Steyning Community Orchard set for annual Wassail to wake up the fruit trees

Make some noise and help to wake up the fruit trees at Steyning Community Orchard with the annual Wassail.

Monday, 14th January 2019, 4:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 9:04 am

Mythago Morris will once again be leading the proceedings, following the traditions of the ancient ritual, with the aim of preparing the trees for a fruitful harvest.

The annual Steyning Wassail will be on Saturday, January 19, starting and finishing at Steyning Cricket Club. Gather from 6pm for a 6.30pm start, when the morris dancers, dressed in black with coloured masks, will get things going and encourage everyone to follow them up to the orchard at the top of Memorial Playing Field.

The Wassail is free, though donations will be welcome, and everyone is invited to join the orchard volunteers afterwards for music with homemade soup and rolls in the cricket club. Entrance is £3 adults, £1.50 children, and the bar will be open.

Mythago Morris leading the 2018 Wassail at Steyning Community Orchard. Pictures: Bob Platt

Torches and sturdy shoes are advised.

Bob Platt, from Steyning Community Orchard, said: “The purpose of this ancient ceremony is to scare off evil spirits and wake the trees from their winter slumbers, so it involves a great deal of chanting, singing, rattling, banging and whistling.

“We are encouraged to make as much noise as possible, the objective being to wake the trees up from their winter slumbers and to frighten off evil spirits.”

An offering of toast dipped in cider is hung on the trees and the rituals ends with everyone running, screaming, away from the orchard. This apparently carries the evil spirits away from the trees.

Wassail, or howling as it is sometimes referred to in Sussex, is a winter celebration to ensure an orchard is fruitful in the coming months.

Mythago sets out to tell stories through a combination of music, dance, verse and song. They will explain the rituals, their origins and meaning, and hand out song-sheets so everyone can join in.