Quote of the day: QUEER AS FOLK

February 26, 2012

QUEER AS FOLK

By the second half of the twentieth century folk culture in Britain had become a kind of cargo cult, a jumble of disassociated local customs, rituals and superstitions: uncanny relics of the distant, unknowable Britain of ancient days. Why, for instance, do sword dancers lock weapons in magical shapes such as the pentagram or the six-pointed star, led by a man wearing a fox’s head? What is the straw bear plodding round the village of Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire every January? Why do a bunch of nutters black up their faces and perform a coconut dance in several Lancashire villages? What possess people to engage in the crazed “furry dance,” singing the “Hal-An-Tow” song, on 6 May at Helton in Cornwall? Why do beribboned hobby horses canter round the streets of Padstow and Minehead every may Day, with attendant “Gullivers” lunging at onlookers with a giant pair of pincers? The persistence of such rites, and the apparent presence of codes, occult symbolism and nature magic in the dances, mummers’ plays and balladry of yore, have provided a rich compost for some of the outgrowths of folk in the 1960s and afterwards. Even to dip a toe into the world of folklore is to unearth an Other Britain, one composed of mysterious fragments and survivals – a rickety bridge to the sweet grass of Albion. As Bert Lloyd mentioned, “To our toiling ancestors [these customs] meant everything, and in a queer irrational way they can still mean much to us.”

— Rob Young, Electric Eden

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