Farm workers did not return to work after Christmas until after Plough Monday, the traditional start of the agricultural year falling the first Monday after Twelfth Night. References to Plough Monday date back to the late fifteenth century. In some areas, particularly in northern England and East Anglia, the plough might be blessed at the church, and then dragged from house to house in the village, in a procession with the ploughmen collecting money, a necessary seasonal supplement to income when there was no work on the land; if anyone refused to contribute, they might find their front gardens ploughed up. They were often accompanied by musicians, and winter characters like the hag and the wild man with a boy dressed as an old woman called the Bessy, and a man in the role of the Fool, who wore animal skins, a hairy cap and had an animal tail hanging from his back.
© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Year, Llewellyn, 2021