Morris dancers don blackface for traditional ‘wassail’ ritual as they toast trees with cider

Morris dancers donned ‘blackface’ for a traditional ritual in which they toast apple trees with cider to ensure a good harvest.

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Men group covered their faces with the controversial make-up as they gathered outside a pub in Hampshire last night.

They performed the ancient medieval ‘wassail’ ritual which involves drinking hot mulled cider to ensure the good health of apple trees.

Dozens of dancers turned out for the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard in Hartley Wintney.

The dancers have come under fire for blacking up in recent years as many find the tradition racially offensive.

But Morris dancers say there are ‘no racial connotations’ to the make-up as the origins of the tradition date back to the 16th century when black paint was used by farm workers as a disguise while begging in the winter, which was illegal. 

The Hook Eagle Morris Men were established in 1991 for a one-off event to raise funds for their local church but decided to continue.

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

The Hook Eagle Morris Men make their way to the orchard to sing to the apple trees during the annual Wassail night in Hartley Wintney

The Hook Eagle Morris Men make their way to the orchard to sing to the apple trees during the annual Wassail night in Hartley Wintney

The Hook Eagle Morris Men make their way to the orchard to sing to the apple trees during the annual Wassail night in Hartley Wintney

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers dance outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers perform outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

A member of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers in the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard during a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a 'Wassail' in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Dancers outside the Waggon and Horses pub before heading to the Vaughan Millennium Apple Orchard for a ‘Wassail’ in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

 

 

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