As spring warms the earth, the apple trees of Reidsdale were given a rowdy waking up in the annual Wassail on Sunday August 28. In a ceremony dating back over 1000 years to Ango-Saxon traditions singing and dancing among the orchards are said to promote a good harvest for the coming summer.
The Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale, outside Braidwood, has been grafting and growing heritage varieties for ten years and making cider from their own apples and other small growers in the district.
For the Wassail, the Surly Griffin Morris Dancers joined with the Braidwood Cantors to toast the cider gods and chase off evil spirits.
Gary Watkins-Sully of the Old Cheese Factory says “Our celebrations include the burning of the Ashen Faggot. This custom is considered to date back to Saxon times, however it is thought to have come from Scandinavia where at the feast of ‘joul’ would burn huge bonfires in honour of their god Thor. The faggot will be put on a fire that had been lit with the remnants of the previous year’s faggot. Everybody will then gather around the fire to watch it burn. Unmarried maidens can choose one of the green bands of the faggot, as it is believed that the woman who selected the first band to break would be the next to get married.”
With guests beating pots, saucepan lids and drums, the singing and dancing culminates with the ’Green Man’ dancing through the old apple trees placing pieces of cider soaked toast are placed in the fork of the tree for the robins or guardian spirits. The tree is toasted with cider and any remainder is thrown into the branches. While these offerings are made a wassail song lead by the Braidwood Cantors is sung.
Here’s to the, old apple tree.
May’st thou bud, may’st they blow,
May’st thou bear apples now!
Hats full, caps full!
And my pockets full, too! Hazza!
The afternoon was accompanied with lashing of mulled cider.
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