On the last day of Saturnalia (aka Christmas Eve) we went mumming as usual in Lacock. N was Bold Slasher and I was Dick the Horse. N has been playing Bold Slasher for 2 years now (he used to be Beelzebub). The Ragged Heroes Mummers have been going for over 25 years to mum in Lacock on Christmas Eve, but some people in Lacock are still confusing us with the Marshfield Mummers (be sure to view the video from 1967), who appear on Boxing Day in Marshfield. Their style of performance is different to ours, their play is different, and their costumes are different.
Mumming is a wonderful folk custom, but for me the most magical bit is the torchlit procession across the bridge over the River Avon. There's something deeply primal about fire in the darkness.
I also enjoyed scaring lots of girly girls (who screamed not once but three times) with the horse's skull. Well, it is green (due to having been cleaned in acid that had been used for acid-etching copper).
Whether or not it is really about the death and rebirth of the sun at the solstice, mumming is powerful and dramatic. There is definitely something archetypal about it.