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Much Marcle Wassail PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Glennie-Smith   
Sunday, 08 January 2012 18:47

The annual Wassail in Much Marcle,
hosted by Silurian Border Morris Men,
took place last Saturday evening, January 7th:

As in previous years, it was very well attended, no doubt helped along by an unusually balmy and rain-free evening. The word 'Wassail' comes from the Anglo Saxon 'Was Hael' meaning 'Good Health' - literally 'Be Whole'.

This year, the evening started at Westons with dancing by Silurian, followed by a torchlight procession to the orchard opposite the Slip Tavern. Wassailing the apple trees is a pagan custom that takes place in January to ensure a good crop of apples the following autumn.

Here's to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full! Caps full!
Bushel-Bushel-Sacks full,
And my pockets full too! Huzza!

If the last two years are anything to go by, it obviously works!


One tree, in the middle of the orchard, was chosen to represent the whole orchard. It was surrounded by twelve fires, to signify the twelve months of the year. According to custom, one of the fires (the 'Judas fire') was immediately stamped out. Then a 13th fire (the Old Bush) was ignited: this is a thorn-cage stuffed with straw on a pole, and it was hung from a branch of the tree. It represents the sun reborn, showing why this ancient ceremony took place at this time of year - at midwinter, the coldest and darkest part of the year, when people encouraged the return of light and warmth.

Toast was soaked in cider, then hung around the trunk of the tree. Cider was then sprinkled about the roots of the tree. Evil spirits were frightened off by the whole company making a lot of noise - no gunshots this time, but pyrotechnics have been promised next year....

The Gloucestershire Wassail (words and music here) was then sung. Then, amid the smoke and flames, Silurian danced several more dances while the 'Wassailing Bowl' (filled with cider) was passed around the onlookers.

The procession then went back to the Slip Tavern, where some members of Silurian performed the Cradley Mummers Play.

The 'donations only' event raised funds for St Michael’s Hospice, Bartestree.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 11:49

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