed on top of the high pile of rushes, being pulled through the village by 60 strong young village lads, it was fairly obvious to me that it's not about the church at all....or it wasn't, once upon a time, before Christianity came to these islands.
I was certain the young girl represented fertility, and harvest....until I found out (in 2010) that it was originally a man who 'rode the rushes'. But I would not be in the least surprised if he was, eventually, sacrificed and his blood spread upon the fields to ensure next year's harvest. Probably after having conjoined with at least one village maiden (and possibly more than one).
That's what I felt was at the root, anyway. Now I've seen it twice, and the second time was just as enjoyable! :-)
I do love Morris dancing, even though I know it is a totally bastardised version of rituals which first began in prehistoric England. Morris, as it is performed today, is largely a 19th-20th century re-creation of traditional dances and costumes....the tradition was broken, and the link had to be re-forged.
But I'm glad it was. There is Morris throughout England, some areas having a more active membership than others (my own town has a very low profile team of 'Bullockers'). Both costumes and dances vary hugely across the country.
Nowadays (as, I suspect, was exactly the same in the past) Morris men usually dance from pub to pub. The dance is energetic, and liquids must be regularly replenished. :-)
Women dance now, sometimes, in some groups ..... but it is traditionally an exclusively male pursuit. Women might be 'garland dancers', performing much more daintily with hooped, flowered garlands. The men clump and stomp in their boots and clogs, swinging staves at each other, leaping high to show their virility and athleticism (in theory).
Some are blacked-up..........their faces covered in black. Not racist, and nothing whatsoever to do with the colour of the skin: it's a disguise. In theory, you do not know who these men are............you do not know what they may do......they represent forces of which you are in awe. They are not themselves, not your father, your brother, your neighbour. On this day when they dance they are special, something 'other', to be respected and slightly feared, linked to the gods and the ancestors. Halfway between this life and the next.
It's ritualised combat, saving testosterone-filed and valuable young men from killing themselves fighting between themselves.
It's a way of showing who's virile, and who will make a good mate.
It's a way of ensuring that the sun rises, and spring returns, and that the harvest will be plentiful enough for the people not to starve. That the gods are pacified, and that life will continue. Ultimately nothing is more important than that.
Sowerby Bridge, in itself, is just an ordinary small Yorkshire town. But when the rush-bearing happens it becomes a very special place.
And yes, it really was one of the best half-hours of my life. Visit it for the rush-bearing and see what you think.
- Pros:Pleasant little town
- Cons:None that I came across
- In a nutshell:For the rush-bearing
........it is worth having a wander around this typical small mill town. The canal basin area has been pleasantly... more travel advice
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