Friday, December 12, 2014

Wassailing and the Apple Tree

Do you want to find more connection with Nature in this frenetic holiday season?  
Here is a beautiful tradition from the UK that celebrates the Apple Trees with a festive ritual and yummy beverage!

Wassailing is a term used with several meanings and associated traditions related to Yuletide and Solstice.  The word actually means "Be Healthy" and is used as a word of toast; "Wassail!"
Wassail also refers to the warm spiced alcoholic beverage imbibed by the revelers and shared with the Apple Trees.  Finally, Wassailing is a verb referring to the ritual practice of processing, singing, drinking the beverage and making offerings to the Apple Trees.
Incidentally, the origin of the phrase "to toast" with glasses raised in honor of someone or thing is from the Wassailing tradition.

The apple tree is sacred to the Druids and to many pagans who know its deep wisdom and depend on its fruits for nourishment.  Our ancestors understood their responsibility to the land and knew how to ensure the health, fertility and abundance of their food crops.  They did this not only by physical practices such as soil building and pest control, but also by attending to the spirits of Nature.

This is a folkloric tradition so practices varied from one area to the next, but here are the basics for creating your very own Wassail!

  • Make some Wassail! (see recipes below)
  • Invite all your apple tree loving friends
  • Wear warm clothes and boots and bring instruments, especially low pitched drums, and penny whistles
  • Learn a Wassailing Song.  (See Lyrics below)
  • March to drum with one person (perhaps the oldest) in front, holding the bowl of wassail and toast, the rest follow with mugs of wassail
  • circle around the largest apple tree in the orchard. 
  • Sing and drink and drum!
  • One person (perhaps the youngest) takes soaked toast from bowl, climbs tree and leaves it for tree spirit.  
  • Elder pours the rest of the wassail onto the roots of the tree.
  • Sing some more and toast the tree!
  • Huzzah!  

Hot Spiced Wassail (non-alcoholic)

4 cups cranberry juice
6 cinnamon sticks
5 cups apple cider
1 orange, studded with whole cloves
1 cup water
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix juice, cider, and water in large saucepan or crock pot. Add cinnamon sticks, clove studded orange, and apple slices. Simmer mixture for 4 hours. Serve hot. Makes 12 servings.

Traditional Wassail
from John & Caitlin Matthews' book The Winter Solstice.

Heat a large container of ale or beer, about 3 or 4 pints. Add:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mixed spice (cinnamon sticks and whole cloves are also excellent)
2 or 3 small sweet apples, cut up
1 1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 1/4 cup orange juice
the juice of 2 lemons
Place over a slow flame; then, before it begins to boil, take off the heat and whip up some cream. Let this float on top of the brew like foam.
Put in a suitably large bowl (the more ornate the better)
Toast some good bread and add to the Wassail bowl.

Wassail Song
Here's to thee, old apple tree
Whence thou may'st bud and whence tho may'st blow
And whence thou may'st bear apples enow.
Hats full, caps full, bushel, bushel sacks full, And my pockets full too!

Lift your glasses to the tree and shout "Huzzah!" as loud as you can.

No comments:

Post a Comment