Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wassail Bowl as a Pagan Present

There is a wondrous feeling of commradery and celebration when you pass a bowl of tasty grog around the circle. The Winter's Solstice is a time to give thanks for making it through the season, as it marks the shortest day of the year. "We have faith that spring will return in her veiled robes of the green goddess."

But the Wassail Bowl has an interesting origin.

The passing of the bowl probably originates from a toast that still exists in Scandinavia. The familiar modern Scandinavian toast "sköl" derives from "scole", the drinking bowl shaped like the upper half of a human skull.

Originally, these bowls were fashioned from the actual skulls of enemy killed in battle. The pagan Scandinavians celebrated Juul (Yule) and passed skulls full of drink to celebrate. The actual verbal toast used was the old Norse wes heill meaning "to your good health."

When Norse invaders came to Celtic lands, they brought their own customs. They passed eventually into local culture. They were adopted and morphed into their more familiar forms of today. Now we commonly pass a wooden bowl, perhaps the influence of the druids and the reverence of mistletoe.

If you are a master with a lathe, you may enjoy the challenge the making a wooden bowl to suit. But, if you cannot, you may carve symbols and decoration into a pre-made wooden bowl instead. If carving doesn't suit you, you might get creative with some silver paint.

Giving a Wassail Bowl is a highly symbolic gift. It should be treasured among loyal friends and family.

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