Traditional Drama Forum - No.11 ISSN 1743-3789 October 2004


Compiled by Eddie Cass

First Conference of the Sief Working Group on the Ritual Year

This conference will be held in Malta next year in association with University of Malta Junior College, Msida, Malta. The dates are March 20-24, 2005. Papers are invited on:

  1. The Ritual Year in Malta
  2. Easter and Spring (Ritual and Society; Ritual and Family; Ritual and Worship Resources; Art and Ritual)
  3. Processions
  4. Life Cycle Parallels to the Ritual Year Cycle
  5. Any topic relating to the ritual year

For further details, please contact George Mifsud-Chircop (

Help! Whitley Wood Mummers

I received this letter on the Whitley Wood mummers via the Folklore Society. A similar letter was sent to Peter Millington as webmaster; neither of us has been able to help. Can any of our readers help? If you do have a photograph, we would love to publish it in our pages.

Dear Dr Cass

Juliette Wood suggested I contact you as I am looking for photographs of the Whitley Wood mummers, who for several generations were led by members of the Poulter family. I've come across many written references to them, including excerpts in S. Piggott and Stephen Roud. An elderly Poulter remains (my great uncle) and we'd really like to trace some images of the old group, as we know they were often photographed, and donated pictures for a study on mumming. Unfortunately the Poulters were over-generous and never kept any back for themselves.

I have already tried Stephen Roud and MERL [Museum of English Rural Life] without success.

Many thanks

Deborah Lockyer



Tony Deane & Tony Shaw (2003) Folklore of Cornwall
Stroud, Tempus Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0 7524 2929 9, £14.99

Tempus are gradually reprinting, with some changes, the county folklore series first published by Batsford in the 1970s. Changes include photographs instead of the rather charming, if sometimes unhelpful, drawings by Gay John Galsworthy. Whilst there is no extended section on plays, there are several references to mumming plays in Cornwall.

Claude Gaignet & Dominique Tonneau-Ryckelynck (2004) Les Triomphes de Carnavall
Gravelines, Édition du musée de Gravelines, 2004, ISBN 2-908566-17-6, €40

If you were not able to attend the exhibition at Gravelines, France, earlier this year (see Traditional Drama Forum, No.10), I can thoroughly recommend the catalogue which is extensively illustrated in colour and sepia. Harlequins, Wild Men, woodwoses, Fools, and Hobby Horses abound among the many paintings and prints which are illustrated in this catalogue which is a wonderful evocation of the European carnival through the centuries.

June Lewis-Jones (2003) Folklore of the Cotswolds
Stroud, Tempus Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0 7524 2930 2, £14.99

This is in series with the Folklore of Cornwall but is a totally new book and not a reprint of the original Batsford volume, presumably because Kathleen Briggs is no longer alive to bring out a revision of her text. Chapter 8, 'Making Music. Song Dance & Mumming' has the text of the Sherborne play and several photographs of actors performing mumming plays. It is however, a pity that we still have to read that 'Play, in fact, is a rather grandiose term for what is really a folk fertility ritual with pagan roots.'

Roy Palmer (2004) The Folklore of Shropshire
Woonton Almeley, Logaston Press, 2004,ISBN 1 904396 16 X, £12.95

Shropshire was missed out from the Batsford folklore series, it is, therefore a delight to see this new book by Roy Palmer. There is a chapter on Dance and Drama which explores some of the plays which could be seen in the county in the past and performed on a stage made up of farm wagons drawn up in front of a pub. The actors were local men and boys. The list includes such plays as Prince Mucidorus, St.George and the Fiery Dragon, Valentine and Orson. The chapter contains the full text of the mumming play from Newport collected by Charlotte Burne. Unfortunately, Palmer states that there is no surviving text for the other plays he records but he does suggest the idea of a reconstitution for an al fresco performance. One which I would love to see. Can I put a plea in for the St George play?

Eli Rozik (2004) The Roots of Theatre. Rethinking Ritual Origin and Other Theories of Origin
Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2002, ISBN 0-87745-817, $49.95

Rozik's principal aim in this book is to rebut the arguments of various scholars who have suggested a ritual origin for western theatre; 'The thesis of this book is that theatre could not have originated in ritual.' [p.27]. It is immensely erudite yet easy to read. It has a chapter on mumming plays where Rozik focuses on the arguments of E.K.Chambers, the Cambridge Anthropologists and E.T.Kirby to argue that the ritual origin of mumming plays is unlikely and that these plays were not progenitors of theatre as we know it.


Thomas Pettitt (2000) 'This Man is Pyramus': A Pre-history of the English Mummers' Plays
Medieval English Theatre, 2000, Vol.22, pp.70-99

An updated version of a piece first published as 'The Early English Mummers' Play: A Contextual Reconstruction', Pre-Publications of the English Department of Odense University 31 (1984). Later versions were presented as papers at the Medieval English Theatre Meeting, 1996 and the Traditional Drama Research Group Conference, 1998.

Sandra Pietrini (2002) Medieval Fools in Biblical Iconography
Medieval English Theatre, 2002, Vol.24, pp.79-103

This is a paper exploring the use of images of Fools in their various activities as illustrated in Books of Hours, missals, bibles and psalters. Well illustrated throughout the text.

Peter Robson (1999) Thomas Hardy's "Play of St. George"
Lore and Language, 1999, Vol.17, No.1-2, pp.257-271.

A re-written text of a paper first given at the Traditional Drama Research Group's conference in October, 1983

Books for Sale

Various members of TDRG have the following items for sale. If you wish to purchase any of these titles, please contact Eddie Cass first. These are all new copies, not second-hand and most of the items are in very limited supply. Prices are £5 each plus postage.

Christopher Fetherston (1973) A Dialogue agaynst light, lewde, and lasciuious dauncing
Leicester, Guizer Press, 1973

An early record of morris dancing, the book was first published in 1582. This is a facsimile of the copy in the Bodleian Library.

Alex Helm (1969) The Chapbook Mummers' Play. A Study of the Printed Versions of the North-West of England
Ibstock, Guizer Press, 1969, 54pp.

Alex Helm (1984) Staffordshire Folk Drama
Ibstock, Guizer Press, 1984, ISBN 0-902065-08-4, 72pp.

Peter Stevenson (1982) The Peace Egg or St. George. An Easter Play. An Original Chapbook from Edwards & Bryning with a Brief History...
Sheffield, Traditional Drama Research Group, 1982, ISBN 0950-815209

We Welcome Offers of Contributions for Publication

Both Peter Millington and I regret that there are no research papers ready for this issue of the Forum. We are always on the lookout for material but we may not know what it is you are all working on unless you tell us. We hope that the fact that this is to become a refereed journal will raise its status and we will welcome offers of contributions. Please, in the first instance contact Eddie Cass at

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