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GALLERY: Holy Smoke! Horsemen gallop through flames at Spanish fiesta

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GALLERY: Holy Smoke! Horsemen gallop through flames at Spanish fiesta
Photos: Pierre-Philippe Marcou
11:01 CET+01:00
They may look like the horsemen of the apocalypse heralding the end of the world but in fact, the fiery festival of Luminarias is held to ward off evil spirits and bring fortune for the year ahead.

Each year in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares in Avila, Castile and León, the traditional fiesta is held on January 16th in honour of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals.


Photo: AFP

Horsemen charge their steeds through bonfires in a festival that is decried as cruel by animal welfare groups.Photo: AFP

The festival stems from medieval times, when Spaniards believed that fires were magic and had purifying properties.


Photo: AFP

Now, the rites of the fire are said to ward off evil spirits and protect the coming year's harvest.


Photo: AFP

Particpants insist the flames do not harm the animals.

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