Wassail! 12th January 2020
A record turnout of 250 revellers basked in the glorious January sunshine to enjoy a wonderful traditional Wassail celebration in Bridport’s community orchard on Sunday afternoon. They joined in chasing away the evil spirits from the orchard and welcoming in the good ones to ensure a fruitful year and bountiful harvest in 2020. Wyld Morris started proceedings with a medley of merry dance tunes and had the crowd singing a selection of traditional Wassail songs with great gusto. Dorset Nectar and West Milton Cider provided a scintillating selection of ciders to a most appreciative clientele. A fire blazed in the firebowl, orchard volunteers served hot spiced and plain apple juice – all made from fruit picked from our own community orchard. Martin Maudesley, renowned storyteller, took on the role of master of ceremonies. He started with a story of The Apple Tree Man, and had the huge crowd enthralled. In English folk lore The Apple Tree Man is the name given to the spirit of the oldest apple tree in the orchard and in whom the fertility of the whole orchard is thought to reside. Martin then lead the Wassail ceremony, where a King and Queen were crowned and then they selected a special tree which is given a libation, an offering of cider to its roots, and cider soaked bread in its branches. Then Martin introduced another folk lore character, the Dorset Ooser, which is a horned face mask. This was danced around and placed in the chosen tree – another element to frighten away any dark spirits from the orchard. The crowd joined in with a great hullabaloo – drums, whistles, pans and spoons, rattles and all manner of noisemakers were employed to great effect. Finally pieces of bread were handed round so that people could choose a tree to bless, give thanks to and place bread in the branches for the birds to eat. The organisers give thanks to all the orchard volunteers who are so generous with their time and skills and dedication; to the Town Council who provide undaunting support to the orchard, to Martin and the Mummers, Wyld Morris, the excellent cider makers – West Milton and Dorset Nectar, and Leakers bakery who kindly donated the bread.
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