I couldn't be in Stonehaven this year, as I was celebrating the turning of the New Year with music and dance at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. But while I was playing music there, my classmates sent me the video clip (above) from Stonehaven. It's short, but it conveys the excitement! Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, led by a bagpiper and accompanied by drummers, about 45 townspeople march to the harbor as they whirl flaming baskets around their heads on long wire handles. When everyone reaches the harbor, they throw their flaming fireballs into the sea. When the last of the fireballs has been tossed and extinguished, a huge fireworks display celebrates the beginning of a new year.
|Putting the finishing touches on the Clavie|
|A modern hammer, showing the scale |
of the actual hammer used
Pieces of firewood (staves) are loaded into the half-barrel, and the Clavie is carried to a spot near the Clavie King's house in the town of Burghead. Around 5:30 pm, people begin gathering there, and wait while the Clavie King and his assistants ignite the staves. An air of quiet excitement surrounds us. A few volunteer (?) police wardens keep a path clear for the men who carry the burning Clavie, which is supported on the top of the head of each man who takes a turn carrying it. The whole Clavie, filled with fuel and staves, and set aflame, weighs about 225 pounds, more or less. They use a secret recipe for the fuel, which is a highly flammable mixture!
At 6:00 pm, with its staves burning brightly and snapping sparks into the chilly night air, the Clavie is hoisted onto the head of the first Clavie man to carry it for a short distance through the town. The procession will stop many times to lower the Clavie, add more fuel to it, and transfer it to another man to carry it a bit further. They stop at houses and businesses along the way, sharing the flaming staves with townsfolk to light their own hearth fires from the Clavie. The final destination, about 45 minutes later, is the site of an ancient Pictish fort at Doorie Hill, overlooking the sea, and the Clavie is safely secured where everyone below can see it as it burns like a signal fire. Here are a couple of video snippets you might enjoy:
The rest of the evening is spent visiting several pubs in the town, having some of the local brews, or trying some of the excellent local whisky choices. The Glen Moray distillery is not very far away (in Elgin), and that's only one of many in the area.
We made it back to the University by about 1:30 am, having had a lovely time celebrating the beginning of the new year:
You might (or might not) recognize some of these same folks as members of a Galoshins mummers play that we inflicted upon some undergraduates just putting their toes into a a bit of folklore... Here, we are trying out different disguises for the play. I can honestly say that we rehearsed this, although our audiences probably wouldn't have known. But we had a great deal of fun, and it flowed a lot better by the third time we performed it.
Happy New Year to all, and more news to come soon! (I need to divide these topics up into shorter, manageable chunks.) Next time, more entertainments, and a bit more travel!
Cheers, and thanks!