Ottery Tar BarrelWhat do you get when you squeeze thousands of people into a tiny village, then run madly at them whilst carrying a burning barrel of tar? I guess you’d have to ask the residents of Ottery St. Mary, in Devon, as that’s what they do on November the fifth every year.

Allegedly the origins of this surreal ritual are lost in the depths of antiquity, but the rules are quite simple: You can only carry a barrel if you were born in the village, and wim’n and chil’n get to carry small barrels in the early evening.  A barrel is set off once every hour or so from outside one of the village’s pubs, and they get progressively bigger as the night goes on; with the biggest one (about the size of a car) being released at midnight.  The crazy locals carry the barrel on the back of their necks untill the heat becomes unbearable (when they pass it on to another waiting villager) or the barrel disintegrates.  Oh, and the only protective gear they get is a sack on each hand to keep off the fire.

Totally bonkers.

And did I mention that they do all this while in the midst of a moshpit-style crowd? ‘cause they do!ottery1