Dance From the Mists of Time

Dance From the Mists of Time

One of England's oldest folk traditions takes place today in the small village of Abbotts Bromley, in Staffordshire in the West Midlands. This is Wakes Monday - the first Monday after the first Sunday in September.

The Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance was first recorded in the thirteenth century, but the reindeer antlers used for the dance - and kept in the village church for the rest of the year - have been carbon dated to just before the Norman Conquest, so its true origins really are lost in the mists of time. The more so because local tradition states that the setf of horns used today are themselves replacements for even older ones.

The meaning of the dance is equally obscure, though many believe it is a remarkable survival of a prehistoric ritual for the start of the new hunting season, or more generally a fertility dance.

Despite the 'pagan' undertones of this, the dance is always a jolly and light-hearted event, and generations of vicars - originally Roman Catholic and for centuries now Protestants - have been happy to have the event start with a short blessing in the church and for the horns to be returned there as the evening draws in for safe-keeping til the next year.