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Wassailing Imbolc

Posted on: July 4th, 2013 by
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On Saturday the 26th of January, we held a ceremony at Cae Non. It was comprised of two different traditions, both of which have been used in Britain for centuries to mark the end of winter, looking forward to the year ahead, and thanking the land and honouring the last harvest.

As you may know, Imbolc is the cross quarter festival of the Celtic calendar that marks the end of Winter, and the secret beginning of spring as rams are put to ewes, the days get lighter, and the snows (or muds) of winter give way to green things and regeneration.

But this time of year is also very close to when the old rite of Wassailing took place (Typically ‘Old 12th Night’ – around the 17th of January). This tradition involves waking up the orchards by making a lot of noise, mainly by banging pans and blowing horns, consuming copious amounts of cider, and thanking the trees for their crop, while ‘Taunting’ them to wake up with encouragment to produce more fruit for the coming harvest.

This is especially valid for us as Cae Non – we may not have an orchard (yet!), but we do have a stately, old crab apple tree. My hairbrained idea of making apple wine made those crab apples one of the first harvests from Cae Non, so it seemed only right to use this as a focus to say ‘Thank you’.

So, the morning of the 26th saw 8 of us gathering at Cae Non in a day of celebration led by grove mother of Cylch Blodeuwedd and Cae Non visionary, Gillian. In total 8 of us gathered, the greatest number since we built the hafod, and a great test of our facilities!

Opening the circle

Getting ready to share hot milk and our lovely cake!

We congregated in our newly planted Oak Grove just after lunchtime, and marked out our circle by tying yellow ribbons to the marker canes by the oak trees. We then were sent off by Gillian to find a small stone each to mark out aspirations and fledgling ideas for the year ahead – on the theme of collecting stones, later, we also gathered boulders to lay out in a small circle for a camp fire site.

Our lovely Imbolc cake made by a member!

Our lovely Imbolc cake!


Next, we shared a lovely ritual cake prepared by one of our members and some warm, spiced milk – indicative of the time of year with the beginning of lambing and calving. I must also confess, at this time, some mead and apple wine was also opened!

Then we set off! We processed as a group around the field making a hell of a din – banging drums, ringing bells, and blowing horns. Perhaps rather too boozily, I blew an empty bottle loudly instead! We stopped off wherever there are trees – the main grove, the feminine grove, the tree coppice beds, the old apple tree, the island, and lastly the labyrinth.

Each area honoured and toasted – and definitely woken up for the year, we retreated to the warmth and dryness of the hafod for a hot meal and some well and truly deserved hot drinks!

For those who are interested in the tradition of Wassailing, our very own Holger (Oak King) wrote an article a couple of years ago – well worth a read

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