Smoke gets in your eyes

In ancient times, the last day of April marked the beginning of spring and was celebrated by letting out the cattle to graze once again

And the burning of bonfires to keep the evil spirits away. This pagan tradition is called Valborg (or Walpurgis Eve).

Here they come with burning torches in a procession just as the sun is setting.

The dry twigs catch fire and the flames roar like a dragon.

We all sing songs to welcome in the spring as the fire mesmerizes us with its primeval power.

It’s cold – oh so cold – as the sun goes down and soon it’s time to return to our cozy homes.

But don’t forget to turn around and gasp in amazement

As the heat from the bonfire turns the sky to molten glass.

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70 responses

  1. Awesome fire pics!😀

    May 9, 2011 at 16:48

  2. Wow!

    May 9, 2011 at 16:56

  3. Wow, very cool! Or hot, I guess.:)

    May 9, 2011 at 17:20

  4. I remember you posting about last years bonfire. This one looks good too.

    May 9, 2011 at 17:25

  5. Oh, I have completely forgotten about ValborgsmĂ€ssoafton. Funny how certain things just slip out of ones memory…
    But I truly recall the fires and all the young people celebrating.;)
    Lovely images as always, summer is almost here…

    May 9, 2011 at 17:35

  6. Oh LF…the first and last are awesome!!

    May 9, 2011 at 19:09

  7. I wish they had events like this near me, what a great photo op. That settles it, I guess I’ll just have to go to Sweden.

    May 9, 2011 at 19:13

  8. Amazing pictures!

    May 9, 2011 at 20:33

  9. Nice pictures, I love the fire provided that it is controlled.

    May 9, 2011 at 21:16

  10. ah what a cool ceremony…love bonfires…we are under fire restrictions right now but soon enough…my pile is getting fairly big

    May 9, 2011 at 21:43

  11. Is it not seen as a danger? Perhaps not because everything isn’t dry like in suothern California where a blaze would start easily on a hillside. The clarity of your photography is amazing.

    May 9, 2011 at 23:09

  12. A great tradition. Too bad the rule makers and litigaters (spelled wrong on purpose) around here have made having such events too much of a legal challenge. A big fire and some huge heat is a splendid way to cast off the dregs of winter.

    Amazing photos.

    May 9, 2011 at 23:39

  13. ~~Lady Fi,
    Your photos are like Poetry:) xxxx

    May 10, 2011 at 01:28

  14. This look so primal and cool! That is one big fire!!!

    May 10, 2011 at 01:54

  15. Remarkable pictures!
    But it’s so dry here and no fires are allowed!
    There was actually a bad grass fire at the Air Force Academy and I could smell the smoke.
    Thank goodness, the fire was contained!

    I did enjoy this post, thank you!

    May 10, 2011 at 02:34

  16. An incredible fire!

    May 10, 2011 at 04:21

  17. Great pictures! I too love fire and am so glad you shred your pictures!!! It’s dry as a tinder box here and we aren’t allowed to even light a small controlled BBQ pit in the campgrounds. A fire like that would be out of control within seconds and our whole forest would look like your bonfire.

    May 10, 2011 at 04:21

  18. Pagan glories. And WONDERFUL photos. Thanks.

    May 10, 2011 at 04:35

  19. Incredible photography — and what a fabulous custom. I love this post.

    May 10, 2011 at 04:43

  20. I say “Wow” with everyone else here!
    I’m there!
    Have a Great Week!

    May 10, 2011 at 06:19

  21. oh my, that last picture is AMAZING!!! EIther your camera ROCKS or you do!!! Maybe both!

    May 10, 2011 at 07:05

  22. Some countries seem to have similar custom or celebration like bonfire at Celtic Halloween or Japan’s “obon”, though Japanese bonfire is not to drive evil spirit away but to see of the spirit of ancestors. Photos are breathtaking!

    May 10, 2011 at 07:36

  23. That’s a fantastic fire – and I love the pagan nature of it all. And the way you have the procession of torches just adds to that pagan feeling. Much more exciting than our local pyromaniac almost setting himself alight. Though you wonder how all of this fire burning sits with our new environmentally friendly mindset and fretting about our carbon footprint:-)

    May 10, 2011 at 08:10

  24. mesmerizing fire. i love bonfires, the shadows, the dancing fire–they all bring back warm memories.

    May 10, 2011 at 08:51

  25. That’s an interesting custom Fi. The nearest for us would have been Guy Fawkes night with a bonfire with the Guy on top. You are probably familiar with that? – Dave

    May 10, 2011 at 09:49

  26. Hi – that last picture is remarkable! I think we need more events that link us to the changing of the seasons and the turn of the earth. These things were important in the past, and we kid ourselves if we think that they are not important today.

    Cheers Stewart M – Australia

    May 10, 2011 at 12:06

  27. That astonishing effect of heat on the air is brilliantly captured in the last shot – great photography as usual!

    May 10, 2011 at 12:18

  28. Fire is fascinating, and a great way to chase away the winter blues along with other evil spirits. Great photos (fire can be hard to capture) and I love the image of the “molten sky”

    May 10, 2011 at 13:39

  29. This is such a wonderful tradition! Goodbye to Old Man Winter!

    May 10, 2011 at 14:10

  30. Really dragon.Very impressive photo.thank you for your comment.
    And I was surprised that there were many comments in this blog always.:smile:

    May 10, 2011 at 14:50

  31. Amazing pictures! Beautiful tradition!
    Thanks for sharing:o)

    Have a nice and happy week*

    May 10, 2011 at 15:22

  32. Hi There, I think I told you before, but I’ll say it again. You take MARVELOUS pictures… I enjoy seeing them so much.

    Great ‘fire’ pictures… Thanks!

    May 10, 2011 at 15:32

  33. I have never heard of this tradition before. That is one big fire!

    May 10, 2011 at 16:00

  34. Jenn

    Great capture of a great tradition. Nice to see that it is still alive.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:21

  35. This is a very interesting custom — thanks for sharing it with us. Your pictures of the fire are amazing. I really like the molten sky in your last photo.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:36

  36. The second photo looks like the fire is out of control — must be the angle. My sons would LOVE this. Hope you had a beautiful Mother’s Day, Diane Keaton. xo

    May 10, 2011 at 16:37

  37. Pam

    There’s nothing like a good ole bonfire to bright and warm up a cool evening sky.
    Nice shot, Lady Fi.

    be well, be happy,

    May 10, 2011 at 17:07

  38. I love a good bonfire! What a great tradition and I love the pics!

    May 10, 2011 at 18:40

  39. Lars-Göran Nordström

    Ovanligt bra bilder frÄn en valborgsmÀssoafton. De Àr nÄgot extra.

    May 10, 2011 at 19:13

  40. Oh, this is a very dynamic festival! Huge bon fire reminds me of mountain burning festival for purification in Nara, Japan. Great shots.
    Have a nice day!

    May 10, 2011 at 19:47

  41. You bunch of pagans you! Wow, what a great ceremony. I learned something new about your world today. Thanks

    May 10, 2011 at 22:17

  42. Clive

    Fantastic photos!

    May 11, 2011 at 00:06

  43. Fantastic! And I did gasp in amazement at that last shot. :)

    May 11, 2011 at 00:17

  44. imac

    Magical post and great shots, my friend.

    May 11, 2011 at 00:30

  45. Al

    Great series, so full of life. I especially love the first one, with the focus on the torches and the people out of focus in the background.

    May 11, 2011 at 02:13

  46. great post!

    May 11, 2011 at 02:30

  47. Someone said, “your photos are like poetry”, so are your words.

    May 11, 2011 at 03:41

  48. These are amazing photos.

    May 11, 2011 at 04:01

  49. Wonderful fire photos. Beautiful.

    May 11, 2011 at 06:04

  50. You’ve captured the beauty and power of fire, Fi. Perhaps I need to light a small fire here – we’re under a storm warning and expecting more snow.

    May 11, 2011 at 07:24

  51. Love the images — from a great distance:-)
    You did a fab job with the photos.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:21

  52. You live in a fairy tale.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:36

  53. When I still lived in Sweden I found it easier to listen to the choir from Lund on the telly!😉 Fire never ceases to fascinate, beautiful pictures.

    May 11, 2011 at 15:59

  54. What a great way to chase winter away and welcome spring..awesome photos..did you roast marshmallows?:)

    May 11, 2011 at 16:15

    • We wanted to – but it was far too hot!

      May 11, 2011 at 16:24

  55. As a child(when fire was an OK thing to watch and view in the neighbourhoods in my town), my neighbour used to burn winter debris and I used stare in awe at he shapes inside the burning flames and embers…amazement really. Nowadays this practice has to be OK’d by the fire dept and a permit is issued and not to mention the smoke issue going into the climate….so much to be aware of now. Otherwise, beauty in the flames!

    May 11, 2011 at 16:20

    • The great thing about this big bonfire tradition is that it stops people from having small ones. Everyone brings their winter twigs and stuff and it all gets burnt just the once.

      May 11, 2011 at 16:24

      • what a novel idea!!!

        May 11, 2011 at 21:14

  56. I love fire. I love tradition. I love going back inside once the sun sets. See? Your post made me feel very happy.

    May 11, 2011 at 18:12

  57. jbcuvelier

    These photos are beautiful! What a great tradition to continue.We are missing these in our present culture.

    May 11, 2011 at 21:02

  58. >We all sing songs to welcome in the spring as the fire mesmerizes us with its primeval power.

    Did you really sing “Smoke gets in you eyes”?
    How romantic!:)

    May 11, 2011 at 21:50

    • LOL! No, Swedes sing their traditional spring songs … in Swedish.

      May 12, 2011 at 05:41

  59. Wow! This looks exciting, and your blog heading would make a great theme/title for a song. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    All the best, Boonie

    May 12, 2011 at 08:53

  60. That fire made a good photography subject Fi. – Dave

    May 12, 2011 at 10:30

  61. I am a sucker for traditions!! Spain has so many too, I hope people never let them go…

    Your HOT shots are sizzling😉

    May 12, 2011 at 14:06

  62. The molten glass sky is fantastic! On the flip side, am just concerned about the air pollution this burning might cause…

    Thanks for commenting on my blog:)

    May 13, 2011 at 06:12

  63. I’ve never heard of that ritural. Interesting-thanks!

    May 13, 2011 at 22:53

  64. Ooh…I simply love the last photo…the movement of fire, the ripples of heat…

    May 21, 2011 at 15:11

  65. What an interesting celebration… I had never heard of this. Thanks so much…

    May 3, 2012 at 20:43

    • Gosh—I feel a little nutty!!!! I had seen this post before but was so enamored by the fire, I didn’t associate it with Walpurgis Eve.

      Anyhow—I’m learning more and more from you bloggers.

      May 3, 2012 at 20:47

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