horse_starDragonlore Workshops

Our workshops on Dragonlore are centred around dragon guising with our Tourney dragon, pictured above, and two child size dragon costumes. (Guising is an old term guising meaning to perform in disguise.) We teach about dragon folklore and folk drama traditions, we explain what these meant to our ancestors, and we show how these stories and traditions were significant to the lives of Anglo–Saxon people. This helps us to understand how they lived.

The children learn how to act in costumes, playing games and acting out dragon movements. They perform the Lyminster Knucker Story (Sussex dragon legend) as a mummer’s play and learn a folk song which we all perform together. We can also tell / act out stories such as The Faygate Dragon, The Horsham St Leonards story and others

We use scenes from the play Beowulf and the Death Dragon, which the children act out as the story is told. The group also make a big “web of wyrd” or spider’s web. This explores the ideas behind dragonlore and what it meant to the Saxons who believed that all things in life were interconnected in a big web like that of a spider. This belief is expressed in the telling of Beowulf, for which we use the excellent translation by Michael Alexander (Penguin).

The Lyminster Knucker (dragon or worm) is poisoned by a pie made by local slayer Jim Puttock. This is enacted by the whole group of children guided by the workshop leaders. We perform this in a circle dance, then half the group are selected to play the dragon in a spiral dance and conga. The other half become the slayers. The dragon is slain to a chant based on a children’s rhyme in a dance theatre enactment of the slaying. The Tourney dragon leads this with two children in dragon costumes, or guisers, selected from participants. They learn a dragon folk song as part of this. The performance workshops are from two scenes from Root & Branche Theatre Company’s latest production Dragon Tails or Tales Of Dragons And Woodland Wyrms, a play about the dragon folkore of Sussex.

These drama workshops fit into the curriculum key Stage 2 on Saxon History. The full play also covers aspects of citizenship and explores the Saxon historical theme in more depth. The Beowulf scene used in this workshop also explores Anglo-Saxon or Dark Age culture in Britain.


Hooden Horse Workshops

Our workshops in Hoodening feature STAR, MOON and SUN, our family of Hooden Horses

The Hooden Horse is a mast and pole: the horse’s wooden head is attached to a pole with a cloth attached beneath which the actor who operates the Hooden Horse is hidden or disguised. The Hooden Horse was a folk tradition derived from the farmworkers in East Kent who worked with the horses and may have ritual origins from Celtic and Nordic predecessors for whom the horse was a totem ancestor. (See the White Horse of Uffington and other ancient horses carved in chalk across the downs and hills of Britain.)

Hoodening involves a play and a song. It was performed during the Christmas period when the days were at their shortest and those living off the land would perform ritual plays to act out the death of the dying sun and bring into life the new sun and year. The horse was associated with fertility and was a solar symbol, hence the wheels of the wagon and of the year.

In this workshop the children learn about the Hoodening tradition and what it meant to people in the past. They decorate the horses with ribbons and bows, act out a Hoodening play, learn to operate the horse, sing folk songs that are part of this tradition and learn about the significance of the horse to the Celtic, Nordic and Saxon tribes of Dark Age Britain.

To book a workshop please contact Alison via the link below