When Scots were banned from lighting Midsummer fires

Since ancient times, it was believed that Midsummer fires helped to bless crops and beasts and ward off evil spirits that roamed freely as the sun travelled southwards.Lighting a fire was central to the potent nature festival but attempts were made following the Reformation in Scotland to ban the 'heathenish practice'.READ MORE: 7 healing water wells of ScotlandFires were typically lit on June 23, the eve of Midsummer's Day, with tradition encouraging young men to jump through the flames. Some believed the highest jumper would mark the height of that year's crops.The midsummer celebration that was rooted in Paganism was later adopted by the Christian Church as the feast of John the Baptist.READ MORE: Six myths from Scotland's islandsIn Scotland, there are several records of churchmen trying to rid their congregation of the 'superstitious' acts linked to the festival.According to MacPherson's Primitive Beliefs of the North East, Midsummer fire festivals were 'deeply rooted in the affections of the people' of the north.'In city and country, the Reformed Church long struggled to suppress it observance,' he added.The first case where churchmen tried to ban the fires was recorded in the north east in Elgin on June 30 1580.Then, the provost, baillies and councillors 'ordained that no person shall make any fires on St Johns Even or St Peter's Even in the month of June.'In 1591, several folk from the town were dealt with for such offences.In July that year, a Margaret Innes confessed to 'bigging on of Midsummer Fires' and was ordered to sit for two Sunday's on the church's penitential stool. She was threatened with banishment should she repeat the offence again.At Ellon Presbytery, the Countess of Errol was summoned on suspicion of carrying items to make a fire on Midsummer's Eve near the home of a David Barclay.Aberdeen too had its offenders and even the Provost was not above suspicion as the church sought to rid the ancient ritual which endured, particularly among farming communities.MacPherson

Friday, 16th June 2017, 5:50 pm
Updated Monday, 19th June 2017, 12:48 pm