Beltane Fire Festival is the celebration of coming spring and the rebirth of Nature. It is held every year during the night of 30th April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. An audience of around 12 thousand people come to share the spectacular procession.
Edinburgh’s Beltane festival originates in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic pre-Christian festival of the same name.
The name itself is thought to have derived from a Gaelic-Celtic word meaning ‘bright/sacred fire’. It was held to mark and celebrate the blossoming of spring, and coincided with the ancient pastoral event of moving livestock to their summer grazing. It did not occur on any fixed solar date (the tradition of solstices and equinoxes is later in origin) but tended to be held on the first full moon after the modern 1st of May. Some sources suggest that the blooming of the Hawthorn was the primary signal for the event before the development of centralised calendars.
It was a celebration of the fertility of the land and their animals. The main traditional element which was common to all Beltane festivals was the fire which gave it its name. All the fires of the community would be extinguished and a new, sacred ‘Need Fire’ was lit by either the village head or spiritual leader. From this source one or two bonfires were lit, and the animals of the community would be driven through or between them. It was believed that the smoke and flame of the fires would purify the herd, protecting them in the year to come and ensuring a good number of offspring. The inhabitants of the village would then take pieces of the fire to their homes and relight their hearths, and dance clockwise around the bonfires to ensure good portents for them and their families.
Justifiably famous for its intensity and colour, the event has become a much-loved feature of the Edinburgh calendar since it was first organised in the mid-1980′s.
This festival is entirely run and performed by volunteers.
The event is structured around a narrative, in which the procession (of the May Queen, Green Man and their court the White Women and Processional Drummers) after starting the Neid Fire starts from the Acropolis to descend through the Fire Arch to visit the elements of Wind, Earth, Water and Fire with the new Neid Fire. On the journey they meet creatures of chaos the Red Men, who are instinctive, unruled and represent our sexual and animal side. The Red Men are held back at this point, until the procession culminates in the rebirth of the Green Man and his unity with the May Queen. And this is when the joyous celebration starts with the dance of Reds and Whites, of beating drums and sweet Mead (honey wine).
The rehearsals for this spectacular event starts at the beginning of March, and goes on for 2 months, until the performance on 30th of April. Each groups are rehearsing separately 2-3 times a week, with 2 walk-throughs before the event, so it is necessary to move to Edinburgh for this time of the year, and maybe for May too, for the after-celebrations. It's one of the world's most amazing cities, and it's easy to find accommodation for a few months. This is also the best way to get to know this magical city, you'll hardly want to leave.
If you are a fire spinner, Fire Point or Fire Arch are the groups you best contact, but there are many other amazing ways to get involved.
You can find more information on the different groups, characters and the ceremony at www.beltane.org , or email to email@example.com
Best though if you can make it to Edinburgh for the BELTANE OPEN MEETING: 6pm, on Sunday 27th February at the Art's Complex, St Margaret's House, 151 London Road, Edinburgh, EH7 6AE (This is just along from Meadowbank Stadium. If you need to get a bus then Lothian routes 4, 5, 15, 26, 44, and 45 will get you there.)
Beltane Fire Society is part of a large and important culture both in Edinburgh and the rest of the world. We hope that our efforts will inspire others to get involved in celebratory works around the globe.