Ottery St. Mary's Burning Tar Barrel Festival
It couldn't be simpler: Every year around Guy Fawkes Night, the townsfolk of Ottery St. Mary, England, soak barrels in tar, light them on fire and carry them through the streets of the town on their shoulders.
Then, just to drastically up the danger of some innocent bystander getting set ablaze, observers crowd around the barrel carrier like a horde of zombies trying to devour his flesh. Everyone in the crowd wants a chance to carry the barrel, you see. So we have a massive crowd of people fighting for control of a heavy flaming barrel that is suspended over their heads. What could possibly go wrong?
WE SEEK THE CLEANSING AGONY OF FIRE!
The reasons behind the festival are uncertain, but there are a few theories. Since it's on Guy Fawkes Night, it could be symbolic of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Or, it could have something to do with the traditional use of burning barrels to fumigate cottages. It's also possible that it originated from pagan rituals to avoid evil spirits (because everyone knows that spirits can't see you if you're carrying fire on your head).
Hey, has anyone seen Gary?
It's a moot point, because we're guessing that approximately none of the people involved know why they're doing it. Each pub in the village sponsors a flaming barrel, with 17 in all. The 17 portable bonfires make their way around the crowded town full of people, each barrel weighing up to 65 pounds. But don't worry, there are smaller barrels so children can get involved in the fun, too!
We can't tell if that's fire or hair on his head.