Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice celebration.

Away with you, you evil spirits that hide in the orchard, our Mistletoe and songs will see you off, our noise and cheers rise up into a crown of thorns. Good health, wassail!
Today we tapped into our Pagan roots, toasting the shortest day and also planting and dressing a tree. The tree we chose for our Solstice party was a Glastonbury Thorn, also known as the Holy Thorn. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' great uncle, visited Glastonbury during a grand tour to spread the word of Christianity. He brought with him a wooden staff that had belonged to Jesus, after climbing Wearyall Hill he thrust the staff into the fertile soil where it took root and threw out branches that burst into leaf.

Unlike Hawthorn which flowers once a year in the Spring, the Glastonbury Thorn is known for it's twice yearly blossoming at Christmas time and again at Easter.

Scraping back the blanket of snow, we cut into the earth to prepare the planting hole, which thankfully was an easy dig. Moments later a noisy chorus of crows cut the crisp air with their hoarse greetings, nineteen birds bowing and tail fanning in the thin branches of a Lime tree.

A small procession brought the Thorn tree to it's planting hole, across an untrodden crust of snow and towards the pitching sun, that on this very day falters on it's axis, barely climbing high enough to brake the knotted boughs of the apple trees down in the nearby orchard.

We dressed it's branches with coloured ribbons, threaded sweet wrappers and even a cat's toy mouse hung from one of it's thorns. We sang ancient songs of the Green Man, a Winter Solstice poem was read out and we drank to the health of the tree, sampling our own homemade Summer fruit Cassis. Pouring some on the roots of our tree in true Wassailing tradition, we filled ourselves on cake, mince pies and ice cream.

And so we turn the corner, each day now getting longer as we wait for the Crocus flowers and Primroses that herald the beginning of Spring. Happy Winter Solstice everyone!

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