Wassail!

Here's a lovely idea for a winter wedding theme if you're planning to wed shortly after Christmas. Wassail conjurs up ideas of bowls of apple cider punch, rich colours, bare apple boughs and foraged greenery for decoration, ribbons, wedding tipis with warm fires and candle light, all surrounded by the people you love. What a theme...

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Wassailing is an ancient tradition of blessing apple trees at Twelfth Night and asking the spirit of the tree for a bountiful harvest of fruit the following autumn. Some wassailers adhere to the Gregorian calendar and mark Twelfth Night on 6th January, whereas others adhere to the older Julian calendar and leave their wassails until the 17th January, a good time to celebrate a wedding too!

Wassail is an Anglo-Saxon word and is thought to mean ‘Be In Good Health’. Whilst there is a tradition of wassailing neighbours with songs and good wishes at yuletide (similar to the modern tradition of carolling), apple trees had to wait until Twelfth Night, a time when the world is turned upside down, the Lord of Misrule reigns for a day, and the spirits draw close, including those of trees.

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People who cared for an apple tree – and the tradition is still strong in the cider growing areas of England and the marches of Wales – set out with gifts of hot cakes and cider as an offering to the spirit of the tree. Usually, a cider soaked cake was hoisted high and left in the fork of a branch, with more cider splashed on the earth over the roots.

In order to drive away any malignant influence, people might shout or bang pan lids together, and some even fire shotguns into the air. Then, all present sing the wassailing song, asking for a good crop of apples the following autumn. If you want to wassail your own apple tree (or, with amendment to the words, any other sort of fruiting tree, or even your own union) here are some traditional words to use.

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear,
For the Gods do know where we shall be
‘till the apples come for another year.
For to bear well and to bear well
So merry let us be.

Let everyone here take off their hat
And shout to the old Apple Tree:
“Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear,
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs”.

Wassail! Wassail! Wassail!

Following the formal part of the ritual, the ceremony concludes with sharing cider and cakes among all those present. Traditionally, a single bowl of cider was passed around the company so it became a ‘loving cup’ binding all there in fellowship and community.


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If you happen to be near Exeter, in Devon this weekend, go along to the Lamb Inn at Sandford's Wassail on Sunday to experience this ancient tradition for yourself.

Whether you decide to wed on this day or not, Wassail and be in good health!

Original article from prehistorichumanism.com

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