THE BURNING OF THE CLAVIE
WHAT: BURNING OF THE CLAVIE
WHERE: BURGHEAD, MORAY, SCOTLAND
WHEN: SATURDAY 11TH JANUARY 2023
COST: FREE TO ATTEND
Up the Clavie, borne on high
Fire under a winter sky
In windy darkness, the red sparks fly.
Fire ahead, folk behind,
Earlier ages spring to mind
Wild voices on a wild wind.
Pict and Viking strive once more
On the rocks and sand of the Moray shore,
Speeding their dead as in days of yore.
For all our science and technical skill,
We watch with hearts that hungry still
Leap with a wild primeval thrill
At the leaping flames on the Doorie Hill.
The burning of the Clavie is a ceremony that the people of Burghead, Moray have every single year, that dates back further than we can track.
It is held to celebrate what used to be New Year, January 11th, before the Gregorian Calendar was introduced.
With a population of less than 2,000, this is a very personal and important celebration to the people of Burghead.
When the rest of the world switched over to a new calendar and embraced technology and forward thinking, Burghead wanted to respect its traditions and stick to its roots.
The Clavie is a barrel full of staves, set aflame and carried through the streets of Burghead by a select group of people, including the ‘’Clavie King,’’ and followed by a huge crowd of people.
Possession of a piece of the Clavie is thought to bring good luck for the year ahead, and pieces of this are handed around to local businesses and residents.
It is indeed a dangerous event, but is very culturally significant, with the building and reinforcing of the Clavie passed down through each generation.
The Clavie is left to rest on Doorie Hill, topped up with fuel to make the fire roar, with bits of the Clavie left to fall down the hill and leave a trail of grassy-embers behind.
Little did those Druids know those aeons back in time
That when they lit their holy fire, the conflagration would inspire
The Brochers of today to mime and carry on the glow.
Little do those ‘frame’ folk know who live outside of Moray,
The welcome that the Clavie meets from all who follow through the streets.
And don’t forget those witches hurry from that uncanny glow!
And so I’d like you all to know in Moray and elsewhere
We’ll keep the Clavie burning bright, send witches flying Old Year’s night
As long as we have tar to spare, we’ll make the Doorie glow!
Margaret J. Smith 1957