December 26th, 2010

wren boys, straw boys and Nana Mouskouri

"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze;
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Pray give us a penny to bury the wran."
(Traditional Irish Wren song)

"Irish tradition holds that the wren symbolizes the old year, while the robin symbolizes the year to come. To ensure that the passage from old year to new could take place, it was once common practice on St. Stephen's Day (Decemeber 26) for a group of local boys to hunt and kill a wren. This band of so-called Wren Boys, usually costumed and often masked, would then travel from house to house carrying the wren in a small box or casket (other sources say the wren was tied to a pole and decked with ribbons). The regaled each house with musical laments for the unfortunate bird along with pleas to raise money for the funeral."

please to see the king:

"The king was the wren. The wren was the king of the birds. In
ancient religions the king was sacrificed every seven years for
the fertility and good of the tribe. In some places (Ireland)
the queen was royal and married new consorts to be sacrificed.
The consort was treated well for seven years (or one year) and
then sacrificed by the new consort. A wren was killed and
dressed up in ribbons, etc. and carried around the village. This
is from Pembrokeshire in South Wales, commemorating the wren-
killing on St. Steven's Day, Dec 26. Old Christmas, still
celebrated rather than December 25, is Twelfth Night."

so the tradition of children singing fairly brutal songs about killing wrens and ringing 'round the plague posies begins. this is because adults are not brave enough anymore to sing about death for fear of the spiritual world intruding on their earthy comforting delusions. and adults are not brave enough- save occassinally disguised as Mummers- to confront the church with the Truth they well neigh have always known.

rather than hunting the wren, other celts, the french, opted to sing gleefully about plucking the feathers off the skylark. leave it to the legendary Nana Mouskouri to accurately convey the real meaning of such songs- "the king is dead. long live the king( until the next one!)!". you pluck that chicken , girl, he's ready to fry.

mummers and straw boys( who also appear at weddings) are about. kindly give them a penny to bury the wren- and the darkness will be defeated.