Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Burning the Ashen Faggot, 2017

Posted on by royvickery |

The Squirrel Inn at Laymore on the Dorset/Somerset borders revived the custom of burning the ashen faggot in 1972, and has continued to do so on 8 January or a nearby date ever since.

Although described as ‘an old pagan tradition’ on the Squirrel’s 2017 poster, the earliest records of it date from 1795 and 1806.  Burning the faggot has always had its stronghold in Somerset, and in the first half of the nineteenth century ‘Ashen Faggot Balls’ were popular, that in Taunton in 1826 being ‘most respectably attended by the principal families of the town and neighbourhood’.  But 20 years later the events were said to be losing their appeal.  Although faggots continue to be burnt in a few Somerset pubs, it is believed that it is only the King William IV, in Curry Rivel has an unbroken tradition of doing so; burnings elsewhere being the result of revivals.

The faggot consists of a number of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) saplings bound together, and each time one of the bonds snaps people are told to ‘drink up’.  At the Squirrel there is what appears to be a recent belief that a woman who steps over the faggot will become pregnant within a year.

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