Saturday, 5 November 2011

A plug for a bit of paganism

This is the bonfire created by Stewart Yates at Torbreck last night. He also produced a spectacular fireworks show, but it was the bonfire that made the evening for me. There's nothing quite like a burning effigy and this was something else - the actual bonfire was built as a monster, was lit by a rocket and then squatted, with blazing eyes and mouth belching flames, looking for all the world as if it would soon take to its feet and start running rampage. Fantastic. (Thanks to Helen Lockhart, who took the photo).

For thousands of years people have celebrated this time of year with fire ceremonies. Traditionally this is when the sun god Lugh dies and the earth goddess takes on the form of the crone, or Cailleach, who will protect us all through the winter. Lighting a bonfire to mark this passage was a signal to warn off evil spirits, and to burn up the final fragments of the old year. 

Now all the plants have finished their season and have made their seeds and nuts. Now is the dormant time, the long slow germination of new life. Traditionally, in the old Celtic and Wiccan view of the world, this was the start of the year. I like the idea that winter comes first, that we can begin with sleep, with rest and quietness, now that the harvest is in. 

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