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Bonfire At The Iron Furnaces Features Folklore From Celtic Cultures

October 22, 2017

Not far from where flames flickered into the Saturday sky above the iconic Scranton Iron Furnaces, Somer Walsh, Camille Reinecke and Dana Jackson convened as a coven of creatures from Celtic folklore.

Dressed as an Irish fairy, Celtic witch and banshee, respectively, the three women’s costumes corresponded to answers on a creative quiz — which mythological Celtic creature are you? — that constituted just one of many cultural crafts and activities at the seventh annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces.

Benefiting the Anthracite Heritage Museum of Scranton, the annual autumn festival this year featured activities inspired by folklore from Welsh, Irish and other Celtic cultures — from the aforementioned quiz to an arts activity where attendees created their own mythological monsters.

“So many of us have this kind of heritage in our backgrounds,” said Julie Imel, public relations and program manager with the Lackawanna Heritage Valley, which sponsored some of the cultural activities. “The Welsh and the Irish and the Scottish, they were some of the early settlers of the area, and it’s kind of fun to think, in ancient times, these were some of the activities that they were doing.”

One activity, the “Wishes Brew,” for example, was inspired by a tale from the Welsh tradition whereby people painted their names on white stones and pitched those stones into a bonfire on “Nos Galan Gaeaf,” the night when the veil between Earth and the spirit world is thin. If their stone was missing the next day, it meant the person would soon perish.

While the myth itself is a bit macabre, the activity it inspired Saturday wasn’t, as attendees wrote down their hopes and dreams on paper that, at the end of the night, was tossed into the bonfire in hopes that the spirit world will help make the wishes come true.

As the bonfire burned, hundreds of guests, some in costumes, enjoyed fire twirlers, tarot card readings and a pleasant October evening in the Electric City.

Originally from New York City, Kenny and Elena Kiernan, now of Scranton, brought their children, Catalina, 2, and Sean, 5, to the bonfire.

“That (Celtic) culture is full of art, it’s full of music, it’s full of fun times and good energy, and that’s another reason why it’s a big draw here,” Elena Kiernan said. “That’s what this place is. A good, positive, fun energy, and right now we need that kind of energy.”

Sitting on his dad’s shoulders, young Sean Kiernan said what many people thought Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the fire go up to the sky,” he said.

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