Wassailing Druids bless trees with hopes for a fruitful harvest

The inaugural wassailing of the Cornwallis Crescent Community Orchard, Portsmouth, by the Genesis Order of Druids. Sunday 6th January 2019       Picture: Chris Moorhouse    (060119 - 32)
The inaugural wassailing of the Cornwallis Crescent Community Orchard, Portsmouth, by the Genesis Order of Druids. Sunday 6th January 2019 Picture: Chris Moorhouse (060119 - 32)
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HARVESTS from trees in the centre of Portsmouth should be bountiful for all, thanks to a traditional celebration from a group of druids.

In a ritual event yesterday afternoon, the Genesis Order of Druids, based in Hilsea, blessed 480 trees that are growing in the heart of Portsmouth.

Walking from Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Old Commercial Road to a recently planted orchard in Cornwallis Crescent, the group gave their thanks to the trees, blessing them for a good harvest.

The trees in question were planted along the Charles Dickens Trail last year.

Archdruid of the group, Stormwatch – otherwise known as Steve Jeal – explains that the trees should bring a fruitful harvest to the local community.

He said: ‘We’re hoping to make it an annual thing, to bless the trees we planted over three days last year.

‘We were supported by the Portsmouth Tree Wardens, the tree council and Portsmouth City Council.

‘The purpose of this event is to wake up the trees and get them ready for the spring.

‘To do this, we have to make a lot of noise, so we play instruments and chant blessings, before blessing the trees with the gift of cider and apples.

‘The idea is that by returning some of the previous year’s harvest, it helps to feed the trees for this year.’

The old pagan tradition, known as Wassail, started in Herefordshire before spreading to the west country.

The Genesis Order of Druids rarely hold events outside of their home in Hilsea – there they perform rituals for summer and winter solstices.

Steve explained: ‘We do ceremonies for the eight turning points of the year, including one for the first turn of spring.

‘But we don’t get to do much outside of Hilsea, so it is a genuine pleasure to come and bless this tree trail for the year.

‘The apple trees we have planted also have a wonderful connection to Charles Dickens himself; he was a fan of apples and it was the only thing that didn’t make him ill when he was on the boat to America.’

To find out more go to genesisorder.com.