An early evening rainstorm and lack of a ticket nearly stopped me going to the wassail run by Hunters Moon Morris at Middle Farm, in East Sussex, on Saturday. I'm very glad they didn't.
When I arrived, at about 7pm, the entertainment was going strong with morris dancing and drumming. And if the term 'morris dancing' makes you think of old blokes hopping from foot to foot and waving white hankies around, think again. Hunters Moon Morris puts on something much more theatrical and wild.
With blackened faces and wearing clothes made of rags and tatters they leap around, whooping and bashing sticks, to put on a carnival-like display. It seems more like a war dance than an ancient fertility rite - although that is what is it supposed to be.
The drumming display ended by leading a torch-lit procession down into the heart of the apple orchards. A huge bonfire was set ablaze while libations were poured to the apple trees and everyone was invited to sing the Wassail Chant:
Oh apple tree we honour theeFor more information see the Hunters Moon Morris website: www.huntersmoonmorris.co.uk/ or contact 01323 769848.
in hope that you will bear
the blessed fruit of Avalon
at harvest time each year.
Each golden apple you bring forth
a gift to Aphrodite
has at its heart a pentacle
the symbol of her mystery.
Your blossom heralds a springtime
your leaf brings summer shade
Let Samhain's harvest cup be filled
with cider freshly made.
When winter's cold encloses you
in wind and rain and hail
then we'll return each year to bring
our grateful thanks - wassail!
Middle Farm is at Firle, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LJ. For more information about Middle Farm, visit www.middlefarm.com/