mission, should you choose to accept it: Fight
your way through a busy and crowded town, bad enough.
a barrel weighing anything up to 30 kilos that everyone wants to
get their hands on, getting worse.
the barrel in tar and set light to it... and its at that point many
a rational person would shy away, but not the hardy residents of
Ottery St Mary.
around the 17th century the fifth of November has been celebrated
by something a little more dramatic than fireworks in this town.
the children get involved
pub in the town sponsor a barrel, making up to 17 barrels over the
course of the evening. These are then soaked in tar until they become
or as the locals call it... perfect!
barrels are lit in turn and are graded to make sure that its a fun
family occasion, and its not often something can be called that
when involving large amounts of fire.
afternoon and evening start with the women's and children's barrels
but the main part of the evening start with the men's barrels, each
weighing anything up to 30 kilos by midnight.
streets of Ottery St Mary soon become packed as people fight for
the right to carry the burning cargo and everyone wants to be close
enough to feel the flame.
barrels get passed from man to man, everyone tussling for control
and sometimes even moving between families with the barrel passed
like a burning heirloom from one family member to another.
late night effect becomes riveting
all the barrels make their way to the River Otter and get included
in one of the biggest bonfires seen in the region with the river
on one side and the annual funfair giving a neon counterpoint on
most likely explanation for this tradition is as a way of exorcising
evil spirits in the town, a pagan ritual using the cleansing flame
and the camaraderie of the townsfolk to keep the karma high and
the town free from dark forces.