Wassail - The Ancient Traditional Blessing of the Apple Tree!
On a glorious sunny winter day on 21st of January, I arrive on Horsenden farm intrigued by what I am about to witness next. It’s a crisp bright afternoon just about lunchtime. People had already gathered and chatted and they were all dressed with some very interesting attire, all mysterious and pagan they’ve seemed to me. Some of them resembled the Holy Man, the winter incarnation of the Green Man that kind of thing, with leaves and branches adorning their head and upper body and capes. Bells around the thighs for noise when walking. And of course all this interesting stuff included hot cider, and people had gathered around a table, waiting for the possession to start, helping themselves with the hot spiced beverage, very welcome on a cold winter day but also delicious.I too helped myself to one or three cups while waiting for the ceremony to start… The whole vibe was very folk, very old spirit of the forest type of thing, really ancient England stuff. I wondered if it was the effect of the hot cider that amplified these surreal scenes, or indeed I stepped into the past…An overall feeling of revelry and party was hanging in the air, people with instruments practising the tunes…and of course plenty to drink and keep us warm on this winter day…
The purpose of the Wassailing ceremony is to awake the cider apple trees from the winter sleep and to scare away the evil spirits. And so what happens is the people wet the trees with cider and play music and bang on drums and pans to frighten the evil spirits. This is definitely a weird and wonderful sight to behold.
On the verge of extinction, now Wassail is back, almost from the dead! What’s going on? Are we going back to something, hankering to return to some mythical age? Or the disconnect with land, the growing of food and the old folk traditions, breeds a strange not nostalgia but thirst perhaps for knowledge and understanding of our past? Something to connect us in the current disconnected age?
Whatever it is that made it possible, it seems Wassail has returned for good in the parts of England that originated, but also in many places that aren’t in Somerset, like Sussex and well, even here in London!
Thank you and enjoy!
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