Thursday, 12 January 2012

Hip Hip Hooray!

   Last night the new year arrived on the north coast of Scotland in the tiny fishing villages which keep to the old Julian calendar holidays.  In Burghead a fiery procession wound its way sunwise through the town, bringing bits of luck to the doorsteps of the people there.

On top of a flame-covered hilltop, the last bit of the Clavie, which is the name for the burning barrel carried through the town, burnt to the ground as people cheered.  And so, the new year began.

There used to be celebrations like this one in many towns on the north coast of Scotland, but this is the last one that remains.  I wrote about the Clavie last year too, so have a look here if you are interested in reading more. 

As we made our way home, reeking of smoke and tar and full of stovies, clutching our piece of the Clavie to bring us luck, my mind moved back and forth over this past year and on to thoughts of the one sitting ahead.
   I have been a little too much in dreamland the past couple of weeks and the time to get back to work and the regular pattern of daily life has come, I think.  I have been gathering ideas around me, and I'm looking forward to bringing them out into the world, or at least my little corner of it.

   Going back in time eleven days from last night, to the more commonly accepted time for celebrating New Year's Eve, we found ourselves at another fire festival.  The photos below come from the fireball celebration in the town of Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen.

This festival is much larger and also includes a pipe band, a drum group, and fireworks at the end.  You can read more about it in last year's post on the same subject.  We had a lovely night out, standing about waiting for midnight and learning about life in Kazakhstan and Borneo from a visitor met by chance, and then the hush and roar as bunches of fire went whirling past us... sometimes only just missing us as we stepped quickly back!

There is something hypnotic in these fire processions.  Watching as the flames blaze past in the dark street, or trailing along behind them, emotions balance out between excitement and strange awe.

   More than candy-coloured fireworks ever could, these raw flaming processions make a deep and dramatic impression.  I hope that these tiny glimpses of flames and sparks will warm and quicken you a bit.  Thank you for passing this past year with me and my thoughts.  May you make your dreams come true this year!

Throwing fireballs in the sea.


  1. Wonderful photographs! All those fiery trails and blazing embers.

    I know what you mean about the dreaminess of this time of the year. I too have been mulling over ideas rather than getting down to work, though the time for that has ended now and I must invest the 'notions' with corporeality.

    As you have a liking for fire festivals Jodi, I think you might enjoy this Catalan expression of the tradition!

  2. Absolutely fascinating, traditions new to me, compelling.

    Thank you.

  3. ah, i didn't know that about last night! what wondrous photos! the one (#5) looks as if the fire is growing on vines, it's amazing. i like this idea of taking home your piece of the barrel, something of last year and its phoenix-like burning into the next one to bring you into the luck of it. beautiful post. i can't wait to see what you bring us from your dreams :)

  4. The photos are actually all thanks to my husband this time! A bunch of excitement about a new-to-us lens has made it difficult for me to get my hands on the camera in the past few days... but the results have been really good anyway, so I can't complain. Normally the photo credits would be a bit more evenly divided between the two of us though.

    Clive, I really loved reading about Patum! I left you a comment over on your post, but I'm not sure if it's buried since it's an older entry. Anyway, thank you for sharing that; I didn't know about that festival at all and it seems completely incredible!
    Anyway, I hope you are having some luck getting back to work... it is a tricky thing, isn't it?

    magnolia, glad you liked reading about these festivals! They are such a great thing to witness in person, I hope that a bit of that feeling made it over to you.

    Zoe, I really like that photo too. I went through about a zillion shots to pick five from each festival, and even though that one wasn't really of anything, it still stuck out somehow. The pieces of the Clavie are lovely... I was very pleased to have managed to snatch one up for us and one for a sick friend. I have big hopes for this year!

  5. Oh how I crave that kind of ancient celebration! Not that we don't create our own here, but we are creating anew, not performing these rituals that have been done for hundreds of years. There is a relatively new group of festivals here in the US, the "fire tribes". All night ritual drum and trance dance around the fire. There's a regular "fire tribe" group now and many a fire spinners and dancers in the community here. I've never been as I'm usually doing something here at RavenWood, but someday I'd like to go to one.

    The photos of fire are amazing. And I agree, I much prefer a large bonfire with all the sparks and power than the candy colored fireworks as you call them. Seems to me that we didn't improve on the sacred fire when we invented those... and I think their popularity harkens back to the ancient human need to BE with fire! Happy New Year!