Haxey Hood is one of the oldest local yet eccentric traditions of England, probably dating back to the 14th century. It is held every 5th of January (on the 12th day of Christmas) at the Southern border of the Isle of Axholme, North Lincolnshire.
It is a kind of rugby game that allows unlimited players and a few rules, where a leather tube (known as The Hood) is slowly walked by a large unorganized rugby scrum to 1 of 4 pubs.
Haxey Hood consists of one large rugby type scrum where the hood is pushed or pulled in whichever direction. The rules are simple – nobody is allowed to run with the hood and no one is allowed to throw the hood. The object being to plot the Hood into one of the four public houses in the parish, with the game formally ending when the Hood is touched by the pub’s landholder standing on the front footstep of his establishment. The landholder then will take the hood and it will be displayed until next year’s game.
The legend is said to be related to Lady de Mowbray, the wife on an isle landowner, John de Mowbray, who was riding towards the village of Haxey, North Lincolnshire when a gust of wind blew off her hood. Some farm workers in the nearby field were quick to retrieve and chase the hood then one of the men caught it. He was too shy to hand it back to the lady he asked one of the men to hand it back to her.
Lady de Mowbray thanked the farmer that handed her back the hood and said that he acted like a Lord, calling him “Lord of the Hood”, while the other man who caught the hood was dubbed “The Fool”.
In response to the act of graciousness and the chase that happened, she donated 13 acres of land in exchange for a chase, similar to what happened with her hood, to be re-enacted again next year and the year after that, and so on. Over the centuries it was then popularly known as The Haxey Hood.
A few weeks before the event, the “Fool” and the “Boggins” go to the village to collect some money. The money is raised for local charities and will help pay for the gaming event.
Around noon of the day of the game, officials go around the ale houses that are involved, getting free drinks from each pub as a sign of good luck.
Then the Fool makes a speech where a fire is lit with damp straw behind him. The smoke then gathers around him and rises high, known as the “Smoking the Fool”. He will be suspended over the fire, will be swung back and forth until he can’t breathe any more then cut down and dropped into the fire to make a fast escape.
After the fool’s speech, the villagers and participants of the game make their way to Haxey at around noon where the center of the competition will take place.
The tradition involves a couple in eccentric attire and the most outrageous headgear. The entire story and its characters are re-enacted – the Lord, the Fool, 11 boggins. The Lord will be the judge and the eleven Boggins have the duty of rounding up slackers and also those who attempt to protect the property from whatever damage.
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