It’s time to celebrate the arrival of summer with Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Society. Every April 30th the charity puts on the visually stunning Beltane Fire Festival, a Celtic fertility procession that typically draws some 12,000 people each year.
And it’s easy to see why such a large crowd turns out. The event is a spectacular and intoxicating colorful display of acrobatics, bonfires and ritual drama, all set against the atmospheric backdrop of (the unfinished) Calton Hill Acropolis.
The evening begins at 9:30 p.m. with the emergence of the May Queen and her white escorts, who will awaken the earth from its long winter sleep. Together with the Queen’s consort, the Green Man and his red minions, they process around the hill in a march that celebrates each of the four elements.
As the queen and her devotees spin and dance to release their energies to the world, the Green Man is overcome with lust and attempts to catch the spring sovereign; this is a forbidden act and he is promptly put to death. But taking pity on him (and sticking to the pagan theme of the earth’s seasonal rebirth), the queen resurrects the Green Man and marries him. As she returns to her bower, the celebrations continue throughout the night until 1am.
Tickets for the festival are on sale now at the Hub, Ripping Records or the Forest Cafe on Bristo Place. They cost £6 in advance, or £8 on April 30.
[All photos courtesy of the Beltane Fire Society]