Do you burn the buitch?

Wed, 08 May 2019

Culture Vannin are trying to find out if anyone is continuing one of the oldest known Manx traditions.

One the evening before 1 May, an ancient Manx tradition is to light fires on your land in order to drive away evil.

Known by many as ‘burn the buitch,’ a very small number of people are known to be keeping this tradition alive in the parish of German. But it is not known if it is continued anywhere else.

Can you help?

Fire has always been an important part of Oie Voaldyn (the evening of 30 April), as its use to ward off evil is believed to reach back into the pre-Christian era.

Early newspaper accounts describe the Isle of Man looking like a ‘universal conflagration’ due to the masses of gorse being burnt all over the Island on the evening of Oie Voaldyn. The reason given for this was that, ‘they thereby burned all the witches and fairies which they believe take refuge there after sunset.’

Although many assumed that this practice died out over 50 years ago, Culture Vannin were delighted to meet descriptions of it in their recent oral history recordings.

‘It was to keep the evil spirits away,’ said Lennie Kerruish, ‘they reckon that when you lit the bush and it started to burn, the crackling sound was the spirits getting cooked away.’

All the oral history recordings and historical information about Burn the Buitch is available on the Boaldyn page of our website.

Culture Vannin were delighted to be able to go out and film the one known instance of someone burning the buitch on 30 April this year. The film will be edited and released soon.

But it is unknown if this important and ancient Manx custom is practised anywhere else on the Island.

If you know of anyone who carried out this tradition this year, please get in contact with James Franklin at Culture Vannin.