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of fiery wheels in the darkness. In Berry, a district of Central France, the midsummer fire was lit on the Eve of St. John and went by the name of the jônée, joannée, or jouannée. Every family according to its means contributed faggots, which were piled round a pole on the highest place in the neighbourhood. In the hamlets the office of kindling the fire devolved on the oldest man, but in the towns it was the priest or the mayor who discharged the duty. Herc, as in Brittany, people supposed that a girl who had danced round nine of the midsummer bonfires would marry within the year. To leap several times over the fire was regarded as a sort of purification which kept off sickness and brought good luck to the leaper. Hence the nimble youth bounded through the smoke and flames, and when the fire had somewhat abated parents jumped across it with their children in their arms in order that the little ones might also partake of its beneficent influence. Embers from the extinct bonfire were taken home, and after being dipped in holy water were kept as a talisman against all kinds of misfortune, but especially against lightning. The same virtue was ascribed to the ashes and charred sticks of the midsummer bonfire in Périgord, where everybody contributed his share of fuel to the pilc and the whole was crowned with flowers, especially with roses and lilies.
Bonfires were lit in almost all the hamlets of Poitou on the Eve of St. John. People marched round them thrice, carrying a branch of walnut in their hand. Shepherdesses and children passed sprigs of mullein (verbascum) and nuts across the flames; the nuts were supposed to cure toothache, and the mullein to protect the cattle from sickness and sorcery. When the fire died down pcoplc took some of the ashes home with them, cither to keep them in the house as a preservative against thunder or to scatter them on the fields for the purpose
of destroying corn-cockles and darnel. Stones were also placed round thc fire, and it was belicved that the first to lift one of
i Bérenger - Féraud, Reminiscences populaires de la Proinie, p. 142.
? Laisnel de la Salle, Croyances et Légendes du Centre de la France, i. 78 999. The writer adopts the absurd derivation of jönce from Janus. Need.
less to say that our old friend Baal, Bel, or Belus figures prominently in this and many other accounts of the European fire-festivals.
3 De Nore, op. cit. p. 150.
these stones next morning would find under it the hair of St. John. In Poitou also it used to be customary on the Eve of St. John to trundle a blazing wheel wrapt in straw over the fields to fertilise thein.” This last custom is said to be now extinct, but it is still usual in Poitou to kindle fires on this day at cross-roads or on the heights. The oldest or youngest person present sets a light to the pile, which consists of broom, gorse, and heath.
A bright and crackling blaze shoots up, but soon dies down, and over it the young folk Icap. They also throw stones into it, picking the stone according to the size of the turnips that they wish to have that year. It is said that “the good Virgin ” comes and sits on the prettiest of the stones, and next morning they see there her beautiful golden tresses. At Lussac, in Poitou, the lighting of the midsummer bonfire is still an affair of some ceremony. А pyramid of faggots is piled round a tree or tall pole on the ground where the fair is held ; the priest goes in procession to the spot and kindles the pile. When prayers have been said and the clergy have withdrawn, the people continue to march round the fire, telling their beads, but it is not till the flames have begun to die down that the youth jump over them. A brand from the midsummer bonfire is supposed to be a preservative against thunder."
In the departinent of Vienne the bonfire was kindled by the oldest man, and before the dance round the flames began it was the custom to pass across thein a great bunch of mullein (bouillon blanc) and a branch of walnut, which next morning before sunrise were fastened over the door of the chief cattleshed." A similar custom prevailed in the neighbouring department of Deux-Sèvres; but here it was the priest who kindled the bonfire, and old inen used to put embers of the fire
Guerry, “. Sur les usages et tradi. 3 11. Gaidui, “Le dieu gaulois du tions du l'oitou," limoires i Dissola soleil et le symbolisme de la roue," tions publics por la Soint. Royale des k'cz'uti tri heolosiqmi, iii. Série, iv. dntiquairis di France, viii. (1829), p. (188.4), p. 20, note 3. 451 su.
+ L. l'ineau, Le folk-lorr in loitou ? Breuil, in Ilmoires de la Socinio (l'aris, 1892), p. 499.4.
In l'érigord des Antiquaires di Picardie, viii. (1845). the ashes of the midsummer bonfire are p. 206 ; Cortet, op. cit. p. 216 ; Laisnel searched for the hair of the Virgin de la Salle, Cropanies it Liçindes ilu (l'oriet, Essai whs litis religieuses, Centre de la France, i. 83; Lecour,
p. 219). Esquisses du bocage d'ormand, ii. De Nores, vil. p. 149 sq. ; 225.
Cortet, op. cit. p. 218 s.
in their wooden shoes as a preservative against many evils.? In some towns and villages of Saintonge and Aunis, provinces of Western France now mostly comprised in the department of Charente Inférieure, the fires of St. John are still kindled on Midsummer Eve, but the custom is neither so common nor carried out with so much pomp and ceremony as formerly. Great quantities of wood used to be piled on an open space round about a huge post or a tree stripped of its leaves and branches. Every one took care to contribute a faggot to the pile, and the whole population marched to the spot in procession with the crucifix at their head and the priest bringing up the rear. The squire, or other person of high degree, put the torch to the pyre, and the priest blessed it. In the southern and eastern parts of Saintonge children and cattle were passed through the smoke of the bonfires to preserve them from contagious diseases, and when the fire had gone out the people scuffied for the charred fragments of the great post, which they regarded as talismans against thunder. Next morning, on Midsummer Day, every shepherdess in the neighbourhood was up very early, for the first to drive her sheep over the blackened cinders and ashes of the great bonfire was sure to have the best flock all that year. Where the shepherds shrunk from driving their flocks through the smoke and flames of the bonfire they contented themselves with marking the hinder-quarters of the animals with a broom which had been blackened in the ashes."
In the mountainous part of Comminges, a province of Southern France, now comprised in the department of Haute Garonne, the midsummer fire is made by splitting open the trunk of a tall tree, stuffing the crevice with shavings, and igniting the whole. A garland of flowers is fastened to the top of the tree, and at the moment when the fire is lighted the man who was last married has to climb up a ladder and bring the flowers down. In the flat parts of the same district the materials of the midsummer bonfires consist of fuel piled in the usual way; but
| Dupin, “ Notice sur quelques fêtes (1823), p. 110. et divertissemens populaires du départe. ment des Deux-Sèvres," Mimoires et 2 J. L. M. Noguès, Les Dissertations publiés par la Société d'autrefois en Saintonge et en Aunis Royale des dutiquaires de France, iv. (Saintes, 1891), pp. 72, 178 sq.
they must be put together by men who have been married since the last midsummer festival, and each of these benedicts is obliged to lay a wreath of flowers on the top of the pile. In some districts of the French Pyrenees it is decmcd necessary to leap nine times over the midsuminer fire if you would be assured of prosperity.” In Provence the midsummer fires are still popular. Children go from door to door begging for fuel, and they are seldom sent empty away. Formerly the priest, the mayor, and the aldermen used to walk in procession to the bonfire, and even deigned to light it; after which the assembly marched thrice round the burning pile, while the church bells pealed and rockets fizzed and sputtered in the air. Dancing began later, and the bystanders threw water on each other. At Ciotat, while the fire was blazing, the young people plunged into the sea and splashed each other vigorously. At Vitrolles they bathed in a pond in order that they might not suffer from fever during the year, and at Saintes-Maries they watered the horses to protect them from the itch." At Aix a nominal king, chosen from among the youth for his skill in shooting at a popinjay, presided over the festival. He selected his own officers, and escorted by a brilliant train marched to the bonfire, kindled it, and was the first to dance round it. Next day he distributed largesse to his followers. His reign lasted a year, during which he enjoyed certain privileges. He was allowed to attend the mass celebrated by the commander of the Knights of St. John on St. John's Day; the right of hunting was accorded to him; and soldiers might not be quartered in his house. At Marseilles also on this day one of the guilds chose a king of the badache or double axe; but it does not appear that he kindled the bonfire, which is said to have been lighted with great ceremony by
i 11. Gaidoz, “Le dieu soleil et le symbolisme de la roue,” Rethe drches ologique, iii. Série, iv. (1884), p. 30.
2 De Nore, op. cit. p. 127.
3 De Nore, Coutumis, mythes et traditions les provinces de Franit, p. 19 $4.; Bérenger - Féraud, Remin. iscences populaires de la Prorenie, pp. 135-141. As to the custom at Toulon, see Poncy, quoted by Breuil, Mémoires
de la Sociile des Antiquaires de l'icardie, viii. (1845), p. 190 nole.
The custom of drenching people on this occasion with water used to prevail in Toulon, Marscilles, and other towns in the south of France. The water squirted from syringes, poured on the heads of passers-by from windows, and so on.
See Breuil, ca. cit. p. 237 sq.
the préfet and other authorities. In Belgium people jump over the midsummer bonfires as a preventive of colic, and they kecp the ashes at home to hinder fire from breaking out.?
The custom of lighting bonfires at midsummer has been observed in many parts of our own country. In the North of England these fires used to be lit in the open streets. Young and old gathered round them, and while the young leaped over the fires and engaged in games, their elders looked on and probably remembered with regret the days when they used to foot it as nimbly. Sometimes the fires were kindled on the tops of high hills. The people also carried firebrands about the fields." We are told that “on midsummer's eve, reckoned according to the old style, it was formerly the custom of the inhabitants, young and old, not only of Whalton, but of most of the adjacent villages, to collect a large cartload of whins and other combustible materials, which was dragged by them with great rejoicing (a fiddler being scated on the top of the cart) into the village and erected into a pile. The people from the surrounding country assembled towards evening, when it was sct on fire; and while the young danced around it, the clders looked on smoking thcir pipes and drinking their beer until it was consumed.” In a law-suit, which was tried in 1878, the rector of Whalton gave evidence of the constant use of the village green for the ceremony since 1843. “ The bonfire," he said, " was lighted a little to the north-cast of the well at Whalton, and partly on the footpath, and people danced round it and jumped through it.
never interrupted.” The Rev. G. R. Hall, writing in 1879, says that “the fire festivals or bonfires of the summer solstice at the Old Midsummer until recently were commemorated on Christenburg Crags and elsewhere by lcaping through and dancing round the fires, as those who have been present have told mc." + In Herefordshire and Somcrsctshire the