On Saturday, at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I experienced one of those rare moments where I felt completely comfortable with the notion that yes, I am indeed a Morris dancer. It was raining. Oh boy, was it raining. We were soaked to the skin. I was part of a jig-for-five, of Brackley Princess Royal. It was fresh and silly and fun and we did very well and it was all so absurd, on the whole, that it felt right and perfect. I so loved being one of the dancers, knowing the dance, dripping in my wet kit along with the other dancers. What fun.
I always enjoyed the RenFest, but I enjoyed it a whole lot more once I started to attend as a participant. There is an entire Festie world, of people who basically live there for all of their free days for six weeks each year, and while you see that world from the outside you have to walk around the festival site in kit to know what it feels like to be accepted into this world. It's a role-playing game that fills a small village. The non-Festies are sort of ghosts to the Festies, residents of another dimension who need to be entertained and cadged but who are somewhat incorporeal.
Minnesota Traditional Morris -- the other local all-male Morris team -- is the official Morris team of the RenFest (although in recent years they are not there every weekend). On Labor Day weekend they invite other Morris teams to join them, as their guests. This used to be a very big deal, with several teams from the greater Midwest camping on site for the entire three days. Nowadays there are few out-of-state visitors, and the local teams usually field a side for one or at most two days. My team hasn't been able to field a full side for RenFest for three years, but those of us who can go dress in kit and scare up a dance or two with others who know our tradition and we hang out with the other Morris dancers there. I look forward to this, although for the last two years I've been out of the country on Labor Day.
The morning was beautiful on Saturday, and we began the day by dancing Abram's Circle around the Wicker Man. We had a couple of good dancing sets: my team danced one dance with two guest dancers and a group of us who had been attending the Brackley workshops danced together. We led off the mid-day parade. It began to rain during the parade. Then it rained harder. Then harder. Then the field turned to mud. A good percentage of the audience left, as did many of the dancers (after a while). But MTM is obligated to stick around (and they are camping out there anyway) and a bunch of us stayed as well and that's when the glorious wet fun began. And yes, I was a Morris dancer.
It's like playing in a marching band. Everybody who has been in a marching band has bucketloads of experience playing in the rain. When the rain starts it is uncomfortable, but you can't just stop. Then, once you are completely wet, it's not so bad. Once you are wet you are wet. Sometimes the rain comes and goes, which can bring back that initial-rain discomfort, but on the whole you know that it's only water. In this case it was also mud.
It was really nice to get home and into some warm dry clothes, but it's good to know that I can still splash about with the lunatics. Just as if I were one of them.