Wassailing the Apple Tree
Slightly off tangent but still about wood, (in the loosest sense possible) I thought I'd share something completely new to me, the West Country tradition of Wassailing. I regularly walk through the South Molton Community Woodland on the way to and from work, it's not a particularly old woodland but it's a nice resource and covers a significant area. I'd noticed some apple trees within the confines of the wood and thought no more about it, aside from seeing them develop and change as the year passes. I had no idea they'd require a Wassail! My son has been part of the South Molton Beavers for a while now and this year some members of the community came in to introduce them to Wassailing. It's centered around seeing off evil spirits and toasting the tree good health for the new year with the hope of a good crop of apples in the autumn. I will confess that I felt somewhat embarrassed that I knew nothing of this West Country tradition, being from a Devonian family, local to Devon for many hundreds of years. Evidence I suppose of how quickly our culture changes and how we soon loose touch with old traditions and customs. I do have some form when it comes to apples though, you can see me within the photo sequence of the film (dead center, large collar looking toward the fire) here.
The Wassailing event itself was not held on the twelfth night, but early in January which I actually found quite fitting. The idea of awakening is starting to become evident at that time of year, with the evenings just becoming ever so slightly shorter and the walk home less dark than the depths of late December. It was great to see Morris Dancing, and other customs still being practiced and praise must go to the people who put time aside to make these events happen and participate. I'd liked to of shared some photos but my phone is unable to capture good images in dark evening conditions however you should be able to notice the tree in the top photo sporting some decoration. If you see a Wassailing event local to you this year I'd recommend taking a look!