Postfest V, Part II: Burning the Old Year Out
Date: Tue, August 09, 2005
Topic: Peoples & Culture
Uhl''nehli''aah, the Burning of the Old Year Out, is a widely celebrated fire festival among the northern barbarians. It is a time of riotous behavior. Children conceived or born during this time are believed to possess special attributes. But while the children of the flames are celebrated, beware the bastard children of the fire.
Burning the Old Year Out
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Date: 28th of Sunsebb
Location: Krakenheim, Soull, Glot
Among the northern barbarians of the east there is a fantastic festival that sees the old year end and the new year begin. Uhl’nehli’aah or Burning the Old Year Out is a fire festival to end all fire festivals and considered essential to close matters of the previous year and so to begin matters of the new year without any lingering bad luck. Uhl’nehli’aah proceeds in three phases.
The Coming of the Firewyrm is first performed. Symbolic of change, the Firewyrm begins in the mountains in the early morning hours. Barbarians on skies with lit pitch torches undulate down the mountainside in a ribbon of sinuous fire that stretches for miles and that can be seen in the town below and, indeed, well out to sea in many cases, causing some foreign mariners a fright.
As the skiers reach the town, they circle the city limits and set alight specially prepared trees that have been cut, blessed by druids and placed at intervals around the limits of the town. Completing the circuit, the skiers take off their skies and begin The Torchlight Procession through the town. The Procession is a silent and somber march. It is deemed extremely bad luck if it is disturbed in any way. The fate of the offending party is dire, as they are taken up by the marchers and carried along.
The Ship Burning is the final act. The torch bears gather about a specially prepared long ship or Dragonship that has been loaded with offerings to the gods, and singing ancient songs of the sea, push off the Dragonship into the water. Thereupon, each torchbearer hurls his or her torch at the ship, setting it alight. It is considered poor luck to miss the ship and have one’s torch fall into the sea. Before the Dragonship is cast off, any disturber of silence or progress of The Torchlight Procession is tied and placed aboard the vessel. They burn with the ship. Priests divine the auguries for the next year in how long it takes the ship to burn and pass beneath the waves.
After The Ship Burning is complete, a wild celebration of drinking, singing and feasting ensues until the light of morning. Many are the north men children conceived at this time. Breaking with the usual taboo about bastardy and children born out of wedlock, a child conceived of the Fire Time, called Fireborne or Fire Children or Children of the Flame, are considered blessed and no stigma is attached to the particular details of their birth if it should vary from the norm. Such are believed to possess special gifts or abilities. The reverse is also true, to a point. Children birthed during Uhl’nehli’aah are also believed to be destined for greatness, however, the usual bastardy taboos do apply and a “Burning Bastard” is believed to be a particular ill-omened youngling; in rural areas, they may be left out to die.
While principally confined to northern, mountainous climes, versions of Uhl’nehli’aah are celebrated throughout the northlands, occasionally even as far south as Ratik, but inevitably in such case upon a smaller scale. Of late, the emissaries and agents of the Scarlet Sign have tried to infiltrate Uhl’nehli’aah celebrations, attempting to turn the celebration to their own ends. This has lead to more than a few scarlet clad figures setting sail upon blazing Dragonships. It is rumored, however, that the Scarlet Brotherhood has enjoyed some greater success among the Schnai, smarting from Frutzii successes at their expense. The scarlet clad Brothers seem especially keen on recruiting Schnai children born during Uhl’nehli’aah without certain parentage.