New owner at The Lion at West Pennard hosts virtual Wassail to banish evil spirits in 2021

WHILE the country remains in lockdown, one Somerset pub has found a way to banish bad spirits and encourage a bumper fruit crop.

The Lion, at West Pennard near Glastonbury, broadcast a socially distanced wassail on its Youtube channel on Sunday (January 17), on what many traditionalists recognise as twelfth night, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.

The wassail ritual has been performed for centuries, and usually sees drummers and singers parading to fruit orchards in an attempt to drive away bad spirits, and look forward to a good new year and a bumper fruit crop.

But, like many other events across the country, many of this year’s wassail festivities have been cancelled.

However, rather than be outdone by the pandemic, the owners of The Lion, which remains shut during lockdown, set about recording a socially-distanced ceremony in its car park, alongside a historic fruit orchard, but without the usual crowds of onlookers.

And because the past year has brought so much bad luck for so many, the pub has planted a new Kingston Black apple cider tree at the rear of the pub, which got a wassail blessing during the ceremony, including the pouring of Glastonbury Ales’ cider on its roots.

The tree was donated by nearby cider producer Hecks of Street.

This is The West Country: NEW OWNERS: At The Lion, in West Pennard
NEW OWNERS: At The Lion, in West Pennard

The wassail tradition sees the burning of an ashen faggot to bring good luck, the firing of a gun to scare bad spirits, the hanging of cider-soaked toast in the tree to encourage good spirits and a bumper crop, and the burning of last year’s troubles which, this year, included the ceremonial burning of a wooden Covid-19 molecule.

Pub owner Barrie Wilson said: “If there has ever been a year we’ve wanted to banish and wish away the bad luck, then it has to be 2020. And what symbolises that more than burning Covid-19 on a wassail fire?

“I’ve recently taken over The Lion but recognise that wassailing has been an important date on the pub’s calendar and was only too pleased to host it again this year.”

Wassail Butler John Tucker, who has taken part in wassails at The Lion for the past few years and who was the only person to take part this year, said: “I didn’t want this year of all years to go by without a wassail.

“It’s become a great traditional night in the pub’s calendar, and while this year’s may have looked and felt different, we’ve kept that tradition alive.

“Never has there been a time when we’ve desperately needed to invite good luck, and we’ve still managed to do that in traditional Somerset fashion.”

The Lion – formerly The Red Lion – is on the A361 Glastonbury Road at West Pennard and is a popular stopping point for those attending the Glastonbury Festival, held at nearby Worthy Farm, in Pilton.

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