Chasing Sparks

Today marks the new year in the old Julian calendar and in a small fishing village in Scotland this occasion is marked by an old fire ritual called the Burning of the Clavie.  A tar barrel is set alight and carried through the old boundaries of the village– the construction of the clavie is guided by strict tradition– no “stranger” may touch it; nothing must be purchased to make it.  No modern matches are used; the peat for ignition must already be alight. Tar is then poured over the blaze before it is carried by the initial bearers.  As the procession winds through the town, the barrel must change hands, as no one could stand the heat for too long.  Were the bearer to stumble or fall it would be a bad omen.  Once the procession arrives at Doorie Hill, the flaming Clavie is put into a stone pillar, where more tar is poured over it. The fire spreads and grows tall. Onlookers chase after the flaming fragments flying out from the blaze, as streams of flaming tar pour down the hill.  If one is lucky enough to catch a piece of the blaze, and risk burnt fingers for a charred relic– it’s put up the chimney to ward off meddling spirits.

Little Embers, earrings by Feral Strumpet on Etsy.

2 thoughts on “Chasing Sparks

  1. Very, very cool! or hot would be more appropriate. Liked how the mic’s and the ‘dithering’ sounded like angry spirit melodies, especially interesting that they reached a fever pitch at the hill! Read that many people rioted over ‘loss’ of 11 days after calendars switched, they wanted them back! Probably lost some holidays in the deal, given the mindset of the reformers. Moray firth is near Nairnshire.Auldearn area, is it not? Isobel Gowdie territory.

  2. Hi Dylan, I have never been to Moray– I hope to travel more! I would like to think the rioting was an outrage against the manipulation of time itself! I really like the audio on this one, and that the person taking the video had a sense of drama.

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