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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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Rites of Purification and Blessing

Rites of Purification and Blessing

Chapter:
(p.42) 5 Rites of Purification and Blessing
Source:
The Stations of the Sun
Author(s):

Ronald Hutton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.003.0005

One of the most important aspects of the Yule season in eighteenth-century Shetland was ‘saining’, signifying rituals intended to safeguard people and property against the powers loose in that time of darkness and also during the coming year. Further south, in the Highlands, that bitter and astringent shrub, juniper, featured prominently in the saining customs. In the 1770s, Thomas Pennant recorded that people burned it in front of their cattle upon New Year's Day. During the following century it was still observed as being set alight in houses and byres upon that date or on Yule morn, all openings being stuffed to hold in the acrid smoke, as a literal and spiritual fumigation. The element of fire for purification was also sometimes employed in itself, especially around the Moray region. Other New Year's Eve fire customs in Scotland and neighbouring parts of England are themselves relatively recent innovations.

Keywords:   Yule, Shetland, saining, rituals, Thomas Pennant, New Year's Day, fire, purification, Scotland, England

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