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A fire lit for magical or celebratory purposes. Akin to a bonfire, generally made with bales of hay (but not always). Traditionally used for celebrations such as Beltane and Lammas.
Often Balefires of lore were lit to drive evil spirits away as well as a celebration for the season in which they were being created for. Balefires were made famous as well by the Druids.
The wood types that are placed into a balefire can differ but traditionally the ones used for the Celtic Druid traditions are apple, cedar, dogwood, elder, holly, juniper, oak, poplar, and rowan The Sabbat Beltane (see BELTANE / BELTAIN) gets its name from the Balefires lit throughout Britain and Ireland on May Eve that would burn through the nights during and after the holiday celebrations would take place.
For both Yule (see YULE) and Beltane the fire traditionally is left to burn from the night till the dawn the next day.
Often Wiccans will use slightly different woods to place in their fires. Elder is never burned, hollow elder tube is used to blow on the embers to start the balefire and so they use alternative woods of oak, rowan, hawthorn, apple, birch, apple, and grape. The wood types are generally burned together. Even if one cannot get them all, a balefire can still be had but the woods are valued for their magical and energetic vibratory values.
A Balefire fire is often used in Halloween ceremonies. The other use of such a fire is when a person passes over to the other world and the fire is used to burn the body in a funeral. There are various traditions and rituals that surround the fire. This is very much an English tradition.
The Yule, as mentioned earlier in the article, which is burnt during Christmas time in order to ensure good luck for the following year. Many of the ashes of the yule are maintained, so that the following year the ashes can also be burned within the new fire.
This is to ensure good luck continuously.