Lilanje – Serbian Fire Ritual For Banishing Evil Spirits

When I was a child “lilanje” was one of the most exciting events in a year, because it included doing things that are usually forbidden for children.

Before the ritual begins, a huge fireplace is made on the promised gathering place before the sunset. When the sun finally disappears below the horizon, all children gather around the fire with their handmade “lile” and light them up. When the wooden sticks are set on fire, the children start to simultaneously swing the burning “lile” in circles. The burning fire should scare the evil spirits off, so that the fields with crops would grow freely, which would ensure a rich harvesting year for the villagers. After all “lile” are burned, the children start to jump above the fire for a happy and lucky year. Another important sign are the sparkles that the “lile” and the fire is making. The more sparkles, the richer the harvesting year will get.

Here’s what I found on Wikipedia about “lilanje”:

Lilanje (Serbian cyrilic:лилање Serbian pronounce:lilaɲe) is the religious Serbian national custom when dry birch or cherry cortex placed on the wooden stick named Lila, olalija, oratnik or oratnica is burned. Lilanje is celebrated the night before St John’s Eve, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Feast of the Ascension and Saint George’s Day. Some people think the name olalija comes from the Roman word for the Roman custom Parilia. Mostly just young people are celebrating Lilanje. It is celebrated on the big places like squares where the big fire is placed. This custom is older than Christianity. It has appeared because people thought that in the night fire scares demons and witches and protect people, animals and fields.

That’s how the ceremony looks like:
Lilanje Valjevo

That’s how the “lile” look like:

Do other Slavic countries have similar customs?

What do you think?

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