Mummers Plays, or Mumming, are ritualistic performances that might be well over a thousand years old. They are traditionally associated with the Christmas period (Midwinter Solstice). In other parts of the country they are performed at Easter (Pace Egging) and at All Souls Day near Samhain (Soulers).
Mummers plays at one time were thought to be linked with pagan rites showing the triumph of life over death (death and resurrection), good over evil. It is now fairly certain that the type of mummers play popular today did not exist before mid-18th C. Medieval references to Mummers Plays refer to a different type of masked play (Mystery or Miracle plays with a religious basis). Roving groups of players were certainly the stuff of ancient history but it has not proved possible at present to link the current plays with these groups.
We have performed the Wantage Mummers Play since its revival in 1974 on December 26th. It is based on an old tradition from the nearby village of Steventon, Oxfordshire. Maintaining the anonymity of the players is a key feature as villagers thought it bad luck if they could identify a performer.
- The Icknield Way Morris Men sponsor the Wantage Mummers.
- Buy Old Father Beelzebub’s Speech for 2012. Proceeds donated to The Children’s Society, the charity supported for this year.
- Old Father Beelzebub’s account of us Mummers is now available for free.