Apple Tree Man, Illustration by Sandy Nightingale, 1996
The Apple Tree Man, the spirit of your orchard, lives in the oldest tree. Here's an old rhyme which I believe is meant for him:
Huzza, Huzza, in our good town The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown So here my old fellow I drink to thee And the very health of each other tree. Well may ye blow, well may ye bear Blossom and fruit both apple and pear. So that every bough and every twig May bend with a burden both fair and big May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors That the bags and chambers and house run o'er.
— Cornworthy, Devon, 1805
January is the time of year, whilst your apple trees are resting, to practice the Apple Wassail ritual, and thus encourage a good crop for next year!
We have incorporated this English custom into the Grove for the last couple of years for our apple trees ... hey, a bit of magic never hurts!
Here's what you do:
On an evening in January, take your last mug of cider from last year's crop, add a bit of cinnamon and honey and then warm gently in a pot on the stove. Pour the wassail mix at the base of the oldest tree (or all of them if you are so inclined or able), so it seeps down to the roots. Wish the tree well with an apple wassail song or rhyme to encourage good growth.
~ Note: If you don't make cider with your apples, you could substitute applesauce or a leftover apple - the point here is to include a physical representation of the literal "fruits" you wish to bring forth - it is a form of sympathetic magic ~
Incidentally, sympathetic magic is used the world over. Recently I learned a Native Canadian tradition of returning the bones and a little flesh from your communal salmon meal back to the stream, in order to encourage more salmon to spawn.
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GIFs graciously provided by: animatedimages.org, and R. Buchanan
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