How the blog works

The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.

Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Introduction to 'Imbolc'

This is a chant that I wrote for use at Imbolc (Candelmass)

Imbolc (Chant)

Candles burning, Brighids fire,
Signs of spring to my desire,
Wake up Bridie, Crone to Maiden,
Frosty snowdrops, meadows pagan

Copyright Andrew Rea 2006

Sunday, 20 January 2013

January Æfterra Geola

Introduction to January (Æfterra Geola = after Yule) Updated

Popular Anglo-Saxon pass times included singing, poetry and storytelling on these long dark nights. Ploughing and sowing were possible during the month but miserable!
Live stock was gathered close to the settlement in order to protect from wolves and facilitate easier feeding in the cold.

Animal guising on the Kalends of January was also popular but banned by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 690. (Liber Poenitentialis)
If anyone on the Kalends of January goes about as a stag or a bull; that is making himself into a wild animal and dressing in the skin of a herd animal, and putting on the head of beasts; those who in such wise transform themselves into the appearance of a wild animal,penance for three years because this is devilish.

Similar festivals are also mentioned on the continent. Compare with the Bulgarian early spring festival of Kukeri and the Germanic winter festival of Krampuslauf.!
In these surviving versions of this festival the object of the scary guising is to chase off winter.

Hagtesse were supernatural females that rode out in groups and caused harm.

January (Æfterra Geola)

Beware demon, of winter fear,
First Kalends of, frozen new year.
With just two legs, guised as a stag,
Clad in beast skins, or as a hag.

Beware darkness, for it is here,
Mirror on pond, cut crisp and clear.
Winter wonder, spell of dark cast,
Wassailing feast, feels for long passed.

Beware winter, cold crisp and cruel,
Feasting finished, month after Yule.
First frozen month, of year art here,
Light days wilt soon, be drawing near.

Beware of men, animal heads atop,
Dressed in skins, they jump and hop.
As old woman, Hagtesse guised,
Beware of men, with scary eyes.

Beware of work, in yon hard meads,
Our winter food, must serve our needs.
Wild winter wind, bloweth severe,
Sat around fire, brings us some cheer.

Beware white wolves, we have to guard,
Bring back the beasts, into the yard.
Frosty fields be, firm frozen hard,
Let's make merry, with singing bard.

Beware antlers, on head of man,
Beware the beast, with head of ram.
Beware weapon men, with their head gear,
Beware of death, let's face our fear!

Copyright Andrew Rea 2009 December 2012

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Wassail the apple tree

Introduction to ' Wassail the apple tree’

Another Twelfth Night celebration was the ritual of wassailing the apple trees. This tradition was popular in the South of England, especially in the West Country.

The purpose of wassailing is to awake the apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the autumn. The tradition faded in the early half of the 20th century, although it still survives in modernised form in about 30 villages or farms, it is now done mainly for profit.

Some do it on Twelfth Night, 5th January, some on old Twelfth Night, 17th January. The old way of doing it involved the young men of the village; plough hands, farm labourers etc coming together as a band and going from farm to farm to drink to the health of the leading apple tree. This was mostly done as a way to get drunk for free! In exchange for what would be either mulled cider or ale one would sing to the tree, make libations and dip toast into the wassail and arrange it in the branches of the tree to attract ‘the good spirits’ and no doubt make the robins and sparrows a bit tipsy the next day.
There were regional variations to the songs many of which can be easily found today. From the placing of the toast in the branches of the tree we derive the modern expression ‘to raise a toast’.

 Wassail the apple tree (in West Country accent)

Each year we come, without invite,
Thine apple tree, to wassail thee.
Coldest and darkest, twelfth tide night,
Give up thine cider, now for free.

Here’s health to thee, old apple-tree,
And whence thou mayest, bud and bear.
Old apple tree, we'll wassail thee,
To be merry, another year.

We raise the hallowed, wassail toast,
We hope thee wilt, have apples spare.
Next harvest, double apples boast,
And buckets of, cider to share.

The hallowed toast, in branches placed,
To invite thy, good spirits near.
We hope our brew’s, with spirit laced,
To keep us warm, this time of year.

Libations made, upon the ground,
Here’s health to thee, old apple tree.
We sing to thee, and dance around,
Good spirits we, doth welcome thee.

Contribute to, the wassail bowl,
The cider will, do us no harm.
As night goes on, without control,
We do lumber, from farm to farm.

Let every man, drink up his cup,
And so merry, let us lads be.
We have apple cider, to sup,
To make us lads tipsy, for free.

So don’t forget, the good old ways,
Set thine finest, cider aside.
So we canst our own, tankards raise,
May there be cider, next Twelfthtide.

Copyright Andrew Rea 2011

Monday, 7 January 2013

The thirteenth and last silly dragon

The serpent king rose from his pearly throne,
His invoking spell to intone,
He spun round and round,
Until spell was bound,
And produced a titanic cyclone.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Twelfth Night

Introduction to 'Twelfth Night' (5th January, set in the first half of the 19th century)

Twelfth Night Cake contains a dried pea and bean and is distributed in such a way that a lucky woman finds the pea and lucky man finds the bean and crowned pea queen and bean king aka the lord and lady of misrule (compare Saturnalia). It is their duties to get the party going by telling people to do crazy things including cross dressing and animal guising.
During the 19th century it became normal to take down the festive decorations by Twelfth Night, previously they had stayed up until Candlemas (compare present practices in countries such as Poland and Spain).
In Victorian Britain people would have gathered in a circle about a fire and drunk wassail from a loving cup (wassail bowl), these tended to be large bowls decorated with a foliate pattern and with evergreen leaves woven through the handles around the outside.
The practice was to pass the bowl to ones neighbour with a kiss, the recipient would raise the bowl say 'wassail', people responded with 'drink hail' to encourage imbibing.
Twelfth Night formed the climax to the Yule tide season and brought the festivities to a close, unless you were a farmer when you would not return to the fields until 'Plough  Monday', the first Monday after Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night

Twelftide, the twelfth day of Yule,
Twelfth Night Cake and festive misrule.
By night fall, all trimmings be down,
The gathering of friends, a night to renown.

Twelfth Night celebrations, now abound,
The lighting of fires, to circle around.
Deck the Wassail bowl, with evergreen,
Receiving the order, of king and queen.

On this night, we drink without stealth,
Old English was hael, to your health.
Drink hail, pass kiss and merry be,
Drink and honour, a wassail to thee.

All drink from the large, wassail bowl,
Festive misrule, all out of control.
Cross dressing and animal guises fool,
What a fine way, to end the Yule.

Copyright Andrew Rea 2007

Friday, 4 January 2013

The twelfth silly dragon

There was a Cockatrice from the east,
That was an unusual beast,
He got up one day,
In the month of May,
And burnt everything up at the Feast.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The eleventh silly dragon

The Cockatrice had to dinner postpone,
Thinking only of goodies he was prone,
A sausage to sizzle,
Some honey to drizzle,
Without food as fuel he couldn't have flown.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The tenth silly dragon

There was a Sea serpent from the west,
That went forth on a great quest,
He was very bold,
But feeling quite cold,
Because in hast he forgot to get dressed.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The ninth silly dragon

The Firedrake got up early from his nest,
To put his strong fiery breath to the test,
He puffed up his lungs,
And stuck out his tongues,
The other dragons were much impressed.