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peasants used to make fires in the fields on Midsummer Eve “to bless the apples." I In Devonshire the custom of leaping over the inidsummer fires was also observed.” In Cornwall bonfires were lit on Midsummer Eve and the people marched round them with burning torches, which they also carried from village to village. On Whiteborough, a large tumulus near Launceston, a huge bonfire used to be kindled on Midsummer Eve; a tall summer pole with a large bush at the top was fixed in the centre of the bonfire." The Cornish fires at this season appear to have been coinmonly lit on high and conspicuous hills, such as Tregonan, Godolphin, Carnwarth, and Cambrae. When it grew dusk on Midsummer Eve, old men would hobble away to some height whence they counted the fires and drew a presage from their number. At Darowen in Wales small bonfires were kindled on Midsummer Eve. On the same day people in the Isle of Man were wont to light fires to the windward of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn ; and they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse round them several times.

In Ireland, “on the Eves of St. John Baptist and St. Peter, they always have in every town a bonfire late in the evening, and carry about bundles of reeds fast tied and fired; these being dry, will last long, and flame better than a torch, and be a pleasing divertive prospect to the distant beholder; a stranger would go ncar to imagine the whole country was on fire.” 7 Another writer says of the South of Ireland : “ On Midsummer's Eve, every eminence, ncar which is a habitation, blazes with bonfires; and round these they carry numerous torches, shouting and dancing"s An author who described Ireland in the first quarter of the cighteenth century says: “On the vigil of St. John the Baptist's nativity,

"Aubrey, Remains of Gintilismo and Judaisme, p. 96, cp. iit., p. 26.

• Brand, op. cil. i. 311.

3 lit., i. 303, 318, 319; Dyer, British Popular Customs, p. 315.

* J. Napier, Folk-lore, or Supirsti. lious Biliits in the list of Scotland, p. 173, quoting W. Botreill's Traditions

and Heaithside Stories of llist Corne inall.

- Brand, op. cit. i. 31S.

• J. Train, luowni oj thi Isli cj Jan, ii. 120.

: Brand, i. 303, quoting Sir Henry l'iers's Description of Mistmath.

* Brand, 1.c., quoting the author of the Swary of the South of Ireland.

VOL. 111


they make bonfires, and run along the streets and fields with wisps of straw blazing on long poles to purify the air, which they think infectious by believing all the devils, spirits, ghosts, and hobgoblins fly abroad this night to hurt mankind." Another writer states that he witnessed the festival in Ireland in 1782: “Exactly at midnight the fires began to appear, and taking advantage of going up to the leads of the house, which had a widely extended view, I saw on a radius of thirty miles, all around, the fires burning on every eminence which the country afforded. I had a further satisfaction in learning, from undoubted authority, that the people danced round the fires, and at the close went through these fires, and made their sons and daughters, together with their cattle, pass through the fire ; and the whole was conducted with religious solemnity.”? That the custom prevailed in full force as late as 1867 appears from a notice in a newspaper of that date, which runs thus : “The old pagan fireworship still survives in Ireland, though nominally in honour of St. John. On Sunday night bonfires were observed throughout ncarly every county in the province of Leinster. In Kilkenny fires blazed on every hillside at intervals of about a mile. There were very many in the Queen's County, also in Kildare and Wexford. The effect in the rich sunset appeared to travellers very grand. The people assemble and dance round the fires, the children jump through the flames, and in former times live coals were carried into the corn-fields to prevent blight.” 3 In County Leitrim on St. John's Eve, which is called Bonfire Day, fires are still lighted after dusk on the hills and along the sides of the roads." All over Kerry the same thing continues to be done, though not so commonly as of old. Small fires were made across the road, and to drive through them brought luck for the year. Cattle were also driven through the fires. On Lettermore Island, in South Connemara, some of the ashes from the midsummer bonfire are thrown on the fields to fertilise

i Brand, i. 305, quoting the author of the Comical Pilgrim's Pilgrimage into Ireland.

? Brand, i. 304, quoting The Gentleman's ligazine, February 1795, p. 12.6.

3 Dyer, British Popular Customs, p. 321 59., quoting the Litur poul Ilerary of June 29th, 1867.

+ L. L. Duncan, . Further Voics from County Leitrim,” Folk-lori, 1. (1894), p. 193.


them. One writer informs us that in Munster and Connaught a bone must always be burned in the fire ; for otherwise the people believe that the fire will bring no luck. He adds that in many places sterile beasts and human beings are passed through the fire, and that as a boy he himself jumped through the fire " for luck."

Lady Wilde's account of the midsummer festival in Ireland is picturesque and probably correct in substance, although she does not cite her authorities. As it contains some interesting features which are not noticed by the other writers on Ireland whom I have consulted, I will quote the greater part of it in full. “In ancient times," she says, “the sacred fires were lighted with great ceremony on Midsummer Eve, and on that night all the people of the adjacent country kept watch on the western promontory of Howth, and the moment the first flash was seen from that spot the fact of ignition was announced with wild cries and cheers repeated from village to village, when all the local fires began to blaze, and Ireland was circled by a cordon of flame rising up from

Then the dance and song began round every fire, and the wild hurrahs filled the air with the most frantic revelry. Many of these ancient customs are still continued, and the fires are still lighted on St. John's Eve on every hill in Ireland. When the fire has burned down to a red glow the young men strip to the waist and leap over or through the flames; this is done backwards and forwards several times, and he who braves the greatest blaze is considered the victor over the powers of evil, and is grected with tremendous applause. When the fire burns still lower, the young girls lcap the flame, and those who lcap clean over three times back and forward will be certain of a specdy marriage and good luck in after-life, with many children. The married women then walk through the lines of the burning cmbers; and when the fire is nearly burnt and trampled down, the yearling cattle are driven through the hot ashes, and their back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. These rods are kept safely afterwards, bcing considered of

every hill.

1 A. C. Haddon, “ Alaich of Irish Folk-lore,” folklori, iri (1893', PP. 351, 359.

? G. II. Kinahan, “ Voies on Irish Folk-lore," rok-lorc L'ecord, iv.(1881), p. 97.

immense power to drive the cattle to and fro from the watering-places.

As the fire diminishes the shouting grows fainter, and the song and the dance commence ; while professional story-tellers narrate tales of fairy-land, or of the good old times long ago, when the kings and princes of Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there was food to eat and wine to drink for all comers to the feast at the king's house.

When the crowd at length separate, every one carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is attached to the lighted brone which is safely carried to the house without breaking or falling to the ground. Many contests also arise amongst the young men ; for whoever enters his house first with the sacred fire brings the good luck of the year with him.”

In Scotland the traces of midsummer fires are few. We are told by a writer of the eighteenth century that "the inidsummer-even fire, a relict of Druidism," was kindled in some parts of the county of Perth.? Another writer of the same period, describing what he calls the Druidical festivals of the Highlanders, says that “the least considerable of them is that of midsummer. In the Highlands of Perthshire there are some vestiges of it. The cowherd goes threc times round the fold, according to the course of the sun, with a burning torch in his hand. They imagined this rite had a tendency to purify their herds and flocks, and to prevent discases.

At their return the landlady makes an entertaininent for the cowherd and his associates.” 3 In the north-east of Scotland, down to the latter half of the cighteenth century, farmers used to go round their lands with burning torches about the middle of June. At the village of Tarbolton in Ayrshire a bonfire has been annually kindled from tiine imıncınorial on the cvening of the first Monday after the cleventh of June. A noted cattle-market was forinerly held at the fair on the following day. The bonfire


| Lady Wilde, Ancient lints, l/ystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, ii. 214 sy.

John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Siol. land and Siotsmen in the Eighterviti Century', edited by A. Allardyce, ii. 436.

2 A. Johnstone, describing the parish of Monquhiiter in Perthshire, in Sin. clair's Statistical damunt of Siotland,

+ Shaw, in Pennant's “Tour in Scotland," printed in Pinkerton's logijos and Travels, iii. 136.

xsi. 145.

is still lit at the gloaming by the lads and lasses of the village on a high mound or hillock just outside of the village. Fuel for it is collected by the lads from door to door.

The youth dance round the fire and leap over the fringes of it. The many cattle-drovers who used to assemble for the fair were wont to gather round the blazing pile, smoke their pipes, and listen to the young folk singing in chorus on the hillock. Afterwards they wrapped themselves in their plaids and slept round the bonfire, which was intended to last all night. Moresin states that on St. Peter's Day, which is the twenty-ninth of June, the Scotch ran about with lighted torches on mountains and high grounds, and towards the end of the eighteenth century the parish minister of Loudoun, a district of Ayrshire whose “bonny woods and bracs" have been sung by Burns, wrote that “the custom still remains amongst the herds and young people to kindle fires in the high grounds, in honour of Beltan. Beltan, which in Gaelic signifies Baal, or Bel's-fire, was antiently the time of this solemnity. It is now kept on St. Peter's day." 3

Far more important in Scotland, however, than the midsummer fires were the bonfires kindled on Allhallow Even or Hallowe'en, that is on the thirty-first of October, the day preceding All Saints or Allhallow's' Day. As these Hallowe'en bonfires belong to the class of celebrations with which we are here concerned, wc may interrupt our examination of the midsummer festivals to notice them. Like the Beltanc fires on the first of May, they seem to have prevailed most commonly in the Perthshire Highlands. On the evening of Hallowe'en "the young people of every hamlet assembled upon somc eminence ncar the houses. There they made a bonfire of ferns or other fucl, cut the same day, which from the feast was called Samh-nag or Surnas, a fire of rest

1 From notes kindly furnished to arrive at the season of the festival.” me by the Rev. J. C. Higgins, parish Indeed the snow was falling thick as ininister of Tarbolton. Mr. Higgins I truciged to the village through the adds that he knows of no superstition beautiful woods of “the Castle o' connected with the fire, and no tra Montgomery” immortalised by Burns. dition of its origin. I visited the * Quoted by Mannhardt, Baumscene of the bonfire in 1898, but, as kultus, p. 512. Pausanias says (viii. 41. 6) in similar 3 G. Lawrie, in Sinclair's Statistical circumstances, “I wil noi lappen to diont of Scotland, iii. 105.

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