BONFIRE (originally bone-fire, as in a gloss of 1483; "banefyre, ignis ossium," i.e. fire of bones). In its earliest usage• a funeral pyre: a fire lighted to consume heretical or forbidden books, etc.; in the early superstitions of Ger many ( where it was also called .N"offeuer or need fire) and most other European nations, a fire kindled in time of pestilence among men or cat tle to drive away the disease. Later, the kindling of such fires, with many traditional ceremonies, became a regular part of the observances on the night before the festival of Saint John the Bap tist or Midsummer Day—still with the ancient idea of driving away plagues and evil spirits. The casting of effigies into the flames, still ob served in some places, seems to point. to a sur vival of ancient propitiatory sat-I:lilt-es. It is quite likely that all these ceremonial observances are relies of pagan worship of the heavenly bodies, modified by the introduetion of Chris tianity. The Church. as in many other instances,
preferred to adopt and consecrate what would have been almost impossible to suppress: thus the inclusion in the Catholic Easter ceremonies of the blessing of the new fire, and the custom in the Russian Church of carrying lighted tapers on that festival, may he related to the custom of the Osterfeuer among the Teutonic: nations, which originally was probably celebrated on the 1st of i\lay. Consult: •Ialm, Die deutschen opferye brauche bei lekerbon tend riehzueht (Breslau. 1884) ; Brand, Popular Antiquities, Vol. 1., edited by Ellis (London, 1849). For the customs more particularly associated with the Celtic races, see BELTAN E.