The Evolution of the Contemporary Blackening

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The blackening’ is a pre-nuptial rite of passage for men and women that takes the form of capturing, dirtying, and cleansing the bride and groom. I show that it evolved from an older ritual called the feet-washing. Scottish in origin, widespread as a feet-washing ritual, both in urban and rural settings, the blackening is now a predominantly rural tradition. Although it can and does occur for men anywhere in the country, it is mainly confined to northern and, particularly, north-east Scotland for women, and it is women who are the main focus of this article. I describe the contemporary blackening, before tracing its evolution. I then consider the form and function of blackening’s predecessor, the feet-washing, before discussing how and why it evolved to become the ritual it is today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-270
Issue number3
Early online date17 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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