Fire and friendshipFirelight he saw, beams of a blaze that brightly shone.
The Celtic calendar knows four special days of celebration situated at the mid-points between each solstice and equinox: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lammas. All mark the beginning of a new season. We try to schedule our termly fires to coincide with these festivals as best we can. Wychwood does not attach any religious significance to these festivals, but we use them as times to meet and enjoy good company. In the winter the warmth and light of the fire, and the warmth of good mead, are a welcome distraction from the dark and we talk and sing well into the night. The long, light summer evenings give us time and leisure to cook over the fire.

"The bards sing of love, they celebrate war, they praise kings and flatter queens, but were I a poet I would write in praise of friendship.

Yellow flames flickered into the night sky as we gathered around the fire. The silence was interrupted only by the crackling of the wood as it was slowly eaten away.

A lonely voice rose out of the darkness, quietly at first, then clearer singing a tale of two lovers separated by fate. The singer slowly emerged out of the shadows. Ælfwin stepped into the light.

She was dressed in a robe of linen dyed sea-blue with woad, and her dress was embroidered with orange and yellow flowers about its neck and hem. Her hair was gold and seemed to shine as bright as the glowing embers of the fire.

Some joined in the chorus, others simply listened, staring silently at the flames.

Then Ealdrith arose to tell a tale of the season. While we listened to the legends of our ancestors, the drink was passed around once more.

Time was ripe for merriment. Those who were brave enough picked up the torch, took a sip of the mysterious potion and started breathing large balls of fire into the night.

Brognebrok the Wizened had fallen asleep.

More songs were sung, the mead made our chanting more cheerful. Later, there was not one who did not join in the chorus of the song.

The moon sailed high above the clearing in the woods as our voices drifted towards the stars.

It was a time of great union."

Extract from the Chronicles of Wychwood

Preparing a feastLet there be a feast
Anglo-Saxons surely knew how to have a good time. An Anglo-Saxon feast could go on for days. Copious amounts of highest quality food and drink, specially brewed for the occasion, would flow all day and all night long...

A Wychwood feast may not go on for days, but it is certainly remembered for much longer than that. Our feasts combine eight course meals with neverending supplies of drink, blended with song and games and ancient contests of strength.

The food we serve at feasts tends to be based on ingredients that were available in England in Anglo-Saxon times. There are usually a lot of dishes with big chunks of meat and some courses with fish and poultry as well as many vegetarian dishes.

"Arrived was the hour when to hall proceeded Bana the Young, the famous warrior poet himself would sit at the banquet. The walls shook from the sound of cheer, and everyone knew it was to be a memorable night.

The hall now was filled with friends. Many a horn was raised to greet them.

When all were seated, the serving men and women hurried to bring forth the first course of carrot and mint soup. Meanwhile the servants in the kitchens hurried to prepare salmon and venison.

Mead flowed among the kinsfolk who sat in the sumptuous hall. Our spirits were high, and I heard a few heroes on the ale-bench heartily praising each other's deeds in battle.

Soon the hall was filled with chanting. We sang merrily about love and the simple pleasures of life, but we also sang mellow tunes of broken dreams and lost heroes.

It was in moments such as this that I knew what we were fighting for in the shield-wall."

Extract from the Chronicles of Wychwood