wassailers Cornwall

The Wassail

Cornwall is home to many pagan festivals, annual rituals that date back centuries. Many of which are directly connected to the harvest, the fruits of life, the bounty from the ground – thanksgiving for it and optimistic wishes for future abundance.

Some of these festivals have grown in popularity and have become ingrained into our modern Cornish culture to such a degree that they regularly attract huge crowds of thrilled attendees from well beyond the County borders.

Great examples of this are Helston Flora Day, a festival to mark the arrival of Spring, to celebrate renewal, growth, of fertility and vitality as the land bursts back into life. Townsfolk dress in their finery and dance together (The Furry or Flora Dance) through the houses and shops of the town in order to drive out the dark of winter and welcome in the light of spring. Helston’s symbolic flower, Lily of the Valley, is worn by the people. Traditionally those that are Helston born, and the entrances to the buildings are decorated with it around the town.

Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss is a Mayday celebration that lasts from Midnight on 30th April for 24 hours, it has it’s roots in pre-Christian times as a religious ritual of fertility and involves processions following two ‘Osses which represent the different halves of Padstow’s community. The town is decorated with flowers and flags, with singing centred around the maypole where eventually the two ‘Osses meet and dance together.

Penwith Golowan

The Penwith Golowan Festival on St John’s Eve (23rd June) is an ancient ritual to protect the population against witchcraft and involved the lighting of fires and beacons, where the people would take part in the serpent dance, jumping through the embers of a dying fire to ward off evil spirits. More latterly burning barrels of tar were also part of the spectacle – this practice was outlawed in modern times for obvious reasons.

All of these events have a conjoining theme – the accompaniment of food and drink, celebration, merriment, and rejoicing. We are going to take a look at a more countrywide pagan tradition which is still recognised to this day – The Wassail, and is very relevant to the coming season.

In apple producing regions Wassailing is a Twelfth night tradition where revellers visit the orchards to sing to the trees hoping to please the spirits in the hope of a plentiful harvest the following season. During the visit the people would make a ‘hullabaloo’ by banging pots and pans to ward off the bad spirits, and a wassail bowl would be passed around by the orchard owner, filled with warmed cider and spices, in gratitude for their work. The name is derived from the Old English ‘Was Hal’ or be hale or in good health. This warmed spiced, or mulled, cider was enjoyed by all at the Wassail. In more modern times Mulled cider features in our Christmas celebrations and is available as a warming winter drink in pubs and bars around the country.

Three local versions are available on this website and feature below;

  • Cornish Orchards – Wassail – 4.0% ABV – An aromatic, sumptuous cider made with apple juice, fresh oranges and hand-blended spices. Perfect for festive occasions or relaxing by a log fire.
  • Haywood Farm – Mulled Cider – 4.0% ABV – A traditional farm cider infused with honey and warming winter spices – the archetypal fireside drink! Available in flagons.
  • Healey’s – Mulled Rattler – 4.0% ABV – Made from a blend of Cornish Rattler apple cider and aromatic winter spices, best enjoyed warmed – ideal beside a roaring fire on a cold night!

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