I landed in Barcelona at 8pm after an obscenely long flight, considering I’d come from London which isn’t all that far away. The summer holidays made it impossible to book anything reasonably priced, so I’d ended up changing in Switzerland.
When I arrived my friend mentioned that there was going to be a Fire Run in the streets near her house that night. I dumped my stuff in her flat and we went along to check it out.
The correfoc or ‘fire-run’ is a Catalan tradition believed to date back to the 1800s. The first mention of them in literature is found in 1846 in Arboç, where a Ball de Diables was held in which drumming accompanied a group of devils, led by a she-devil or Diablessa, fighting against an angel.
Nowadays the correfoc is still a big part of Catalan culture and often forms part of local festivals. People come out of their houses and line the streets, following a procession of men dressed as devils, carrying out a variety of pyrotechnic displays as they walk.
These include giant sparklers, firecrackers and fireworks which are attached to fire sticks and held over each devil’s head.
The evening is brought to a close with devils running underneath the fireworks and people cheering them on as the drummers beat their final tattoos.
It’s a great night out; reminded me of various Pagan rituals I’ve studied over the years, like a mixture of certain ecstatic drumming circles and traditional Lammas/Lughnasadh celebrations such as the ceremonial burning of John Barleycorn, which is usually accompanied by chanting and dancing.
Lots of people bring their children along too and the atmosphere is generally one of safety, although it’s advisable to wear clothing that won’t catch fire too easily, tie up long hair and not stand too close to the flames.
Would you run with the devils in Barcelona? Have you seen any exciting local customs recently?