Turning the World Upside Down at Easter
British traditions are varied and confusing and those of Easter are no exception.
A strand of radicalism is a frequent thread. That is, the existing order of power relations is subverted in some way. The most common form of this is the Lord of Misrule, a character who is the precise reverse of the existing order of monarchs and other leaders. The figure is meant to be one of fun but as often disorder and riot are also present.
Easter has little association with Misrule but there is still a subverting tradition- that of Hocktide. In more recent times (and I’m not sure it existed beyond the early nineteenth century) it took place on Easter Monday or Tuesday. Earlier it was to be found at the end of a much longer Easter festival- two weeks or so after Easter Sunday.
Hocktide involved most commonly groups of women, married or single, kidnapping men and holding them to ransom for money. Originally the money raised went to local Church funds but it appears that later it was used to fund sporting activities.
In a male dominated society it was a rare expression of female power.
Hocktide, like many other religious associated customs was discouraged under the Long Parliament in the 1640s and even more so during the period of Cromwellian Government in the 1650s.
With the Restoration in 1660 it returned and it wouldn’t be surprising to find even today some echoes of the tradition taking place.