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Weird and Wacky Folk Traditions - The Haxey Hood

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  • What: A gigantic tussle, perhaps Britain's oldest, between two villages in North Linconshire, for possession of The Haxey Hood.
  • When: About 2:30 p.m.on January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas
  • Where: A field in Haxey and the Fool's Stone in front of Haxey Parish Church
  • Admission: Free
  • Website

A 700 Year Old Tradition

Nobody is quite sure how the tradition of the Haxey Hood began but it has been going on between the villagers of Haxey and Westwoodside, in North Lincolnshire, for at least 700 years.

The most common story is that one Lady de Mowbray lost her silken hood to a gust of wind and various brave locals took off after it. In gratitude for the adventure, she created the celebration, named all the participants - The Fool, The Boggins and the Lord of the Hood, and gave all the participants a strip of land.

Sounds like a lot of fuss over a hat to me.

 

Smoking the Fool

However it began, it follows a similar pattern, year after year. The event is launched by a Fool, dressed in motley. As he speaks, wet straw is burned behind him, enveloping him in white smoke . This is called "Smoking the Fool" and some local historians claim that it reflects an older tradition in which the Fool was suspended from a tree over a pile of smoking straw and had to escape before it killed him. Seen The Wicker Man anyone?

Rugby on Mega Steriods

The Hood, which is actually a stuffed leather cylinder, is conveyed to a field where it is tossed in the air and immediately surrounded by a scrum of burley men - regulars at various pubs in the two villages. Most of them have prepared for the action with drinking songs and beer at their locals. It looks a bit like a rugby scrum on mega steroids. The scrum is called The Sway and the men attempt to "sway" the Hood toward their villages and to the door of their favorite pub. The Lord of the Hood acts as referee, assisted by Boggins, like crowd marshals, dressed in red.

The Haxey Hood is similar to several other traditional games played in the UK during the holiday season. In Kirkwell, Orkney, they play The Ba', on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, with a cork filled leather ball.

Read more about The Haxey Hood

Watch a (long) video of The Haxey Hood.

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