Hoodening

Hoodening, also spelled hodening and oodening, is a folk custom found in Kent, a county in south-eastern England. The tradition entails the use of a wooden hobby horse that is mounted on a pole and carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. Originally, the tradition was restricted to the area of East Kent, although in the twentieth century it spread into neighbouring West Kent. Although deemed extinct at the time of the First World War, the custom was revived in an altered form during the mid-twentieth century.

About Hoodening in brief

Summary HoodeningHoodening, also spelled hodening and oodening, is a folk custom found in Kent, a county in south-eastern England. The tradition entails the use of a wooden hobby horse known as a hooden horse that is mounted on a pole and carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. Originally, the tradition was restricted to the area of East Kent, although in the twentieth century it spread into neighbouring West Kent. The origins of the hoodening tradition, and the original derivation of the term hooden, remain subject to academic debate. Although deemed extinct at the time of the First World War, the custom was revived in an altered form during the mid-twentieth century. In the present the Hooden horse is incorporated into various Kentish Mummers plays and Morris dances that take place at different times of the year. These are clustered in a crescent shape along the eastern and northern coasts of the county, all of which were found within the East Kent area. Historians have catalogued 33 instances of hoodening in the Kent area, and all of them were recorded as being within the area defined as East Kent and the Cotswolds. The earliest textual reference to the hooden tradition comes from the first half of the eighteenth century. Scattered references to it appeared over the next century and a half, many of which considered it to be a declining tradition that had died out in many parts of Kent. A more widely accepted explanation among scholars is that the term Hooden relates to hooded, a reference.

to the sackcloth worn by the individual carrying the horse. This idea has not found support from historians or folklorists studying the tradition. The team of between four and eight men, would carry the horse through the streets. This team included the horse operator, a man dressed as a woman, and one or two musicians. All of the men were farm labourers, usually being worked with horses. The team performed the custom at Christmas time, and usually being admitted at people’s houses on Christmas Eve. Once inside the horse pranced and gnashed its jaw, while the Jockey attempted to mount it and chased the Mollie with a broom while chasing any present with any present, with payment being presented. Although this practice is extinct, it is still used in some modern Kentish folk traditions, such as Mummers and Morris dancing. It is thought that hoodening originated with pre-Christian religious practices in the early medieval Kingdom of Kent, but this is not supported by historians. It has been suggested that hooden derives from the regionalised popularisation of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century fashion for hobby horses among the social elite. The hooded horse was usually made out of the wooden horse’s head affixed to a pole about four feet long, with a hinged jaw that was moved by a string. This horse was then carried aloft by anindividual who was concealed beneath a dark cloth.