Monday, 16 January 2017

Traditions are odd things

especially when interpreted/created by the English. Loosely connected with faith and expectation: on Sunday evening we went to the local Wassail.

It's a little bit of syncretism with roots in Norse culture, plus a little bit of Christianity (well, God gets a mention in a song) stirred in either because of appropriation or to give a veneer of acceptability. It is performed on 12th night - 12th night according to the Julian calendar, that is - and the 15th was the nearest convenient date possible. Folded into that is the Morris dancing (Morris may have been adapted from Moorish, possibly Syrian, dancing, but hankies and bells are almost certainly pure English since few other races ritually self-mock) that's now an essential part of such things too.

The idea is that the apple tree for making cider needs to be awoken after winter, encouraged to make it's roots grow and to produce a good harvest. On this occasion the weather should have been snowing hard, but global warming has changed things and it was just drizzling, so the dancing was held indoors. There was also consumption of choice baked comestibles and rough cider (spiced wassail was available in the form of hot apple juice punch).

The actual ceremony is supposed to take place at sunset, but with leaden skies it was more like night time. The tree was ringed with flaming torches with the Morris inside, a song sung by the crowd on the outside, then the words read:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink unto thee

The sound of a shot being fired was then made and a simple dance performed inside the torch circle. After that everyone drifted back inside with imprecations from the hostess to eat up the cake left over. Eventually we all pushed off back home.

Brackly Morris, practicing the mystic art of levitation while dancing.

The 'fool'. He's a tall chap, and I actually find him terrifying, even though there's probably nothing to be afraid of.

Dave The Morris leading proceedings.

Thank you to Victoria and Sebastian for inviting us.

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