Sir James George Frazer (18541941). The Golden Bough. 1922.
lads harness themselves to a cart and drag it about the streets, stopping at the doors of the houses where there are girls and begging fora faggot. When they have got enough, they cart the fuel to a spot at some little distance from the village, pile it up, and set it on fire. All the people of the parish come out to see the bonfire. In some villages, when the bells have rung the Angelus, the signal for the observance is given by cries of, To the fire! to the fire! Lads, lasses, and children dance round the blaze, and when the flames have died down they vie with each other in leaping over the red embers. He or she who does so without singeing his or her garments will be married within the year. Young folk also carry lighted torches about the streets or the fields, and when they pass an orchard they cry out, More fruit than leaves! Down to recent years at Laviron, in the department of Doubs, it was the young married couples of the year who had charge of the bonfires. In the midst of the bonfire a pole was planted with a wooden figure of a cock fastened to the top. Then there were races, and the winner received the cock as a prize.
In Auvergne fires are everywhere kindled on the evening of the first Sunday in Lent. Every village, every hamlet, even every ward, every isolated farm has its bonfire or figo, as it is called, which blazes up as the shades of night are falling. The fires may be seen flaring on the heights and in the plains; the people dance and sing round about them and leap through the flames. Then they proceed to the ceremony of the Grannas-mias. A granno-mio is a torch of straw fastened to the top of a pole. When the pyre is half consumed, the bystanders kindle the torches at the expiring flames and carry them into the neighbouring orchards, fields, and gardens, wherever there are fruit-trees. As they march they sing at the top of their voices, Granno my friend, Granno my father, Granno my mother. Then they pass the burning torches under the branches of every tree, singing.
Brando, brandounci tsaque brantso, in plan panei!
that is, Firebrand burn; every branch a basketful! In some villages the people also run across the sown fields and shake the ashes of the torches on the ground; also they put some of the ashes in the fowls nests, in order that the hens may lay plenty of eggs throughout the year. When all these ceremonies have been performed, everybody goes home and feasts; the special dishes of the evening are fritters and pancakes. Here the application of the fire to the fruit-trees, to the sown fields, and to the nests of the poultry is clearly a charm intended to ensure fertility; and the Granno to whom the invocations are addressed, and who gives his name to the torches, may possibly be, as Dr. Pommerol suggests, no other than the ancient Celtic god Grannus, whom the Romans identified with Apollo, and whose worship is attested by inscriptions found not only in France but in Scotland and on the Danube.
The custom of carrying lighted torches of straw (brandons) about the orchards and fields to fertilise them on the first Sunday of Lent