Worms, Stags, and Other Folk Performances

Where do the North East’s tales of worms and dragons come from? Why did Lord Neville of Raby Castle want to bring a dead stag to Durham Cathedral each year? Find out all about some of the peculiar traditions of the North East region, in this podcast recorded during the Plays, Processions, and Parchment exhibition organised by Records of Early English Drama North East.

Folk performances and ceremonies make up one of the most interesting categories of early dramatic activity, although the low social status and illiteracy of most of their performers means that they are rarely recorded; however, late medieval records from the North-East are particularly rich in references to them. Some reflect popular legends and beliefs about dangerous animals, while others, such as bringing in the plough on the day after Epiphany or the competitive May games, mark particular turning points of the year. Professor John McKinnell outlines some of the evidence for popular ceremonies and entertainments in the North-East region and makes some suggestions of what they were really ‘about’.

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