With its roots in an ancient Pagan tradition, the custom of wassailing is thriving once again throughout the South West and Somerset in particular.
On the official wassail night, the original “Twelfth Night” of the Julian Calendar, the Shepton Mallet Cider Mill hosts its annual wassailing ceremony for its growers, customers and suppliers in its own award winning Stewley Orchard. The aim of the wassail is to awaken the cider apple trees, scare away evil spirits and ensure a bountiful harvest of fruit in the Autumn.
The Stewley Master of Ceremonies, from Taunton Deane Morris Men, led the proceedings. Remaining faithful to the traditions, the evening’s ceremony saw the Wassail Queen crowned with a wreath of berries, dip toast in mulled cider and place it in the branches of the tree to attract robins, the embodiment of good spirits bringing fertility to the orchard. The cider was then poured onto the roots of the chosen tree to call for a good harvest.
The assembled crowd were instructed to make as much noise as possible – banging sticks and playing instruments to scare away evil spirits. A volley of gunfire was sent into the branches of the tree for good measure and singing of the Wassail Carol completed the ceremony.