Spring Greeting from Lojah

 

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Spring is finally here and I think the weather is actually going to stick around.  It has been a little while since I last sent out an update, because I’ve been so heavily involved in working for Veterans Healthcare reform, and some pretty significant life changes that I let my regular updates slip by.

Well, I’m back at it again.  So far 2016 is proving to be a great year for me and I have some really cool updates to share with you.

MY ARTIST PAGE

For starters I opened up my artist page on Lojah.com where you can view and purchase my personally hand painted artwork, inspired by Indigenism, nature, arcane symbolism and personal vision. It’s still in its formative stages but it’s going to be great as it grows.

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THE MOODY VIEW

I consolidated my old blogs into a single blog called The Moody View, easier to follow and keep track of. It’s a place where I talk about art, music, culture and modern critiques. I’ll be covering a lot of my experiences as I create more art and further explore life.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Link up with me by visiting some of my Lojah sites below.

Lojah.com

Facebook.

Youtube

Until Next time,

Lojah

Easter Rising, Easter Lily

As Easter week draws to a close I thought I’d write a little bit about my most recent painting “Easter Rising.”

www.Lojah.com

The Easter Lily is a calla lily, adopted by Irish republicans symbolically to commemorate the revolutionary combatants who died as a part of the 1916 Easter Rising.  It is traditionally worn at Easter time.  It is also used by various factions of Irish republicanism to commemorate the deaths of their soldiers and activists.

 

Easter Rising

On Easter Monday, April1 24, 1916 Irish revolutionaries took up arms against British rule in Ireland, seeking to establish an independent Irish republic.  The majority of the conflict took place in Dublin, planned and led by seven members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council.

Patrick Pearse, a schoolmaster and Irish language activist led the Irish Volunteers.  He was supported by the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly, and 200 women from Cumann na mBan – the Irish Women’s Council.  They seized key points in Dublin, making the General Post Office the headquarters of the uprising where they delivered the Proclamation of the Irish Republic claiming independence from Britain and the establishment of an Irish Republic.

The following day the British authorities declared martial law, and deployed thousands of reinforcements to suppress the uprising.  The streets of Dublin were in open warfare that lasted for six days.  The Irish revolutionaries put up a tough resistance and the fighting was fierce.  Frustrated British troops began engaging in war crimes against Irish civilians.


The Portobello Killings

On Tuesday, April 25 British soldiers took the pacifist activist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington hostage and used him as a human shield.  They blew up a tobacco store and captured Labour Party councilor Richard O’Carroll, two journalists Thomas Dickison and Patrick MacIntyre , and the young boy James Coade.  They executed all the captives and secretly buried them in Portobello Barracks.

The North King Street Massacre

North King Street was the scene of some of the heaviest combat between Irish and British soldiers.  On Saturday, April 29th after British soldiers succeeded in overrunning a well barricaded rebel post, they broke into the homes of noncombatant civilians and shot and bayoneted them, killing 15 men.  The soldiers then pilfered the bodies and secretly buried them in backyards and cellars.

There were numerous other civilian casualties suffered as a result of the British assault amounting to more than half the loss of life during the uprising.  British forces eventually surrounded the Irish factions and bombarded them into submission, laying waste to vast areas of the city.  Between the superior military strength of the British Army and the fear that more innocent civilians would be killed, Patrick Pearse ordered an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29.

In the aftermath the British arrested 3,500 Irish, sending almost 2,000 of them to prison camps.  The leadership of the rebellion was executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol between May 3 and 12.

Even though it was technically a failure the Easter Rising succeeded in inspiring hope in an independent Ireland.  The British response to it caused a strong negative reaction in the Irish population and a wave of support for Irish independence swept across the island.  By 1919 the Irish War of Independence broke out and lead to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment of the Irish Free State.  The technical defeat resulted in the Independent Ireland it had sought to achieve.



In 1926 during the tenth year anniversary of the Easter Rising the Irish Women’s Council introduced the calla lily as a badge sold outside of Catholic churches to be worn on Easter Sunday in commemoration of the uprising and to raise relief money for the families of Irish political prisoners.  To this day it is still a symbol of Irish identity and remembrance.

Many songs have been written in commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.  One of the most well known and perhaps the unarguable official song of remembrance of the rising is “Foggy Dew,” written by Father Canon O’Neill.

I Started Painting: My Four Turtles

I recently started painting. As a creative person I’ve dabbled in and experimented with several different media over the years. Along with performing arts, I’ve drawn and sketched avidly throughout most of my life and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at painting, a serious attempt far more than dabbling, but I never knew where to start and was always too busy with other pursuits to really explore this particular medium.

Well, over the past year my life has changed in some pretty fundamental ways and I found myself at a point where I could finally focus on new pursuits. At first I wasn’t even sure what to paint. I knew that if I got any good at it I would probably paint similar things to the drawings I’ve done, full of traditional Native, historic, and arcane symbolism, heavily influenced by the natural universe, and mythology.

I did some minimal research on the subject and gathered some basic supplies to get started.

In the time I was taking to make up my mind I found an Eastern box turtle drowning in a small fish pond and rescued it. It was the same species that Creek (Muscogee) women use to make their shell shakers in the Southern states. The first night I kept him in a laundry basket before I eventually released him back into the woods behind my house. That night it dawned on me that the turtle was the perfect first painting to make.

I came up in the Muscogee Creek tradition and in this tradition the Earth was created by the turtle. The turtle is the fundamental image of creation – the perfect symbol for art; and of beginnings – the perfect symbol for a new venture. And she is the perfect symbol to respect my heritage in which my life and creative pursuits tend to be grounded. I have worked for years under the name Lojah, anglicized from Loca which is the Muskogee word for turtle. As an enrolled member of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway Tribe, my family belongs to the Turtle Clan,* so it all came together quite nicely. The Turtle would be my first painting. I opted for a traditional Native styled design that has been important to me for years with a medicine wheel on its back to represent the four directions similar to the images found throughout prehistoric and contemporary North American iconography.

So with no instruction, a few meager supplies and a whole lot of inspiration I put paint to canvass and created this.


#1 Buckskin Turtle

Turtle 1I decided to start with a general background, something just to contrast with the turtle image. I mixed up a sort of amber colored yellow and painted the background. Then I laid the turtle down. I found the medium perplexing and unfamiliar so the brushstrokes are pretty obvious in places and the color isn’t as even as I intended for it to be, but overall I was pretty satisfied for my first attempt. I later realized that the background color resembles tanned deerskin and named it Buckskin Turtle.

Naturally, my mother loved it and put in a request for one like it. It took me a little while before I got around to painting another one and by that time I wanted to make one for my sister too. I found my inspiration again and began painting.

 

#2 Space Turtle

Turtle 2I decided to paint another turtle for its meaning to my family and to perfect the techniques necessary to paint something I expect to become a regular staple in my catalog. I decided that it needed a more dynamic background. Since the turtle represents the earth. I figured she should be represented in space kind of like a planet. The fact that I recently watched Star Wars Episode VII, the Force Awakens is purely coincidental. This second painting took a little more time than the first one, and I experimented a little bit more with techniques like layering and scumbling. This one has more breadth and depth than #1, and I was really pleased with the results.

 

#3 Water Turtle

Turtle 3While painting Space Turtle I realized that I should do the next one on water, since the Creek Creation Story describes the turtle living in a world of water. I investigated techniques for painting water and experimented with the “z shape.” The water’s surface didn’t turn out quite like I had hoped, but the turtle was the best one yet. By the time I got into this painting I could tell that I was more comfortable with the medium. The colors are more distinct and smoother especially in the turtle. This one became my favorite pretty quickly.

While painting Water Turtle I had a realization that before I painted anything else I should paint a fourth Turtle. Four is a special number to most Native American traditions and since I had already established that I was beginning this new trade upon a traditional foundation, I decided that I should complete the circle I had begun.

 

#4 Sky Turtle

Turtle 4I painted this turtle on a sky background to represent the idea of the turtle as earth in a terrestrial atmosphere. My youngest daughter, Hailey says he’s flying.  In my opinion this is by far the best one of the four. I was a lot more comfortable working with the paints, and I felt freer to let go of some of the rigidity I had in working on the previous paintings.

 

These are my first four paintings. I plan to make a lot more, but I promise my next one won’t be a turtle.


* Being of mixed Native American heritage and active in both communities I am a part of the Muskogee Creek Panther Clan as well as the Turtle Clan of the Cheroenhaka-Nottoway nation.

The Irish Wake: Music Presented By McGuire’s Irish Pub

The Irish Wake, McGuire's Irish Pub

Death is a popular theme in Irish Music. Emblematic of this is the Irish Wake, an often rowdy gathering of mourners around the body of the departed, traditionally held in a family member’s home. McGuire’s Irish Pub and Rich McDuff have drawn upon this theme in the production of The Irish Wake, CD of popular Irish tunes.

Proclaimed as “music for and about an Irish Wake that includes solemn to lighthearted and humorous tunes,” the Irish Wake delivers upon its promise. These are high-quality musical arrangements making use of traditional Irish instruments, and with a few tunes characterized by layers of vocal harmonies. This is most noticeably heard on “Amazing Grace,” sung by Molly McGuire, making for a creatively unique and interesting rendition of the song. Some of the other highlights include “Rosin the Beau,” and “Isn’t it Grand Boys” (featuring the Boston Boys, a group of young McGuire’s patrons), and the title track – a Rich McDuff original.
This is a somber disk containing 14 tracks, each one another variation on the theme of death, and in some cases resurrection. Packaged in the standard CD jewel case, the cover photo is quite fitting for the music on this disk; an old Irish cemetery marked by generations-old Celtic crosses enduring the turn of the centuries, reaching grimly toward a grey sky.

Produced by Rich McDuff, and featuring Molly McGuire, the McGuire’s Pipe Band, and many local singers and musicians who frequent the pub, The Irish Wake is a great choice for fans of Irish music looking for a mellower listening experience. Entitled to compliment the Irish Wake, a green, rum-based drink popularized by McGuire’s Irish Pub, this CD is a clever bit of marketing as well as a pleasant journey through Irish music. A patron can enjoy an Irish Wake at the bar or in the restaurant, and before exiting the pub, stop in the gift shop and pick up a copy of this disk to remember his experience at McGuire’s.
It can also be ordered here.

Dave Ramsey: Financial Guru for the Average Person

Dave_RamseyDave Ramsey is a financial guru for the average person. Even if you think you’re doing alright with your money, Dave can help you see the folly of your ways that prevents you from truly excelling financially.

When I finally made the decision to focus on my finance and figure out the secret to creating wealth I explored numerous books, and audio programs by many different financial gurus. I read Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump, Brian Tracy, and even Gene Simmons, just to name a few. I began perusing business magazines, and I learned a lot by doing this.

The problem with most of these books and programs was that although they taught me a lot, most of them are written under the assumption that the reader already has a certain amount of capital at hand, ready to invest. But I was broke, getting by paycheck to paycheck. Sure, I knew saving was a good idea, but I was in debt, and any time I tried to save, some sort of emergency or an overdue bill sucked out that cash and it was gone. It began to feel futile.

I knew I should invest, but I was clueless where to start from my financial position, from broke. So one day, like a similar day years earlier, distraught with financial indignity, I made my way to the local book store to look for that bit of wisdom that I knew I had somehow overlooked. There, I came to a full sized advertisement for Dave Ramsey and his radio show, syndicated on a local station. So I browsed a couple of his books on the shelf. The advice between those covers was invaluable. What was best is that it applied to me, not just to someone with 30 grand waiting to be invested.

Being broke, I couldn’t afford to buy one of those books right then. Sorry Dave, but you told me not to spend money I didn’t have. I went out to my car and tuned into your show instead. It was one of the best decisions I’d made in years. I quickly became a regular listener.

Dave Ramsey has it down to a science. What’s more, he doesn’t assume you have any money to start with. In fact, his lessons begin (dare I say) with the assumption that you are broke, in debt, and completely clueless about money. It’s not that he talks down to you, as much as it is he wants you to clearly understand just how foolish the average person is about money, credit, and debt. He doesn’t try to sell you on a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, he nearly condemns such ideas. The best thing is that Dave Ramsey told me were I should start and in what order I should do things to get out of debt and to prosper.

After listening to Dave on the radio for several weeks, Christmas was just around the corner. At the top of my list was Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I opted for the audiobook version, because as I graduate student I don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading, but I can’t read my assigned materials while driving or working. I later took advantage of a Veteran’s Day giveaway and enrolled in his online Financial Peace University. By following Dave’s advice and applying his baby-steps, I have seen my finances improve amazingly. On top of that, I have much more peace of mind than I did just a year before.

Dave’s first baby-step is to save $1000 as quickly as possible (or $500 if you make less than $20,000 a year). This is the emergency fund to be used only in a genuine emergency while you begin working the next six steps. About six months into the program I had just such an emergency. An auto emergency was going to cost me nearly $300.

At first I was angry. This was all I needed. I immediately went into my poverty mindset thinking about how much inconvenience this was causing me in my life. Then I remembered my emergency fund. This sort of thing is exactly what it was there for! A little smile came across my face, and I actually felt good. Of course nobody feels good about having to shell out hundreds for unexpected auto repairs, but for the first time in my life I was actually financially prepared. I managed to pay it all off with one swift payment and drive out of the shop beaming with satisfaction. And that felt great!

It was all just a bump in the road. A year earlier, I would have been in a real pickle. I would have had to beg, and borrow. It might have taken weeks, or even months to get the finances together for the repairs, and it might have impacted my ability to pay my bills. This time however, it didn’t even affect my fun money. I could still go out to the pub that weekend for some good old Irish music, and within two months my emergency fund was topped off once again.

For anyone who is serious about getting their finances together, unlearning all their poverty inducing bad habits, and replacing them with wise wealth creating behavior, I cannot recommend Dave Ramsey more. He has helped me replace my naive hope for wealth with a practical and realistic plan for creating it. Dave can’t help everyone, however. The path to financial peace is not easy. It does take discipline and perseverance. You have to be ready, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually to change your behavior, and to do the necessary work it takes to achieve it. The hardest part for many people is that you must be ready to take personal responsibility for your own financial situation.

If you really want to break the bonds of financial servitude and make your way toward wealth visit Dave Ramsey’s website now. Find him on your local radio station. You will be happy you did!

The Wise Words of Tecumseh

Tecumseh02“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Chief Tecumseh

Your Life is Your Business

We all talk about starting a business as a means to wealth. This seems reasonable, but for the average impoverished person this really means very little. “How do I go into business without any means and possibly no idea what market to go into?”

First you have to realize that you already are in business. YOU are your business. Your life and your body is your corporation. As Dave Ramsey says; “You are the CEO of Me Incorporated.” As soon as you realize that whether you have a business license of not, whether you are technically an employee in a business owned by someone else or not, you are in fact self-employed. If you get your paycheck from a single source you are in fact a corporation with a single client.

Business Card

Even fortune five-hundred company owners have employers. We call them customers, clients, or investors but they are in fact the employers who provide the revenue for the business and pay the salaries of the owners, management, and employees of the company. As an employee, your employer is the investor in or financier of your business, even if your business is operating a broom at the local McDonald’s.

There is a sort of magic to your thoughts. If you see yourself as just an employee, a worker rather than a businessperson, you are likely to fall into the complacency of wage slavery. Here you wind up working just for the money, often a lesser amount than you are capable of earning. When you realize that your life is a business you become empowered by seeing yourself as a business owner: the CEO of You Inc. Jobs become streams or revenue, money becomes cashflow and capital. You will be compelled to learn more about business, and as your knowledge of the subject increases the more prepared you will become to consider operating your own corporation.

A major factor important to anyone’s success is mindset and perspective. So adopt the mindset that you are already self-employed. You are already a business owner, whether that business is doing well or doing poorly. The same principles used by a successful corporation can be applied to your own life. This works whether you are married or single, have children or are childless. The only difference is the number of ‘shareholders’ to whom you may have a fiduciary responsibility.

Recommended reading: Thou Shall Prosper, by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

9 Top Irish Drinking Songs

The Irish have produced some of the best drinking songs ever written. Characterized by their catchy melodies, comical lyrics, and their tendency toward tragic endings; a good night of pub-singing is a communal activity with much crowd interaction and participation. The following is a list of my top nine Irish Drinking Songs, in no particular order. Why nine? If you must ask, perhaps you need to learn more about the Irish.

1- Beer, Beer, Beer

This is a straight forward song in praise of the fictionalized inventor of beer, Charlie Mopps. The name is meant to rhyme with barley and hops. The lyrics mostly describe how beer is made, where it is sold and how much better life is now that it has been invented. As far as creativity is concerned, lyrically this song is not the best. But it’s a great sing along tune the best thing about this song is its catchiness for group singing.

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2- Waxies Dargle

The singer tells us of his woman and his friend’s woman going about trying to get money in order to go to the “Waxies Dargle,” a popular vacation spot on the bank of the River Dargle. Like so many other Irish drinking songs, the two women go about selling personal possessions, even some belonging to the singer himself in order to afford drinking money. The catchy hooks ends each round with the words “”What’ll ye have? Will ye have a pint? I’ll have a pint with you, sir. And if one of us doesn’t order soon we’ll be thrown out of the boozer.”

3- Whiskey You’re the Devil

A bit of a counterpart to “Whisky in the Jar,” this song is about the hazards of drinking heavy spirits. “Whiskey You’re the Devil” contains one of the wittiest verses in Irish drinking music; “Said the mother ‘Do not wrong me. Don’t take me daughter from me. For if you do I will torment you and after death, me ghost will haunt you.’” The chorus of this tune is the kind that just urges one to sing along.

4- Finnegan’s Wake

Tim Finnegan was a construction worker who had a bit of a drinking problem. He had a drink every morning before going to work. One day he had a bit too much and fell off a ladder and broke his skull. After everyone arrived at his wake, Finnegan’s widow served lunch followed by whisky punch. In short order some one said the wrong thing to another and a fight breaks out. Bottles of whisky are hurled through the air until the liquor platters over Tim’s corps. The whiskey magically revives him. Tim Finnegan stands up from the bed cursing the waste of good liquor and asking if they really thought he was dead.

5- All For Me Grog

Grog is a combination of liquors popular especially amongst sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Essentially it was a mixture of whatever was left over. The lyrics of this song tell us of what appears to be a pirate coming ashore with his plunder. He spends all his money on wild nights with gin drinking women. The poor fellow parties his way through several days until he is “sick in the head” and “full of pains and aches.” He eventually sells everything from his boots to his shirt for money to buy beer and tobacco and decides to head back out to sea in order to get away from all the trouble he has caused for himself in port.

6- Jug of Punch

Whiskey Punch is made with sugar, lemon, and water … and of course whiskey. This song begins with a man sitting peacefully in his room. Before long he is overcome with the desire to go out and have a drink. We next meet him in the pub with a “pretty wench” on his knee, but before long he finds himself in a bad way. The song traditionally ends with the singer proclaiming that upon his death; “just lay me down in my native peat with a jug of punch at my head and feet.”

7- Dicey Riley

One of the catchiest tunes in the Irish Drinking repertoire; Dicey Riley is about one hard drinking woman. She starts each day with a few drinks and continues on throughout the rest of the day. Each night she closes down the pubs, trashed and if she doesn’t have a friend to see her safely home she’ll sleep off her drink on a local park bench, only to do it all again the next day.

8- Whiskey in the Jar

Perhaps one of the most over played Irish drinking tunes, this one is a standard that has even been performed by the heavy metal band Metallica. The song is really about a robbery. The singer tells how he encounters one Captain Farrell in the mountains and demands his money at the point of pistol and rapier. He is eventually betrayed by his beloved Jenny, arrested and taken away by the very same Captain Farrell.

9- The Wild Rover

Actually a song written for the Temperance Movement, it is ironic that this song has been so lovingly embraced as a drinking tune. Simply put, the song is about a roving man who has decided to repent of his rambling and drinking ways. Along with “Whiskey in the Jar,” “The Wild Rover” is one of the most well known Irish drinking songs, so when it is played it is sure to get some crowd interaction.

Mardi Gras – A Primer

Mardi Gras is a big event in my native home of the Southern Gulf States. It is celebrated heavily between Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. I’ve even seen evidence of attempts at celebrating it as far west as Monterey, California, but nobody does it like home. Although New Orleans is thought of as the home city of American Mardi Gras, the first American celebration of the holiday took place in Mobile, Alabama in 1703.

mardi_gras

Coming from the French tradition, Mardi Gras is similar to the Carnival traditions found throughout Europe and Latin America. It tends to occupy several weeks before and on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

Lent being a 40 day period of fasting and abstention in the Catholic tradition, Fat Tuesday and the days leading up to it is a time to let it all out, to party, to drink, and for many to sin.  As such it is a festival season celebrated with wild abandon, parades, carnivals and debauchery. Costumes and masks are an important part of the festivities, epitomized by the classic theatre masks.

A Mardi Gras parade can be a rowdy affair.  As the parade floats pass by (each one manned by a krewe, or in Mobile a “Mystic Society”) the attendants compete for cheap plastic beads and trinkets, and aluminum doubloons.

King cake is a tradition going back to the old world. The New Orleans variety consists of a twisted cinnamon roll iced with the colors of the holiday: purple, gold, and green. Traditionally, inside the king cake would be hidden a little plastic baby signifying the baby Jesus, but is often just referred to as the Mardi Gras baby. Whichever person gets the piece with the baby inside is promised a prosperous year.

As much as Mardi Gras is about the festival and indulgence, it should not be forgotten that this is leading up to a 40 day period of fasting. This is a significant time of year. To the ancestors this season heralded in a time of scarcity as the winter stocks began to dwindle before the season’s crops could provide any sustenance. Though the celebrations may seem excessive, it is intended to be followed by a month on penance and discipline.

Here We Come A-Wassailing; The Roots of a Christmas Tradition

It’s not Christmas without Christmas carols.  Many of our most traditional carols are filled with lyrics and lines that leave the modern caroler bewildered.  One of my favorite holiday tunes is “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” also commonly known as “Here We Come A-Caroling.”  Just what is wassailing?  Is it just an archaic word for Christmas caroling?  Actually no, it isn’t.  While the two terms have become generally accepted as interchangeable, caroling is just one aspect of a much deeper and more profound tradition of wassailing.

wassail

Wassail is also a common name for a variety of mulled or spiced beverages such as apple cider, served hot and traditional during the winter months, especially at Christmastime.  In medieval England wassail was a common fermented drink, a type of ale, or mead, served with bread or toast and consumed ceremonially and socially like beer or wine in modern society.  Typical ingredients of wassail included sweetened apple cider, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Modern popular varieties may use a fruit juice, ale, or wine as a base, sometimes spiked with liquor.  Originating in England, wassail was traditionally used as a beverage for making important ceremonial toasts, a ritual closely related to the sumble.  The word itself is derived from the Middle English term waes hael, which means “good health to you.”  Similarly it corresponds to the Old English “wes hal,” and the Old Norse “ves heill.”

wassail-herveygoat2

In ancient Europe, wassailing was an important element in the highly tree oriented Anglo-Saxon religious complex.  The Yuletide rite consisted of a parade of revelers singing hymns and playing their drums and other musical instruments, roving between the orchards, leaving offerings and pouring libations.  The ceremony was intended to awaken the apple trees and chase away malevolent spirits in order that the trees should be healthy and produce an abundant crop the following year.  Hot mulled cider, prepared from the recent harvest was the traditional and symbolic drink consumed and offered at these ceremonies.

During the medieval period, under feudalism the wassail developed into a midwinter ritual in which the wealthy Lord would distribute goods from his storehouses to the peasants who worked his lands.  In exchange for gifts of his best foods, beers, ales, and wines, the Lord could be assured his people’s allegiance and fealty for the next year.  During the late sixteenth century, bands of young men would travel from orchard to orchard on Twelfth Night, performing the wassailing rite.  They would take their wassail bowl with them and leave offerings of bread or toast on the roots or branches of trees.  Libations of cider were poured on the roots in order that the trees would produce an abundant harvest the following year.  Wassailing cups and bowls were important communal ceremonial items used within all levels or society.  Wassail vessels came in many varieties from the large and intricately decorated silver goblet used by the Worshipful Company of Grocers guild, to the simple white maple bowls used by commoners.

santa-Wassail

During the later historical era wassailing became associated with roving bands of the poor who would descend upon their wealthy neighbors’ homes at Christmastime.  Singing and dancing, they wassailers would demand entrance into the house, and shares of the residents’ best liquors and deserts.  This rite is forever enshrined in the words to the popular carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas; “Now give us some figgy pudding,” and “we won’t go until we get some!”  The estate’s owner was fully expected to play along and contribute to the “good cheer.”  If he didn’t, he could expect his reputation to plummet and possibly his property vandalized.  The old Yuletide holiday was celebrated in a fashion more similar to Halloween and trick-or-treat than to our modern Christmas. This drunken disorderliness is one of the reasons used to outlaw Christmas celebrations by the newly empowered puritans in the Commonwealth of England during the mid seventeenth century.  Over the past few centuries, the roving gangs of wassailers have become tamed into the serene image of the Christmas caroler singing from door to door in the white winter weather, sipping on hot apple-cider.  The hooligan shaking down the neighborhood for treats has been reserved for Halloween.

Wassailing in the old way however, is still practiced especially in the cider-producing western counties of England.   In Carhamptona and Whimple, Wassails are held on Twelfth Night, January 17th*, as a means of asking God to bless the community with a healthy orchard and a plentiful apple harvest.  A Wassail king and, queen are selected to lead a procession from orchard to orchard as the participants sing and play music.  During this rite, the wassailers drink large droughts of cider until they are quite full of good cheer. Upon entering an orchard the participants form a circle around the largest apple tree.  The Wassail queen is lifted into the branches where she leaves a piece of toast dipped in wassail as an offering to the “tree faeries,” or the “good spirits,” commonly represented by the local robins.  A blessing to the tree is recited and near the conclusion of the ceremony a man fires a shotgun in the air to frighten away the evil spirits.  Then the revelers begin beating drums, some using pots and pans while singing a traditional invocation for a rich harvest before proceeding to the next orchard.  A popular wassailing song from nineteenth century Somerset County, England went as follows;

 

“Apple tree, apple tree, we all come to wassail thee,

Bear this year and next year to bloom and to blow,

Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sack fills,

Hip, Hip, Hip, hurrah, Holler biys, holler hurrah.”[5]

 

Another old lyric from England says;

 

“Wassaile the trees, that they may beare

You many a Plum and many a Peare,

For more or lesse fruits they will bring,

As you do give them Wassailing.”

 

Our modern tradition of wassailing has taken an intriguing path on its way to us.   Now we can make a little more sense out of the opening lines of that old favorite at Christmastime.  “Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green,” is reminiscent of the old ritual of visiting the orchards, singing to the health of the apple trees to ensure the following year’s harvest.

“Love and Joy come to you,

and to you your wassail too,

And God bless you and send you a happy new year.”

* The date of Twelfth Night is in dispute in certain parts of Britain.  The date on the Gregorian calendar corresponds to January 6th, or the eve of January 5th.  The pre-Gregorian, Julian date which is followed by the old traditionalists falls on January 17th.

Music, Art, Culture and Modern Critiques

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