Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dancing the Sun Up

Dylan Thomas records in the introduction to his selected poems:

I read somewhere of a shepherd who, when asked why he made, from within fairy rings, ritual observances to the moon to protect his flocks, replied: `I'dbe a damn' fool if I didn't!'

I was struck when I heard of the custom attached to Morris dancing of dancing the sun up on May 1st, up high on hills around the country. I was even more taken when I discovered that it happened on the Chevin above Otley, a place of immense beauty and historical interest. It was one of the reasons I chose to join Briggate Morris, knowing they danced upon the summit every May Day.

The views across the Wharfe  valley are beautiful, the clear view of Almscliffe and the archaeological remains of a beacon suggested to me that these two locales were used to communicate across the valley, Almscliffe also being in sight of the Grey Stone at Harewood, where cup and ring markings indicate Bronze age settlements nearby.

Touching on the archaeology, the Chevin has many prehistoric remains to see, including a roman road, cup and ring marked rocks and a standing stone known as the Bull stone. Further down the hill are remains of an Iron age settlement, more local standing stones are recorded in recent memory but are lost to the passing of time.

So fitting that we dance upon the Chevin on May Day, a place where our most ancient ancestors would have congregated on such auspicious days to ask for light in the coming months.

And the sun came up, and I couldn't help but feel proud of us - for even if we didn't personally raise the sun for all to see on the morning following the rainiest April in a 100 years, we still danced upon a hallowed hill that has meant something special to people for over 5,000 years, on Beltane.  
We'd be damn fools if we didn't. 

1 comment:

  1. I had a tear in my eye as the sun came up - sat with my family and my extended Morris family on such a beautiful morning. Here's to a great summer x