Wassail!

My friend, Missy Dragon, informed me that the Allotment group of St Ann’s were going to miss out their wassailing because the usual fellow wasn’t there. 

So, in the way of daring me to do it, she asked if I’d be up for it.  What’s this? A British tradition being left out? Not on my watch meladdio!

So I managed to, very last minute, book the day off and get in contact with the organiser for the Children’s Activity Day.  She sent me an email with the wassailing song they normally do:

The Wassail Song

Old Apple tree we wassail the
And hope that thou wilt bear
For the Gods do know where we shall be
Come apples another year
To bloom well and to bear well
So merry let us be
Let everyone take off their hat and shout to the Old Apple Tree.

Spoken:
Old Apple tree we wassail thee
And hope that thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls and three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stair.

THREE CHEERS FOR THE OLD APPLE TREE:

Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!

Erm, did you just say song? I don’t sing, shiiiiiiittttt! So I did my research and found the melody on YouTube:

Wassail – three cheers for the apple tree: http://youtu.be/eFF6ozduQ1A

For those not familiar, Wassailing  comes from the Anglo Saxon ‘Waes-Hael’ or ‘Good Health’.  The practices of it vary from place to place, county to county as does any of its songs.  It is normally practiced in January, in some places, 12th Night.

The one I got involved in had us sing the song, pour Apple juice on the roots, put toast onto the branches via my lovely ‘Toast Maidens’ and make lots of noise with pots and pans.  Yes, very good fun, but what’s it all for? Quite simply: to make the fruit trees give a good yield.
The pouring of juice (traditionally ale or cider with eggs in it, but it was a children’s event, so I used Apple juice instead) gives back nutrients into the ground.  The toast is to encourage birds to come to the tree, so that they’ll stay around and in spring spread the pollen with their wings and droppings, encouraging pollenation and growth. The noise allows the sound vibrations to go into the wood and somehow encourages the branches to become more productive.  At least, that’s as I understand it. I could have got this totally wrong however.

Other versions involve pissing and whacking the tree with sticks, some are done with a fire, the varients go on.

It was a sunny if cold day, but the small crowd of children and parents that followed seemed to enjoy it as we went to the Apple trees and caused lots of noise and joyful hullabaloo.  I only had time to learn the song on the way there, so I was very grateful for my friend, B. Turning up and lending her singing voice.  We all ended up singing the song to the tune of ‘ Oh Christmas Tree…‘ Because we made a joke about it, so we made it so.  We changed the lyrics to incorporate pear and cherry trees until we ran out of toast.  Then I told the local story, recorded by local storyteller Pete Castle, called the Watercress Girl.  This involved a young girl being hired by a witch to clean her house, but the girl ends up stealing from the witch (why? Why would she do that? Was she stupid?) And gets the fruit tree orchard in the Witch’s garden to lie to the witch so she could get away.  I thought it highly appropriate.

For my very first public Wassailing, I’d say it went well, I even got praised for it, but the real praise goes to Missy Dragon for telling me about this event in the first place.  Also to B. And her partner, for my Morris friends for coming along, the folks at STAA and the people who wanted to join in and of course to Pete Castle for the tale he put in his book.

If you fancy making traditional Wassailing drinkies, here’s the link:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/traditional-wassail-recipe/

And Pete Castle’s brilliant book is:

Nottinghamshire Folk Tales, The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2012 p.62.

Venom & Honey

Hello 2015!

I did promise to write this for yesterday, but I brought in New Year’s Day with the last episode of The Black Adder (Always had a soft spot for the series that not many people like) and playing a good and proper dice rolling RPG with my brother (He is red-headed, which according to lore is bad luck for the rest of the year… racist y’see) and friend.

Last years blog, Quoth the Raven,  Had me explaining about a few New Year’s customs and a spot of divination.  So, what did last year’s prediction of my focus entail for 2014? Destruction in order to rebuild and passing through the darkest night before re-emerging to see the light of dawn once more.  How very true indeed.  Here’s what happened-

*Separation: Me and Pipes separated from our 10 year relationship and 6 year marriage.  It was very sad indeed and with heavy hearts we went our own ways.  I still occasionally see my Wife (ex-Wife) and we’ve remained friends.  I even popped round to see her on New Year’s Eve to see how she was, I’ll be joining her this weekend to help celebrate her birthday.

*New Beginnings: I moved out of my previous home into the present one that I share with my house-mate, Artemis.  I also picked up my performing again, acting in a play as well as developing my storytelling.

*Promotion: Of sorts.  I had assisted the Herald of the Druid Grove and after she stepped down earlier on last year, I took on the role until I did so officially at Samhain.

*Endings:  December saw my store close down for good (Its ok, I still have a job in the company, we all got moved to another store), it also saw me read my last Gwersu of the Bardic Grade… I have a lot to do before I move onto Ovate, however.

So, 2014 had seen me broken hearted, yet imbued with creativity.  It saw me take on responsibility when my friend and fellow Grove member needed some serious time out.  It saw me relocate to a warmer house full of geekery.  It brought me some amazing times with my friends, without whom I would have been consumed by bitterness and despair; whether hanging out, in a ceremony, going to Glastonbury or giving me recommendations on certain events to ply my trade, or kicking the shit out of thousands of monsters.  Its saw me say goodbye to the store that provided an income at the very last minute of my redundancy back in 2011, it saw me reach the end of my Bardic Course… making my Solstice Toast & Boast happen in days!  But I have yet to complete it…  And finally it saw me find strength within myself to survive the end of mine and Pipes’ relationship.  I cried my tears and swore out my rage in a very short space of time, but it took me a long while to get used to the void that appeared.  I know Pipes’ condition and how she has suffered, but I don’t think she’d appreciate me putting on here her ordeals.  I decided to pick myself up and get busy.  My heart is healing, but I now keep it heavily guarded without being heartless in my own self.  Will I love again? never say never.  I’ve decided I need to learn to love myself before I go looking to love another.

2015: 

Nathair and Beach
Nathair and Beach

I consulted my DAO twice.  Once just after Midnight in the morning of 1st Jan 2015 and again around 11am.  The first time round was as a demonstration to Artemis and our mate, Jogger (she jogs).  On both accounts I asked the question of “What do I need to focus on in 2015?

The card in response was: Adder Reversed.  It means that instead of allowing the venom within to cause harm to others, it suggests I use it to bring healing to other people as well as myself.  It also means transformation.

For some reason, once I had awoken and tidied up the living room from our drinking session, I wanted to draw another card.  Not instead of, mind you, but in addition.  As if there was a feeling that there was more for the New Year to offer.  And the second card was: Bee.  The card of celebration, community and working with the seasons as well as the power of the Sun.

If I was to dare and put this together (a dangerous idea, but let’s try it anyway!) then I would say that after working with the darkness of last year, and for me, 2014 was about facing and working with my own darkness; this year brings healing and transformation, allowing me to emerge once again into the light of day.  And with celebrating with others, provide a chance of healing others as well.  However, there is the knowledge that these things tend to work out differently than expected.  And rest assured, it’ll go straight on here when it does.