29 x 36cm
Wren Day is celebrated on the 26th of December, St Stephen’s Day. The tradition consists of ‘hunting’ a wren for use in a ritual that can be understood as either sacrificial or celebratory. In the past, a live wren was caught and placed in a cage, however in later years a fake wren was made with feathers and sticks and tied to a pole decorated with ribbons and holly. Young children would go from house to house with the wren, reciting the rhyme: “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds / St Stephen's Day was caught in the furze / Up with the kettle and down with the pan / Give us a penny to bury the ‘wran’.”
In Celtic mythology, the wren was considered to be a symbol of the past year and the celebration may have been a midwinter sacrifice, welcoming the new year. The wren is often referred to as the ‘Druid bird’ and old Celtic names for the wren mean ‘druid’. This further links it to druidic practices; a possible source of the ritual of wren day.
This piece is from a series of illustrations based on the theme of Irish Folklore & Mythology.