The custom of ‘Hunting the Wren’ has long been an Isle of Man tradition, and is still kept alive each St Stephen’s Day.
It is thought that it is descended from Celtic mythology and the tradition may also have been influenced by Scandinavian settlers during the Viking invasions of the 8th and 10th centuries.
Historically, groups of young men known as ‘wren boys’ would hunt a wren and then tie the sacred bird to the top of a pole, decorated with holly sprigs and ribbons. With blackened faces, the group would sing at houses and receive for money, presents or food for their efforts. Those that gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the wren as thanks. The collected money was then used to host a village dance.
Superstitious Manx fishermen were known not to venture out to sea without having first secured a feather to ensure their safe return. Wrens’ feathers were also considered a general preservative against witchcraft.
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