baal fires

Baal Fires

Penzance and neighboring towns and villages would kindle bonfires and torches on Midsummer-eve and day and to held a fair on Penzance quay, where folk came in great numbers to make excursions on the water.

In the center of the main streets the people lit a line of tar barrels or large bonfires, on either side of this line young men and women pass up and down swinging round their heads heavy torches made of large pieces of folded canvas, steeped in tar and nailed to the ends of the sticks , 3 - 4 feet long.

Sometimes they use rows of lit candles are fixed outside the windows or sides of the streets. In the mining parishes the young miners, mimicking their fatherís employmentís, bore rows of holes in the rocks and loaded them with gunpowder, exploding them in rapid succession.

In the early part of the day before the fires the children wear wreaths of flowers. A custom from the ancient custom of wearing ornaments while dancing around the fires.

At the close of the fires a number of people would join hands, form a long string and run through the streets playing "thread the needle" heedless of the fireworks showered upon them and oftentimes leaping over the glowing embers.

The passing of children through fire was a very common belief of the early Cornish, basically they believed all persons and all living things who are submitted to this ordeal would be preserved from evil throughout the ensuing year. A similar blessing was supposed to be imparted to their fields by running around them with flaming torches.