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Hooked on Bells

St. Dunstan's Day

May 19

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells."

~ The Bells, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Today, May 19th, marks the feast day of St. Dunstan, the patron saint of bell ringers! Campanology, the art of change ringing, is a complex practice involving the controlled ringing of tuned and specially configured bells to produce variations in striking sequences. This fun and challenging jig was devised for a dancer deeply involved in bell-ringing, thus “hooked” on bells, while also being an avid crocheter, creating a double entendre for the word “hooked.” The slip-knot figure in this dance also represents stitches in the dancer's crocheting project. Change ringing originated in the 17th century with the invention of English full-circle tower bell ringing. Bell ringers discovered that swinging a bell through a large arc allowed precise control over the time between strikes, enabling them to independently adjust the speeds of their bells, creating different permutations known as "changes." Certain sequences of changes have acquired special names: Rounds, Reverse Rounds, Queens (which appealed to Queen Elizabeth I), Tittums (for its ti-tum ti-tum sound), and Weasels (the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel"). Change ringing features prominently in Dorothy L. Sayers' 1934 mystery novel, "The Nine Tailors," her ninth story featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Clang! Clang! 🔔 🔔 🔔 🔔 🧶 ⛪

Hooked on Bells

Clang! Clang!


For May 19, St. Dunstan's Day, the patron saint of bell ringers, we have "Hooked on Bells."

Devised by Irene Paterson (with music composed by Calum MacKinnon) for Rachel Pusey, one of The Red Thistle Dancers, this dance illustrates the movement and motion of ringing bells as well as a crochet motify with "hook" figures, to reflect some of the dance recipient's special pasttimes, crochet and change ringing.

For the dance cribs and avideo performance of this dance by RSCDS Seattle, complete with "oohs" and "ahs" from the audience at the bell-ringing figure, click the bells!

And for a wonderful timeline and video describing the patterning and mathematics of the art of change ringing, in which a band of ringers plays long sequences of permutations on a set of peal bells, click here.


Click the engraving below of "The Six Bell Ringers" (1788) to learn even more about the art, science and history of campanology.

Illustration: Clavis Campanalogia, or, A Key to the Art of Ringing, by William Jones, John Reeves & Thomas Blakemore. London: Printed by William Browne & John Warren, 1788.

This engraving is pasted into the front cover of the Athenaeum’s copy of Clavis Campanalogia and depicts six bell ringers engaged in the popular recreation of change ringing. Originally a pasttime invented by youths, it was to become a social craze in seventeenth-century England.

Or for more on bell folklore, click here.

Hooked on Bells

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Hooked on Bells

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