Twelfth night

FOOL: “Yes, by Saint Anne, and ginger shall be hot i’ the mouth too.”

We would do well to invoke St. Anne on this Twelfthtide eve. While weather pundits in the US celebrate the movement of yesterday’s unusual bomb cyclone weather pattern “out to sea”, a quick look at the map of Canada shows the eye of the storm is actually hovered over the obscure Quebec village of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts in the St. Lawrence seaway.

At this point, our Québécoise readership is unlikely to escape the storm, but the least we can do is send them an image of the beleaguered saint, standing like a beacon atop the Église de Sainte Anne des Monts. There will always be time later for shoveling.

Traditionally the Twelfth night is celebrated by going out to the apple grove and singing to the oldest apple tree for the coming harvest. There is an entire ritual, a mock king and queen, cake, and either a cider-based apple wassail or “lambswool“, an ale-based spiced apple drink.

Next crown the bowl full  With gentle lamb’s wool  Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,  With store of ale too;  And thus ye must do  To make a wassail a swinger. – Robert Herrick, 17th c

Dates for the feast varied. While the 12 days of Christmas end on January 6, some areas still celebrate wassailing on the 17th January, Old Twelfth Night. Perhaps I should wait.

There is another reason to stay inside though. The Yule season is known for the Wild Hunt, when the spirits of the dead were allowed to return, and might pick you up and carry you all over the countryside before putting you back down again, or a stray Helhound might remain behind to keep you company.

Yule, and with it the danger of the Wild Hunt, can end with the 12th day of Christmas, but in some areas continues until the 24th night, the end of Epiphany-tide. Yes, perhaps it is better to stay inside for another 12 days after all.

Here are some drawings of the Wild Hunt to color, by Ludwig Pietsch.

Hmm, and here’s Obi Wan before he became Obi Wan:

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