Beltane Fire Festivals around the Globe
Fire was believed to have purifying qualities – it cleansed and rejuvenated both the land and the people.The ritual welcoming of the sun and the lighting of the fires was also believed to ensure fertility of the land and the people.
Animals were transferred from winter pens to summer pastures, and were driven between the Beltane fires to cleanse them of evil spirits and to bring fertility and a good milk yield. The Celts leapt over Beltane fires – for fertility and purification.
Young men would circle the Beltaine fires holding Rowan branches to bring protection against evil – its bright berries suggested fire – malign powers were considered particularly active at the year’s turning-point.
It was considered unlucky to allow anyone to take fire from one’s house on May Eve or May Day, as they would gain power over the inhabitants. The bonfire was lit with a bundle made from nine different types of wood and wrapped with colorful ribbons. Once the fire was blazing, a piece of smoldering wood was taken to each home in the village, to ensure fertility throughout the summer months.
A Beltane fire festival is held annually in Edinburgh, at Calton Hill on 30th April – a May Queen and Green Man, representing Beltane fertility and renewal lead the celebrations on the hillside. In Edinburgh the Beltane Fire Society, a registered charity which runs the festival, is managed by a democratically elected voluntary committee, and all the performers are volunteers who either join by word of mouth or by attending one of the advertised open meetings held early in the year. Senior performers and artists in the society help others through workshops with aspects of event production, prop construction, character performance techniques, team building, percussion skills and the health and safety considerations involved. As a community event, each year the performance has evolved as new people bring their own influences and directions. The core narrative remains by and large the same though additional elements have been added over time for theatrical, ritual, and practical reasons. Originally an event with a core of a dozen performers and a few hundred audience, the event has grown to several hundred performers and over ten thousand audience. Key characters within the performance are maintained, though reinterpreted by their performers, and additional participants incorporated each year. Originally, the festival was free and only lightly stewarded, however, as the event has grown in popularity, due to the capacity of the hill, funding requirements, and Edinburgh Council requests, the festival has in recent years moved to being a ticketed event.
If you are near any of the places that celebrate a tradition Beltane Fire Festival think about participating. The energy gives you an amazing boost and help you understand the energy behind the Beltane celebration of our ancestors. If this is not possible, it is a good evening to have your own bonfire and invite family and friends to gather and welcome in the warmer weather. Turn it into a nice out door feast featuring delicate wines, noodles, cheese, fresh bread, and butter, dessert of fruit and cream. If you still feel energized end your evening with music and folk dancing around your bonfire, also know as your backyard fire pit or if in an area that type of fire is not allowed then your chiminea. Make your fire a more traditional one by burning cedar or juniper, this will aid in the blessing of those present. There are many Beltane Rituals that can be modified or used as is to help you enjoy a Beltane Fire Festival of your own. Do not miss this opportunity to attract abundance, fertility, creativity and passion into your life.
Compiled by Dyanna Wyndesong