Witchmen at Warwick Castle

Warwick offered us
Pagan Dancing
and a
Medieval Castle

Jousting at the Castle

Warwick, England - July 23-25, 1999:

Morris womenWe went to Warwick 'cause its castle is on Rick Steve's 'Seven Best Castles of Europe' list. We got much more than we planned because we happened into town on the weekend of their annual folk festival. The streets were full of dancers doing Morris (traditional performance dances with pagan roots).

Once this dancing was reserved only for men. But times have changed. With only a few exceptions the dance troops seemed to be either all men or all women.

"Applacian Step Dancers"And things have also changed in where they take their inspiration. While Morris ultimately seeded country dancing in America, now our traditions are flowing back to the Old Country. These women are doing what they call "Appalachian Step Dancing," a.k.a. Appalachian Clogging.


Co-ed Morris   

Customary and foolery are taken very seriously by Morrismen (and women).



On the right some dancers proudly show off their shoes with horseshoe inspired taps nailed to the bottom.




Owen Trefor

Trefor Owen here travels with the festivals and makes his living making the special shoes that make that special rapping sound.

Genial dancers make Kath one of them   

Everywhere in the streets the gaiety carried on. Morrismen wanted to share their world with anyone who was interested. Here a passing group made Kathleen an honorary member.




Jack Crawford is a 'fool' who makes all his own costumes.

The 'Fool' is a traditional role in Morris where they make fun of or sometimes lead the band of dancers. Jack adopts his fool personality so completely, when we saw him later out of costume we hardly recognized him.


At night we went to a Ceilidh where the group to the right performed. Their leader dances in a maids costume, but his persona is more like the angry butler who did it.




Mummers checking out the streetBradshaw Mummers performing   

Not all groups were dancers. Here the Bradshaw Mummers put on a Shakespearean version of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada complete with pyrotechnics.





Witchmen whirlingBut we couldn't resist choosing favorites. The very first group we saw was the Witchmen ("from that dark place known as Kettering"). And from the first whooping cry they made and fist shaking dance they did we knew this was the sort of scene that graced the hillsides when they lit the bonfires at Stonehenge.

Women rule the band   

While the men rule the dance, the women rule the band. Their rhythms evoke all the musical archetypes of our heritage from the ancient pre-Celtic drums to the medieval tambourine.





Wichmen are bred, not born   

The Witchmen clan passes on its traditions to the next generation.

More interested in computers   

Though Jacob, 13, wasn't so sure.

He was much more interested in the price of computer hardware back in the States than in the dancing.





Japanese and the Witchmen   

Enthusiasm wasn't limited to Europeans: here a Japanese man can't wipe the smile off his face while getting his picture taken with the group!

Dancing into the air   






Dancing in the pool   

At the end of the day, the Morris dancers carried on a 'procession' to the park where they retreated from the sweltering heat by dancing in the pool.




Warwick castleThe steady attraction at Warwick is the castle, and we could see what all the fuss was about.

Warwick walls   

The walls are perfectly preserved and the grounds are expansive enough to let huge crowds go their own way and not feel crowded.



Jousting Grounds

Begging for reprieve   

Throughout the place are actors playing their parts. Here the man makes Kathleen beg to be let out of the ghastly dungeon.

Ghost's bed   

And there are plenty of exhibits, like this bedroom, showing the surgeon's tools that failed to save the noble who lived here whose murdered ghost now haunts the tower.




The black night   

We had the special treat of watching their jousting tournament. (We actually found it a bit disappointing due to being over choreographed and a poor quality audio system -- the Renaissance Fairs back home are better.)



Zena the horsewomenThey unashamedly borrowed a page and a half from Hollywood.

They named this character 'Zena.'




Henry downloads during the Jousting   

Wax butler   

The waxwork recreation of a wedding reception from 1899 was exceptional.

We stood for ten minutes try to decide if this was a real person or a dummy. We weren't the only ones amazed.



Lady at her desk   

All the real-life people who were at the occasion (including Winston Churchill and Victoria's son, the then Prince of Wales) in their likely positions.

Sumptious dining   





Frame or Painting, which is better?And the decor was royal to the nth degree.

Which is more attention getting? The frame or the painting?


Lady at rest   





   Warm rug killed in cold blood



Town of Warwick from the castle walls   




Next to London !!


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