Hi sweet friends,
Two weeks ago we hosted a Wassail celebration at Four Corners Community Farm for a newly-planted apple orchard of 49 trees. Wassailing is an old English tradition of blessing the apple orchard in deep winter, to wake the trees up for spring's emergence and to wish for an abundant harvest in the growing season. Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, or “be whole,” a wish for your beloved ones good health and wholeness. So not only do we bless the apple trees for the year to come, the community that gathers in the orchard also receives these blessings for good fortune. This ritual usually occurs towards the beginning of January, as it is a way to drive out the lingering evil spirits from the old year to ensure they don't spoil the incoming New Year. But January in upstate New York can often be too frigid & we got lucky with a perfect, warmer February afternoon, with clear skies and gold sun. 
Over 60(!) of us gathered. There was a small crew of folks who each baked a tray of small honey cakes that were to be offered to each tree, so they would be fed and ready to wake up. There was a table of homemade ciders that people had made over the past year to imbibe and to pour on the roots of the apple trees. There was a bucket of ash from one family's hearth & they offered a scoop to each apple. Mushroom farmer friends brought shiitakes that they sprinkled on the roots of every tree in the orchard. Someone brought apple cider donuts to hang on the branches; the next morning we found the crows flying through the orchard with donuts in their beaks. A friend baked an apple-sourdough loaf as offering to the slumbering trees. There was plenty to go around. And this was just for the trees! The snack table for us humans was full, too. 
Image item
It turns out that singing and chanting to 49 trees is quite a feat. I lost my voice at the end, despite having warmed up with singing “wassail away" to the tune of Enya's Orinoco Flow. Our ragtag group of apple troubadours wove through the orchard, chanting and singing to every single tree. Everyone was asked to bring noisemakers, we were a noisy bunch. We had to wake up the trees! One kid brought an alto sax, someone else brought a mini synth! With train whistles, pots and pans, bells, recorders, a fiddle and more… the orchard heard us in full. As we sang to each tree, each person had an opportunity to dunk a honey cake into the wassail bowl (full of cider) and place it in the tree. 
Each person that participated in this ritual of offering is now woven into this orchard. Wassail, “be whole” – we are made whole by this making of relationship, this act of blessing. The whole community is encircled and held; we feed the trees the cider that we make during the harvest, the cycle of continuity is nourished through this offering. 
Someone once asked me why I teach about older folk magic traditions. They asked, “This is what people did back then, what about something that meets us now?” I have so many answers to this question, I think I will write a book about it at some point. But to offer one thread: to forget where we came from is to be cut off from our root. Remembering these traditions and rituals provides context; it allows me to inhabit the same space that my ancestors held when they were in relationship to the land. I resist cultural amnesia through these ancestral practices. However, it isn't enough just do the theory part of the research. When I talk about folk magic traditions, there is always a discussion of how do we bring these traditions and practices into our lives today? How might the rituals need to shift to honor your particular place, your particular relationship? I'm not trying to copy exactly how my people did it; these practices need to adapt for where I am now (hence singing a Shania Twain song during wassailing). The practice of folk magic asks us to listen to the land & encourages the use of ritual framework to meet us where we are today. Folk magic is not something that only applies in the past; the same way that our Beloved Dead are not left in the past. We practice continuity. Just like pouring last year's cider on the roots of the trees that we will harvest from to make more cider. We must feed so we are fed. We nourish our roots.
Image item
I feel like now is a good time to mention my spring folk magic class, Sap Rising. We will be working with animistic practices for courting the land where we live as Spring blossoms; being present with our bodies in emergent season by creating blessing waters and working deeply with water magic, flirting with spirits of place, reclaiming the commons with Hawthorn, crafting our own magical tools and exploring the myths of this vernal time of year…. & a lot more! I think it will be the last year I offer this material in this way, so if you have been thinking of taking it, now is your time. I am being called to change up my offerings next year. You do not have to be present for the actual class time, you will have access to the recordings until the fall equinox! So there is plenty of time to work with the material and let the rituals and practices arise throughout the season on your own time. 
There also also a few spots left in Turning Toward The Flower, my 5-week course on making and crafting flower essences through personal ceremony. & I have a new course that starts in April – TREASURE CHEST – which you can read all about here. If you have a friend who might be interested in any of these Spring offerings, please pass the info along! ♡
In other news, I am getting ready to start a new round of Herbal Mystery School and Flowering Round this Spring. I feel so lucky to get to meet and work with the most incredible people who show up for class and inspire me. I want to introduce you do HMS alumnus & fellow Persephone-fan, Nadine, from Poppy & Star Herbs (if you don't know her already!). You can read a sweet little interview with her RIGHT HERE!
Hope to see you in a class this Spring!
Thanks for reading,
xx Liz