Oie Voaldyn Manx Fire Festival Lights Up Peel Skyline

Last year’s inaugural Oie Voaldyn Manx Fire Festival in Peel was literally a spectacular success which returned with an even bigger display during the early May bank holiday weekend.

Traditionally, Oie Voaldyn (May Eve) was a time to celebrate the return of fertility to the land and recognise joy, revelry, courtship, romance and the potential for new life. An opportunity to cast off the shadow of darkness and enjoy the light. The use of fire was an important custom at this time of year in order to fend off witches and evil spirits, but was also acknowledged as a purifier and healer. Winter gorse was burnt away in anticipation of new growth, and farmers would drive livestock between bonfires in order to cleanse and protect them before release into the fields.

This year’s festival, however, was a re-interpretation and modernisation of the old Manx customs associated with the eve of May Day – which quickly captured the imagination of visitors to the occasion.

Spokesperson for the festival, John Shakespeare, commented “We soon recognised there was a real desire to revive some of our unique Manx customs. We don’t intend to recreate ancient practices, but to continue in the spirit of our forebears and create our own connection to the cycles of the seasons. Oie Voaldyn celebrates the traditions of the past with an eye on the future, but the aim of the festival is to bring people together to acknowledge and celebrate the return of summer.”

The event itself presented a spectacular performance, with the excitement of torchlight processions, inspiring music, dancing and roaring bonfires. Additionally, there was a dramatic interpretation of the traditional, mock battle between summer and winter during the evening. It was a fully costumed event, including such intriguing characters as the Gorseman, the Boneman, the Phynodderree and a flock of Loaghtan sheep, as well as the two main stars of the event – The Queen of Summer and the Queen of Winter.

It was a fully choreographed and narrated event, concluding with fire poi, fire spinning and a fabulous firework display against the dramatic, historical backdrop of Peel Castle.

Entertainment during the afternoon included live bands on stage, dancing and speciality food producers down by the quayside, with Viking Games on the beach, guided tours of Peel in Manx Gaelic and an opportunity to make a traditional Crosh Cuirn (rowan cross) to keep away those evil spirits which may be lurking nearby.

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Valerie Caine

© May 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life