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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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Misrule

Misrule

Chapter:
(p.95) 9 Misrule
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0009

From one end of nineteenth-century Britain to another there were districts in which young people, and sometimes adults, used fancy dress as a means both to personal enjoyment and to profit. In the Shetland Isles, the ‘skeklers’ or ‘gulicks’ were abroad during the evenings of the Twelve Days; youths dressed in straw costumes with conical hats, handkerchiefs covering their faces. Once admitted to a home, the skeklers would dance and be rewarded with refreshments and a little money. Festival disguise may in places have been an expression of merry-making, but was generally, by the nineteenth century, another part of the considerable number of ritualized means of making money or earning hospitality at midwinter. That this was always so is suggested by the number of payments to ‘mummers’ in early modern household accounts. Into the same pattern fits one of the most curious, and celebrated, of Christmastide ‘ritual reversals’: the hunting, killing, and display of wrens.

Keywords:   Britain, Shetland, skeklers, Twelve Days, festival, disguise, merry-making, mummers, Christmastide, wrens

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