Sunday 13 January 2008

Dancing in the orchards

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 thee
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!
For more information see the Hunters Moon Morris website: or contact 01323 769848.

Middle Farm is at Firle, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LJ. For more information about Middle Farm, visit


Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed the evening as well, I was there dancing with Mythago (the masked border side), and had a great time! Great picture by the way!


Badwitch said...

I enjoyed it very much. It seemed less busy than last year, but I think that was a good thing and due to it being ticket only this time. Last year it was hard to see what was happening due to the size of the crowds.

Anonymous said...

I believe the ticket thing was in response to last years overcrowding in the barn - fire regs & all! Looking forwards to next years now!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm Jen from Hunters Moon Morris. So glad you came and had a rip roaring time! We are all recovering and very hoarse! I'm pleased you mentioned that Morris can be theatrical. All of the visiting sides put on a fabulous show and we are pleased to embrace such a rich and varied tradition. Come next year and bring friends! Wassail!

Badwitch said...

I definitely hope to be there next year!