In today’s installment of our irregular featured called “That’s Metal” — But It’s Not Music, we’re focusing on two fiery European festivals, both of which we stumbled on at Boston.com.
First up: Up Helly Aa
This festival celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian vikings in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, marking the end of the yule season. The event culminates with up to 1,000 “guizers” (men dressed up as Vikings) throwing flaming torches into a Viking longship. Seems that this theme has been used at the festival since 1870. Of course it has. How can you improve on perfection?
This burning-the-Viking-galley event happens all over Shetland, but it’s only in Lerwick (situs of the photos from the January 26 installment that we’re featuring in this post) where the galley isn’t sent seaward. Everywhere else, the flaming galley goes into the sea, in an echo of actual Viking sea burials.
So, why do we think this is metal? Well, first off, it’s called Up Helly Aa. That just sounds metal, particularly if you imagine screaming it at the top of your lungs while carrying a torch and jammin’ on some Amon Amarth.
And besides, can’t you just imagine how this thing got started? “Hey dude! It’s the end of the fucking holidays. We need to have a special blowout! I know! Let’s drink a few tankards of mead, dress up like fucking Vikings, and go set some shit on fire!” Now that’s metal, isn’t it?
Now, don’t stop here. There’s more fiery craziness on display after the jump . . .
Next up: The Feast of St. Anthony
This festival in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, coincides every year with the eve of the Feast of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals. According to tradition, revelers ride their horses through bonfires placed around the village to purify the animals with fire and smoke after receiving a blessing from a priest.
Why do we think this is metal? Well, first off, the whole riding-horses-through-fire thing seems pretty fucking metal to us. But then there’s the excuse these folks use for riding horses through fire — because it’s the feast day for THE PATRON SAINT OF ANIMALS! Only metalheads could employ that kind of reasoning:
“Hey man! Some dude who was the fucking patron saint of animals is having his feast day tomorrow. We gotta do something special for this. I know! Let’s get wasted tonight, build a buncha bonfires, get some fuckin’ animals, and ride ’em head first through the fire!”
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Here are a couple more photos from this year’s installment (on January 16) of the Feast of St. Anthony in San Bartolome de Pinares — but there are lots more awesome images from both of these festivals at the Boston.com site.