Bonfire

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A bonfire or balefire is a large controlled outdoor fire made from bales of straw or wood. The word is believed to come from "bone fire". In the time of the Celts, there were midsummer festivals where animal bones were burnt to ward off evil spirits.

What it means in Great Britain[change | change source]

In Great Britain, bonfires are particularly associated with Guy Fawkes Night. This night is also known as fireworks night or bonfire night. On this night, people celebrate that the Gunpowder Plot was discovered. This discovery took place on 5 November 1605. They do this celebration each year. (It is called an annual celebration.)

In Northern Ireland, bonfires are associated with celebrations on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. This battle took place on 12 July 1690.

What it means in Japan[change | change source]

In Japan, large fires called bon-bi are set to welcome the return of the spirits of the ancestors. Though the two terms are not etymologically or historically related, they serve similar purposes and indicate the universal importance of large fires.

Use of bonfires for rituals[change | change source]

Bonfires were also used for rituals. The idea was that the fire would purify. It was used to consecrate things, or people, that is to make them sacred, in some way. In ancient times, cattle were important symbols of wealth and status. Such cattle were led through the smoke of a bonfire. Couples who were to be wed on May Day would leap through the flames of the bonfire to seal their vows. Coals from a bonfire would be taken home to light the fires in family hearths. This practice was thought to bring good fortune. People also believed that the residents of the Faery realm were incapable of producing fire themselves; embers of bonfires would be carried to the underworld and tended there.

Neopagan and Wiccan beliefs[change | change source]

Along with the Maypole, the bonfire is an important component of the Wiccan and Neopagan celebration of Beltaine, also known as May Day.

Nine woods are placed into a traditional Wiccan balefire. These woods are rowan, dogwood, elder, poplar, oak, juniper, holly, cedar, and apple. Occasionally, pine is also used instead of holly or elder, as are a handful of other woods. In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees.

Pictures[change | change source]

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Wiccan bonfires or balefires

Other pages[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]