Twiglet: Wassailing ceremony

“Wassail” is Anglo-Saxon for “good health”, and is an ancient ceremony marked by farming communities on 17 January (old 12th night).

It involves the local community dancing and singing round apple trees in the orchard, and pouring cider around its roots before firing shotguns to scare off evil spirits.

Cider was important commodity in farming; some labourers and farm hands were paid in cider for their efforts. This meant that a good harvest of apples was essential.

The villagers selected a young girl, known as the wassail queen, who was then lifted into tree to, in turn, lift the spirits of the trees, preparing them for the spring and growing season ahead.

The villagers then placed some bread among the trees’ branches, as an offering to the trees and to the resident robins, which were the good spirits that protected the trees and ensured a good harvest.

Cider was then poured around the roots, and the villagers sang a wassail song:

Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We’ve come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs

After the singing of the song, the villagers made a lot of noise and shot guns were fired — this is to wake the tree from its winter slumber and to scare off any unwanted spirits.

About these ads

2 Responses

  1. Do you know the tune they would have used?

    I have a few old apple trees to wassail, and I’d like to sing to them too.

    Good info; thanks for that!

  2. Hi Cymraes,

    Each village tends to have its own version of the wassail song, but here is a link to a few songs that are on YouTube; hope they offer some inspiration – enjoy and wassail!

    Take Cover

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: