English "morris" dancing is the earliest known example of biological warfare. Mediaeval documents recently discovered by historians indicate that villagers who showed the early symptoms of bubonic plague were dressed in colourful outlandish costumes with bells tied to their legs and sent to neighbouring hamlets to perform their macabre ritual.
It is quite remarkable to note that, although little or no knowledge of germs or viral infection was existent at the time, the fact that waving handkerchiefs full of plague infested mucus in the vicinity of one's enemies had a detrimental effect was commonly known, particularly in the south of England.
"They did comme in garish clothe wythe bells about their legges and brandishinge shorte poles of wudde which they did hitte together in a devilishe danse, each holdinge a fylthie ragge soaked all in snotte. Soone after this the plague was upon us. They did also a-molly their cludges in the ftreete, gruntinge lyke pygges"
It would also seem that this was used as a convenient way of ridding the community of its worst musicians.
"They did also bringe wythe them uglie daemons from the underworlde who did make a foule dinne upon pypes, fidils and nakers and did take muche ale. These wretched beaftes were not fytte to danse."
by scientists has shown that the average career of a morris dancer would
have lasted about two weeks, which would account for the musical and terpsichorean
simplicity of the "performance" and the pitifully low level of skill involved,
which is still in evidence today in some areas, faithfully reproduced.
(Extracts from "The Diary of Cornelius Crabbe", to be published later this year.)
(Photo courtesy of Brampton Museum.)
This recently discovered egg may have been the one eaten by Humphrey Le Sodde, Second Earl of Brampton, very shortly before his death in 1585.
The Ancient Guild of Cludge Molliers was formed in 1404 at a time when, to molly one's own cludge, particularly in public, had become so socially unacceptable that the perpetrators became outcasts in their own communities, sometimes even to the point of joining the village morris dancers in their depraved activities. This was mainly due to the puritanical influence of the church on society, which could account for the noticeable lack of biblical references to the mollying of cludges after about 1356. Consequently, by the late 14th century it had become necessary for the outlawed practice to be carried out covertly by skilled, professional cludge molliers who usually preferred to work under cover of darkness, often leading a double life to avoid detection. Indeed, the church was so effective in its effort to stamp out cludge mollying, it is virtually impossible to find any written reference to either cludges, or the general act of mollying in its original sense today, except in the word "mollycoddle". Obviously to coddle one's cludge is very different to actually mollying it, especially in public, and the church, for all its faults, recognised this. It has been suggested by some historians that a certain amount of clandestine coddling was popular among the clergy at that time, and so would consequently have been viewed with somewhat more lenience than outright mollying. However, it should be noted that the word has now completely lost its original meaning, no doubt in part due to religious zealots misusing it loudly from the pulpit, as with the word "molly" itself, which had taken on a completely different meaning by the early 18th century with which we are not here concerned.
Jeremiah Marmaduke Blunt Esq.
References from "Folke Songes of Olde Englande" - J. M. Blunt 1892
"My Johnny's Gone a-Mollying, Oh"
"A Cludge Mollier's Shanty" (or "Haul Away me Mollyin' Fork")
"The Cludges they do Grow Green, O"
"Come Molly my Cludge, Oh Damsel Fair"
"Oh, 'Tis of a Jolly Mollier"
"Thine Unmollied Cludge is like a May Morning"
"The Recruited Mollier"
"Oh Whither, Oh Whither is my Sweet Mollier Laddy?"
"The Bold Apprentice Mollier Boy"
"The Gentleman Mollier"
"There Was an Old Man Who Mollied His Pig"
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