Saturday, August 13, 2005

Burryman Day

The second Friday in August is Burryman day in South Queensferry, a village close to Edinburgh, Scotland.

We weren't in Scotland this year to go and see the Burryman but i thought i'd post some pictures from a pervious event.
The Burryman is an ancient festival - its not known exactly how long it has been celebrated but it can be traced back to at least 1687 and it is suggested that it goes back further.

Some suggest it goes back to the landing of Queen Margaret in the 11th Century, as she inspired the village's name and others associate the Burryman with similar Green men or wildmen in festivals, art and legends across Europe.



He may be associated with fruits of the land and have a somewhat scapegoat origin -but bacsically his job is to go around the village removing bad luck and leaving good fortune behind him.

The Burryman is basically a man covered in burrs- the prickly seeds of the burdock plant. These seeds have very fine hooks which can attach easily to human skin , although the Burryman has the burrs attached to his flannel underwear -it must still be very difficult and irritating to wear.
Fallen burrs are supposed to be lucky for the finder.

The burrs are assembled on squares on pieces of cloth in advance so that they can be quickly placed on the Burryman on the morning of Burryman day. The Burryman has to avoid talking all day and has to spend 9 hours walking slowly, weighed down by the considerable and uncomfortable weight [and itch] of the burrs with his arms ourstretched.
The Burryman starts off around the village with two supporters who are needed to guide him as his vision and hearing are very restricted and also i expect he needs to lean on them at times.
Physical strength and stamina are a must for the Burrymen.

Burry man walking with his two supporters

Burrymen often stay in the job for a number of years before passing to a younger person, often a member of the same family.
The Burryman has a route which makes sure he covers all parts of the village and he is given whisky [which he has to drink through a straw] and sometimes money for good luck.

Here he is visiting one of the pubs. He needs to have a strong head for drink as he will be given whisky throughout the day and not be able to eat anything to help soak it up. Also, he is not able to go to the loo so its a real test of the body.



A bell is rung when the Burryman is about to appear and the hairs on the back of the neck stand up . There is something primeval about his appearance and Presence. He seems like something non-human , not just due to the suit of burrs but also because of the atmosphere that surrounds him.
If you are in Scotland at the right time of year, I recommend visiting on Burryman day - it doesn't attract the same number of outside visitors as the Castleton Garland Festival or other similar events but its a worthwhile visit nonetheless.

The Burryman having a short break with the Forth Rail bridge in the background






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1 comment:

just sayin' said...

I really enjoy reading about the customs and rituals in other parts of the world. Thank you for sharing this.