Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Catholicism and Morris Dancing

"Speak softly and carry a big stick," said Teddy Roosevelt. He wasn't talking about Morris Dancing though, I don't think.

James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots was NOT Catholic. His mother most definitely WAS Catholic, and you are probably wondering why her son wasn't Catholic but was a Morris Dancer.

I really don't know how you came up with the idea James was a Morris Dancer. I certainly didn't say he was; I was only talking about big stick diplomacy and somehow that means I must talk a bit about the origins of Morris Dancing, else you'll think this is a post about Teddy Roosevelt and the Panama Canal or something.

You couldn't be more wrong, so stop jumping to conclusions.

See, it all started (not Morris Dancing) when Elizabeth I realized it wasn't likely she was going to produce an heir, being an avowed virgin and all, so she took baby James from his mother MQOS when he was just a wee tyke, so wee that he didn't even remember his real mother, and had him raised up the way Bess Gloriana wanted him raised, by her courtesans, on the assumption he would end up being her heir. Actually MQOS gave him up right away, voluntarily, and Elizabeth I was really his godmother at her cousin's request... ahhhhh, never mind that. This upbringing under the influence of Elizabeth I accounts for James not being Catholic, see? But the English queen had a house on Drury Lane (not sure why, since she must have had a castle - perhaps she had a little vegetable garden out back) and that, of course, explains the Morris Dancing. I personally don't think she was really a virgin, either, but she never married and never had offspring, so I guess I would be safer, from an American standpoint, to just stick with Teddy Roosevelt and his phallic symbol.

Above, Mary QOS painting, but I think she was fatter.

Some of you, I can tell by your facial expressions, want an even deeper explanation.

Quickly, baby James was heir apparent to the English throne because Queen Elizabeth, childless, was the daughter of Henry VIII, and James' mother, MQOS, was the daughter of Henry VIII's older sister. So the succession backed up to her offspring. Sigh.

Now, the following more elaborate explanation is only about Morris Dancing since I already explained how James VI, I, was a christian protestant. The only thing we need to bring in to tie this all together is Her Majesty's house on Drury Lane and, of course, Shakespeare. Here goes.

How did Morris Dancing originate?

1. With the Druids
2. Brought back with the Crusaders
3. It's really Italian
4. Nobody knows. Not even the dancers.

Nobody really knows. Morris Dancing is really ancient. And I don't think even they know why they carry sticks to beat people with either. Morris Dancing certainly predates the Spanish trips to America by Columbus. It is mentioned by William Shakespeare in Henry V. Morris Dancing in a play was viewed by Elizabeth I from her house on Drury Lane. Aha! - you didn't think I could tie that in to all this, did you?

And all this time I thought Morris Dancing originated from Puritans trying to imitate the way Charles I's legs twitched rapidly when his head rolled off. I was very wrong in that assumption.

You can see some very nice pictures of Morris Dancing at various festivals here. Some of the pictures show them with their big sticks, which I still can't figure out what the heck it means.

Stopping now.

Update: that link doesn't take you where it took me so you will have to click on "photos" when you get where it takes you.


  1. Please remember I am your loyal reader when I ask you, what on earth were you consuming while writing this? There is a certain dream-like quality about it all, moving seamlessly from one subject to another totally unrelated, and another. And back again.

    Don't worry about the big sticks, worry more about the handkerchiefs they wave at you.

  2. But eerily it seems to somehow make sense, no? Well, I suppose the main clue to the answer to your question lies in the header of this blog where I openly admit to being American, and, as you well know, Americans of my serf-like social station are seldom well-educated, as our tendency is not to produce many Winston Churchills and Christopher Marlowes but rather more Woodrow Wilsons and Lady Ga gas. This is not to say that an American can't be trained, over time, to write superficial drivel in a blog whose subject he knows nothing about, it's just that the results often, as you so aptly focused our attention on, tend to lose even their seeming surface scholarship when examined in the harsh light of day which I wish you would stop doing.

  3. I admit to agreeing with A. this time around. Rather stream-of-consciousness. I like the info about James I, and it certainly explains his differing views with his mother.

    The Morris dancing, I fear, is not cleared up at all. Then again, I had not heard about it before your post. Perhaps I should research it...

  4. The eeriness is heat induced. Believe me, little I say or read today will make sense. I am probably dehydrated.

  5. Morris dancing is wonderful fun to watch, and probably to take part too. A little energetic for me. I don't know that anyone really knows where it came from.

  6. I thought that was very well written and notice only wimmen failed to comprehend it.

    Morris dancing is easily explained. The English are a bunch of nancy boys at heart!

  7. @Shakespeare - So you liked it a lot? - This stream of consciousness thing? And you liked the stuff about James I? I didn't even tell you about him believing in witches. You are easy to please today. :) You must indeed study up on Morris Dancing. The English are an odd lot in places. Many MANY places. Morris Dancing is just one example. Remind me sometime to tell you about carving turnips and building bonfires.

  8. @A. - Heat induced? Dehydrated? Perhaps you ought to go home to England and sit on a balcony somewhere overlooking the sea and sip some wine. Just a suggestion. :)

  9. @Sheila - It's hard for you to watch the dancing through that little mail slot, but at least you have protection from the sticks. :)

  10. @Adullamite - Yes, it WAS well-written, wasn't it? No comment on the Nancy. James was yours, don't forget.



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