Watch a traditional Wassail Morris dance in Coventry

January 18, 2009

Jolly Morris men banished the winter blues with a bizarre cider-soaked ceremony this weekend.

Dancers banged sticks and skipped around an apple tree to hurry spring along with a Wassail.

Following the dance at Garden Organic, onlookers placed cider-soaked toast on the tree’s branches in a bid to lure robins.

The quirky ceremony is all in aid of a bumper crop and gallons more cider this year.

Martin Ambler, of Earlsdon’s Elephant Up A Pole Morris dancers, said: “We’ve been doing this for the last 15 years. It’s an old tradition.

“Wassailing the trees happened at Twelfth Night to bring good luck to the orchard so we’ll get a good crop.”

Morris dancer Sue Shrimpton enjoys a glass of post-Wassail cider

A scorching nine-percent cider made from the orchard’s apples was used to bless the trees, with children and adults placing boozy bread pieces on the branches.

Martin said: “We pour cider onto the tree’s roots and put toast soaked in cider on the tree itself to encourage birds to come and eat the insects.

“A gun is shot after the dance to frighten off the evil spirits.

“And the banging of the sticks on the ground is all part of it, to wake up Mother Earth and encourage the worms – a bit like worm charming.”

Pete Grassby of Coventry Morris Men is forever blowing bubbles

Coming from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘wes hal’, meaning good health, the Wassail is said to banish winter blues and usher in spring.

Elephant Up A Pole were joined by The Coventry Morris Men, Braybrooke Morris Dancers from Market Harborough and Redbornstoke Morris from Bedfordshire, who showed off Lancashire clog dancing, long sword dancing, Cotswold and Welsh Border Morris as well as the Wassail.

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