Old Customs


The first water drawn from any well or stream on New Year’s morning used
to be called the Flower of the Well, or the Cream of the Well. This water would bring good luck in the new year.

In Mid-January (depending on the area) the apple trees were wassailed.
The word “Wassail” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “Wehal” which means “be of
good health”. Farmers and their families went to the orchards after dark, carrying horns and a large pail of cider. Cider was poured around the roots of a chosen tree, and a piece of toast or cake, soaked in cider, was placed in the branches. A wassailing song was sung to the tree.

Girls can discover their future husband on the Eve of St Agnes by scattering a handful of barley under an apple tree saying: “Barley, barley, I sow thee; That my true love I may see; Take thy rake and follow me.” It is said that the figure of her future husband will follow and take up the seed the girl has scattered.

The cuckoo is considered a lucky bird. Money should be turned in the pocket when the first cuckoo is heard, but never look at the ground while this is done.

Morris Dancers may be seen at Whitsuntide. The Dancers stamp, kick and
jump to waken the earth spirit and bring the crops out of the ground.

On Old Midsummer Day there is a procession in the Isle of Man to Tynwald
Hill. The Governor follows the Sword of State at the head of the procession. They process through lines of guards to a platform. Here the Governor sits on a crimson velvet chair. The Chief Justice reads a list of the Acts of Parliament passed at Westminster during the year. This ceremony shows that the Isle of Man accepts English Acts as law.

On 8 July, the Burry Man walks through the streets of South Queensferry,
West Lothian, Scotland. He is covered in thistle, teazle and burrs, with a head dress made of flowers. He covers his face, and carries a staff in each hand. He talks to no-one but is said to bring good luck to houses he visits.

On the Sunday after August 12th there is a “revel” in Markhamchurch, in Cornwall. The village children chose the “Queen of the Revel” who then leads a procession through the village, riding a white horse.

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance takes place on the first Sunday after September 4th. This is probably one of the best known of all the “Dances” in the British Isles.