Women, Witches and the Wild Hunt
Storytellers take you on amazing adventures, fight ferocious beasts, answer dangerous questions and bring you home with just a story. Take part in the origins for the Ride of the Valkyrie’s the real Wild Hunt, the Women Goddesses of the night sky. We ride with the night hunt, eat drink and leave with payment in gold! These are ancient and forgotten stories that we sort of remember.
Once Upon a time.
The wild hunt raced through the sky, taking its monstrous regiment of women, led by the goddess Diana, the Lady, to terrorise the world. The witches of the Sabbat rode into the night and the folk traditions bend and weave this story with those classical paintings of beautiful and tempting half-naked women riding and fighting.
And back in the real world is a woman, of varying degrees of beauty and youth, who gives you a love potion, a poultice for the boil on your bottom, cuts your ingrowing toenails and is also the local midwife. The chances that she flew on a broomstick with no knickers is fantastical, and the underwear part, probably medieval wishful thinking. But the folklore says that on epiphany, the Lady with her wild hunt, would visit the chosen hedge witch and woe betide that woman if she has not laid out a feast and entertainment for her surprised guests.
The hedge witch was part magician and part nurse and sometime storyteller. She lived on the edge of mediaeval society caught between convention and necessity, but she was all they had. Then when the bad times came, and the sickness, who did you turn to and also turn against. Rumour and stories and gossip and belief is not just a 21st century phenomena, there was always a cure, at a price, and one might just work.
This is a story of history and myth with a bit of magic and laughter, but it is also a story for our time.
Storytelling is so simple, a teller and a story, but it can take you far away into another world and then home again. The expression ‘Wild Hunt’ has acted as shorthand in Western culture for nocturnal cavalcades of spirits and all along I thought it was men! This is why this story is so exciting as we find the Wild Hunt is a group of women. This is Maud’s story, a woman who has every year prepared a feast for the day of the Wild Hunt and then one year …….
Flirty, famous and feisty!
“Flirty, famous and feisty! – the sensational, saucy stars of the 1800s”
Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley were the outrageous influencers of their time. Stars of the Music Halls, they were famous, flirty and feisty. People flocked to see them. Both were controversial and way ahead of their time, forging the way for the acceptance of people who broke the molds. Marie Lloyd was a singer whose innuendo laden songs were only slightly less sensational than her off stage life. She was married three times, spoke out in court about being beaten by her husband (a thing unheard of at that time) and was a fierce trade unionist. All of these things were socially unacceptable in the 1800s. On being denied a spot at the Royal command performance she set up a rival show which had the crowds flocking to see her instead! Tilley was ahead of her time – working as a male impersonator, having declared “I felt that I could express myself better if I were dressed as a boy.” At a time when it was deemed socially unacceptable for a woman even to wear trousers, this was utterly sensational, and the public, especially women, loved her. In the 1890sTilley was England’s highest earning woman, touring her show internationally. The struggle for respect no matter what identity you may choose is very relevant to the audiences of today, as is the eternal theme of rising above adversity.
The audience will get to know these two women very well indeed as we use performance storytelling to share the secret sides to their stories. Expect tears, laughter and uplifting, inspirational stories about two true stars of the old music halls, whose struggles and successes are still so relevant today. A Singalong finale will leave the audience smiling. Audiences will be invited to come along in 1800’s costume, or in male or female drag, a huge hat (the hat they have made in the workshop, perhaps?) or as their most flamboyant selves to get into the spirit of the music hall experience. A family production in the spirit of ‘the good old days’ with a content warning as the show will touch on adult themes including domestic violence and transphobia.
Outreach workshop. “If the hat fits….” We would also like to propose some outreach work in the form of a public access workshop for adults and families on the theme of self-expression. During the workshop, participants will be working collaboratively to create and decorate an oversized hat with symbols of their own identities, and those of the people of Harrow. Participants can also decorate their own outrageous hats in ways which illustrate their hopes, dreams and identities. We will also introduce the participants to some of the songs sung by Lloyd and Tilley during the event. We will be contacting various community groups in advance of the workshop to ask if they would like to be involved. The hat could be displayed in the entrance to the theatre as another way to publicise the event.
Sarah Lloyd Winder and Maria Credali
Sarah and Maria met whilst performing online during lockdown and have discovered a mutual love of dance, theatre and feisty female role models. Both are featured tellers at the Marrakech International Storytelling Festival in February 2022. They came across Vesta and Marie when looking for feisty women to inspire them. Their stories are so relevant today that they need to be shared. Maria and Sarah will tell their stories – of triumph over adversity, of fighting for the right to be your true self, no matter what the backlash.
Sarah Lloyd Winder is a professional performance storyteller who specializes in bringing stories to life for new audiences, creating vivid worlds in which she sets traditional stories from around the world and close to home. Recent work includes Sarah’s own ACE funded project –The Secret Storytellers of Wincanton.
Maria Credali is a professional performance storyteller, specialising in rich language and character development. Recent commissions include a research, development, and performance commission for the RSC to create two brand new story performances, based on recollections of staff from the RSC wardrobe department. The first link below is to Maria’s performance for Whitby folk festival in 2021.