Bright Fires in Edinburgh

Every April 30 on Calton Hill in Edinburgh and ancient pagan ritual is literally rekindled. The Beltane Fire Festival, inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane, is a dramatic celebration of the arrival of summer. The word Beltane means ‘bright fire’ and the festival is awash with flames.

In the ancient world, Beltane marked the transition of the seasons from spring to summer and coincided with the moving of livestock to summer pastures. The fire was believed to cleanse, purify and increase fertility of not only the beast but of people as well. People would often leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility, and happiness.

The modern festival still includes much leaping and fires. First held in 1988, it has since grown to include 300 performers and 11,500 spectators. The festival’s main event is a torchlight procession and the performance of a ritual drama based on the pagan festival of Beltane. The festival uses primarily Celtic and Scottish folklore but also has incorporated beliefs and symbols from indigenous people around the globe, for example Japan and Nigeria.

The procession is led by performers dressed as the May Queen and the Green Man. The Green Man is crowned by the May Queen and the Green Man’s winter attire is removed and replaced by a spring costume. This, naturally, leads to an outbreak of dancing and the Queen and Man are married. Elaborate is scope and steeped in symbolism, the performance is a spectacle of dancing red-painted nude bodies and fire displays, all accompanied by a thrumming of drums.

If you are looking to stay near Edinburgh Castle hotel options are plentiful and you will be close to the bright fires of Calton Hill. A luxury Edinburgh hotel is the perfect place wash off the smoke and paint after the festival concludes. Once lying in comfortable in bed you are certain to admit that just as it did in ancient times, jumping over the Beltane fire still brings happiness.

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November 18, 2011 | Author: | Posted in Destinations


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