Sir James George Frazer (18541941). The Golden Bough. 1922.
on which it turned should both be new. Similarly it was said that the rope which turned the roller should be new; if possible it should be woven of strands taken from a gallows rope with which people had been hanged, but this was a counsel of perfection rather than a strict necessity.
Various rules were also laid down as to the kind of persons who might or should make the need-fire. Sometimes it was said that the two persons who pulled the rope which twirled the roller should always be brothers or at least bear the same baptismal name; sometimes it was deemed sufficient if they were both chaste young men. In some villages of Brunswick people thought that if everybody who lent a hand in kindling the need-fire did not bear the same Christian name, they would labour in vain. In Silesia the tree employed to produce the need-fire used to be felled by a pair of twin brothers. In the western islands of Scotland the fire was kindled by eighty-one married men, who rubbed two great planks against each other, working in relays of nine; in North Uist the nine times nine who made the fire were all first-begotten sons, but we are not told whether they were married or single. Among the Serbians the need-fire is sometimes kindled by a boy and girl between eleven and fourteen years of age, who work stark naked in a dark room; sometimes it is made by an old man and an old woman also in the dark. In Bulgaria, too, the makers of need-fire strip themselves of their clothes; in Caithness they divested themselves of all kinds of metal. If after long rubbing of the wood no fire was elicited they concluded that some fire must still be burning in the village; so a strict search was made from house to house, any fire that might be found was put out, and the negligent householder punished or upbraided; indeed a heavy fine might be inflicted on him.
When the need-fire was at last kindled, the bonfire was lit from it, and as soon as the blaze had somewhat died down, the sick animals were driven over the glowing embers, sometimes in a regular order of precedence, first the pigs, next the cows, and last of all the horses. Sometimes they were driven twice or thrice through the smoke and flames, so that occasionally some of them were scorched to death. As soon as all the beasts were through, the young folk would rush wildly at the ashes and cinders, sprinkling and blackening each other with them; those who were most blackened would march in triumph behind the cattle into the village and would not wash themselves for a long time. From the bonfire people carried live embers home and used them to rekindle the fires in their houses. These brands, after being extinguished in water, they sometimes put in the managers at which the cattle fed, and kept them there for a while. Ashes from the need-fire were also strewed on the fields to protect the crops against vermin; sometimes they were taken home to be employed as remedies in sickness, being sprinkled on the ailing part or mixed in water and drunk by the patient. In the western islands of Scotland and on the adjoining mainland, as soon as the fire on the domestic hearth had been rekindled from the need-fire