an exhibition of the works of David Blackwood
March 29 to April 22, 2003
Opening Reception March 29, 2:00 to 5:00 pm
The origin of the Christmas tradition of 'Mummering' can be traced back to celebrations of the Twelve Days of Christmas in the Middle Ages, and these traditions were probably derived from much earlier Druidic rituals surrounding the winter solstice. Mummering began on the night of Boxing Day and continued until January 6. Groups of mummers would wander from village to village at night, playing the fool and calling on a house with a measured, ceremonial knock and the invocation "Any mummers allowed in?" The mummers would be admitted to the kitchen and questioned to guess their identity. Once their true identity was guessed they were required to throwback the veil or mask and expose or 'unveil'. They would then be offered a drink or their 'Christmas' a plate of cakes and a glass of cordial. In repayment the mummers were expected to entertain before they headed out for the next house.
Very rarely you would hear reports of a 'Lone Mummer' appearing in a remote community as it was hard to imagine anyone undertaking such a visit alone in the dead of winter. In fact, this kind of sighting was a dreaded event, which stirred ancient and instinctive superstitions against outsiders, the archetype of the 'Stranger'. A lone mummer was so unlikely and threatening that it was always referred to as a 'Spirit' and was a certain sign of impending death in the New Year. Actual encounters with lone mummers did happen once or twice every ten years.
The home-made entertainments in Newfoundland began to disappear with the arrival of radio and television. By the time the National Film Board came to Wesleyville to make the film 'Blackwood' in 1973, mummering had disappeared entirely and was re-enacted for the film.
-excerpt from 'Mummering in Newfoundland' by David Blackwood.
Beautiful Young Mummer in Margaret Feltham's House
Etching and aquatint1985
20 X 16 inches
Lone Mummer Approaching
1976 Etching and aquatint
20 X 32 inches
|David's Home Page|