Wednesday, 16 January 2013
The Season of the Wassail
Today, Twelfth Night falls on the 5th January, however prior to the calendar changes of the C18, Twelfth Night fell 11 days later - around 16th January. The exact date however matters not, it is the spirit of the occasion which makes the festival.
The first writings we have of Wassailing appear in the C14, where the host of a party is described as holding up a communal drinking bowl and shouting out the word 'wassail'. The word derives from the Norse 'wes hail', or the Anglo Saxon, 'waes hael' meaning 'good health' or 'be whole'. After taking a drink the bowl was passed around and accepted each time with a kiss. The drink itself was thought to be 'lambswool', a mixture of mulled ale, herbs, honey and apples (you can purchase a pack of lambswool mix at the 'Copper Pot' in Bewdley Museum)
During the following century cakes were dipped into the bowl, and later still, in the apple growing regions of Britain, a ritual of blessing the apple trees with cider evolved. This was accompanied by hanging cider soaked toast in the trees for the birds and firing guns to scare away any impish spirits.
Although they are both now over, make a date for next years diary to visit Bewdley Museum in Worcestershire for the day time Wassail and Cookley in Worcestershire for an evening celebration with lit torches.
Meanwhile may all your trees bear fruit and Wassail to you and yours.
Read more: 'Mrs Darley's Pagan Whispers'