Reindeer Games (for Litro Magazine)

IMG_7927csmallThis piece originally appeared in Litro Magazine
www.litro.co.uk/2014/05/reindeer-games

The herd of reindeer appeared over the rise of the hill. A great mass of animals painted a patchwork of brown and white on the green and grey of the high scrub. A low chorus of grunts and lowing carried over the ground, accompanied by a rumbling percussion of hooves. Coming up behind them were a line of quad bikes and a pair of collie dogs. The herd packed closer together, and became a single shifting mass flowing across the ground. One of the quad bikes broke off and turned towards us, bouncing its way over the tussocks. We started to back off, not wanting to disturb this monumental round-up. But as one bike got a little closer, its rider started beckoning us towards him. We were about to become reindeer herders. Continue reading

Oniyo Fire Festival

As it’s just been bonfire night, in honour of setting light to things for spurious reasons, here are some pictures of a rather different fire festival.

The Oniyo Fire Festival of Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan happens every year on 7 January – and has done so apparently for the past 1900 years or so. Its purpose is to banish evil spirits from the town and grant luck, fertility and prosperity.

The temperature is close to freezing, and the men are dressed only in loincloths – so these campfires that they gather around are practical as much as ritual (generous quantities of Sake also help with proceedings.)

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