Hoodening, also called Hodening, is an East Kent, England tradition vaguely related to Mumming and the Morris dance, and dating back at least to the mid-18th century. Related traditions also exist in Wales (including at Caerleon, near Newport) and Lancashire. It was centred on the ploughing teams at farms in and around Thanet, although groups also existed in Deal which were more related to the men-at-sea, and who concentrated on performing music. The common feature to all groups was the appearance of a Hooden Horse - a wooden horse's head mounted on a pole, with a sackcloth attached to hide the bearer. The head would normally have a hinged jaw which could snap shut with a mighty crack.
The groups would tour the area in the period leading up to Christmas (or the Winter Solstice), engaging in tomfoolery (horseplay) at local landowners' houses and requesting 'largesse', i.e. funds to tide them over the slack period of the year.
Despite occasional breaks, the tradition is a living one, and is currently performed by several teams around East Kent. The money raised is now normally given to charity.
A slightly modified version still takes place in Newfoundland, Canada. The main differences being that it is now just a social festivity in which the Mummers get dressed up and visit the elderly, dancing about the house and acting foolish.
The edited (unknown scribe, approx 1000) Pseudo-Penitential of Archbishop Theodore (d. 690) speaks of any who, on the kalends of January (January 1), clothe themselves with the skins of cattle and carry heads of animals. This, coupled with the fact that among the pagan Scandinavians the horse was often the sacrifice made at the winter solstice to Odin for success in battle, has been thought to justify the theory that "hodening" is a corruption of Odining. Others believe that that it is called the hooden horse because the horse forms a hood over the operator.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
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