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Guisers

From Rev M C F Morris in 1892, from Yorkshire Folk Tale:

No mell supper can take place without dancing, and formerly the advent of ' guisers' formed one of the great features of the entertainment. These 'guisers' were men with masks or blackened faces, and they were decked out in all sorts of fantastic costumes. The starting of the dancing was not always an easy matter, but by degrees, as the dancers warmed to the work and as the ale horns came to be passed round, the excitement began to grow; this was increased by the arrival of the 'guisers,' and then the clatter of the dancers' boots doing double-shuffle and various comical figures, set the entertainment going at full swing. The 'guisers' would at times come uninvited to the feast, and as a rule they were well received, but sometimes the doors would be barred against them and their entrance stoutly resisted.

The guisers appear to have many of the same elements as the Morris and Mumming. Guising appears to be a Northern tradition along with the Mell Supper and may have been known from Derbyshire in the South to Northumberland in the North.

In Allendale, Northumberland, there is a tradition at New Year which involves carrying lighted tar barrels on the head. The people who do this are known as Guisers. The tradition may not date from earlier than the mid 1800s.

Guisers' plays are recorded from County Durham as a Christmas time tradition and generally Carolling and Guising seem to be related.

Guisers also seem to be associated with Scotland and Halloween.