Monday, January 05, 2009

Epiphany Eve bonfires and Kicking Judas

In some parts of England, an Epiphany Eve custom was for people to light bonfires: a large one signifying Jesus Christ, eleven smaller ones for the Apostles, and a smaller one which was immediately stamped out, representing the traitor Judas. In Gloucestershire it was said these fires were made "to burn the witch" -- who might have been the Druidical god of Death in ancient times.

In Herefordshire, this was done in a wheat field. The people toasted in cider and formed a circle around the large fire, then all shouted. The small fire, representing Judas, was then kicked out. After this ritual they all repaired to their homes where they ate a cake with a hole in the middle.

The boosy
Also in old Herefordshire, on the night of January 5, men went to the oxen barn, where they toasted the beasts with ale. A large cake with a hole in the middle was then put over the horns of the first ox toasted, then the animal was tickled to make his head toss. If he threw the cake behind, the mistress of the farm got to keep it, if in front, in what was called the boosy, the bailiff got it. Returning to the main house, they were denied entrance unless they sang some joyous songs ...

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