Mask of the Week

A Hooden Horse from Deal in Kent in 1909:

Picture taken from this site about the Kentish traditioning of Hoodening. But also check out a parallel Welsh tradition, the Mari Lwyd.

3 replies on “Mask of the Week”

from this website:

The custom was for hoodeners to go from house to house collecting (demanding with menaces might well be the term we would use today) money or goodies for a Christmas feast. The band was made up of a Waggoner with whip who led the horse, the Rider, who tried always unsuccessfully to get upon the Horse’s back, and Mollie, a man in ‘drag’ who went behind the Horse with a besom broom.

The Horse was a man, known as the Hoodener, who held a usually rather crudely carved wooden horse’s head on a stick. Attached to the head was a sort of hood of coarse sacking which more or less hid the man. The head itself was made so that the man could jerk a piece of string to make the loosely hinged jaws open and shut with a vicious clacking sound. Sometimes the jaws were lined with nails to represent teeth and altogether the creature was pretty fearsome.

The whole performance was known as hoodening, and it was accompanied bu some fairly licenced horse-play and rustic ribaldry.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve made space to include a hoodening troupe in my seemingly-never-to-be-finished work in progress, Snowdrop. The poem needs a bit more slapstick!

It’s kind of fab, isn’t it. I first learnt about hoodening from the Folk Archive exhibition at the Barbican I went to a little while back. I found all that stuff – hoodening, the Mari Lwyd, the Padstow Obby Orse, straw bears, the burry man of South Queensferry – surprisingly appealing. Possibly because it doesn’t feel as twee as Morris dancing and a lot of those other folk activities.

And though it seems very quaintly English, it’s also a connection to other masquerading traditions all over the world. One shouldn’t make too much out of a simple visual resemblance, but it is quite striking to put a picture of the Minehead Horse:

next to a picture of a masquerade costume from Mali:

That one’s Ciwara the antelope

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