Wassailing – Friday 6th January 2023 from 7pm
We are delighted to be hosting, alongside our neighbours at Home Farm, this year’s Wassail for the irrepressible Leominster Morris in their 40th anniversary year. We are having a pig roast for the event and we will have the lazy butler’s bar and pop up Gin Bar open in the warmth of the house. Please bring appropriate footwear for outside and wrap up warm!
What is Wassailing?
The local Wassail custom dates back for hundreds of years and was a blessing on the apple trees in the hope of a good harvest next year. This was the first event Leominster Morris revived after the side was re-formed in 1983. That first Herefordshire Wassail of the new era took place in the orchard of Tudor House, Yarpole.
The Wassail begins by gathering at a given 'watering hole', where safe torches are prepared and distributed, and whence the side leads the large crowd of followers in a torch light procession to the orchard. In the orchard 12 fires have been prepared encircling the tree selected to represent the orchard and receive the blessing. The followers are directed around the outside of the circle and only the Morris men are permitted inside the circle. The ceremony is introduced and commences with toast or cake soaked in cider being placed in the fork of the tree chosen to feed the spirit of the orchard. Cider is then sprinkled about the roots of the tree. Next, the Herefordshire 'thorn' is ignited: this is a beribboned thorn-cage stuffed with straw on a pole. It represents the sun reborn and shows why this ancient ceremony took place at this time of year. At the midwinter, the coldest & darkest part of the year, people encouraged the return of light & warmth, and by so doing they performed an affirmation of their faith that it would be so. Next, the 13th fire, the Fire of Eternal Renewal, is lit and immediately stamped out saving the fuel for next year. This is the sign for the simultaneous lighting of the ring of twelve fires, A gun is then fired into the tree to frighten away the evil spirits. The Wassail Song is sung by Leominster Morris under the branches of the tree and two or three dances are performed there. Herefordshire cider is passed around to the onlookers and people stay and talk enjoying the warmth and friendship.
Then we all go back in procession to the meeting place where the traditional Mummers Play is performed. The text for which is taken from several local sources and enlivened by individual members adding topical references or variations to their parts. More dances follow, then it is into the bar for music, song, dance and drink!