Beltane Fire Festival – Annual Arts Event & Ritual Drama Inspired by the Ancient Gaelic Festival of Beltane
There’s no better place than the Beltane Fire Festival to celebrate the rich history and culture of the Ancient Gaelic traditions by bringing in the Summer season.
Welcome to Beltane
The Festival of Beltane is one of ancient tradition. The Beltane Fire Festival reaches into the past of Iron Age Celtic culture and brings the traditions and rituals of this ancient time into the modern age. The rituals starting gaining traction again in 1988 as a way to bring the community together, celebrate the beginning of summer and the land’ fertility.
The new installation of Beltane Fire Festival for this generation exists as a way for participants to establish deeper connections with nature and their ancestors.
The History of the Fire Festival
The Festival of Beltane is one of ancient Iron Ace Celtic Tradition. Beltane is very rich in history and dates back throughout ancient Gaelic history. Beltane was originally a time where community members gathered to celebrate the return of fertility to their land and crops and to welcome in the change of the seasons.
Beltane translates into “bright fire” and is perhaps a symbolic reflection of the burning sun itself. The main ritual for the fire festival involves lighting the central bonfire. The fire served to remind attendees of the healing and purifying nature of this burning element.
The Beltane Bonfire of ancient times served as a way to cleanse the community and signify renewal. All fires throughout the community would be extinguished and relit by the main bonfire. Farmers would have their livestock run between the bonfire as a way to clean and protect them.
Additionally, the Beltane Fire Festival served as a time of fertility in relationships as well. Beltane celebrates courtship and dating as the return of Summer was thought to bring a return to romance as well.
Where is the Fire Festival?
Beltane is held each year on the 30th of April at Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland. Beltane’s modern resurrection has had quite an effect on its community. Though it is indeed a celebration of times past, the generations from today have found a way to connect to it in more ways than one.
After Beltane Fire Festival’s return to this era, the people of Calton Hill saw the birth of a new community. As the modern fire festival was just coming together, Calton Hill was a place many locals and tourists would refuse to go due to crime and unsavory areas and people. Throughout the years that Beltane has been held, Calton Hill has made a turn around and is now one of the most popular areas in the city.
The Beltane Experience
While fire may seem like a dangerous thing to celebrate, Beltane is and has always been about joyously bringing in a new season. Essentially, it is a virtual celebration of light. Beltane always inspires a sense of hope, new beginnings and creativity in all those involved. Many attendees and festival performers feed into this creativity and share their art and talents with the entire festival.
The festival begins as a procession, starting at the National Monument, or the Acropolis, and proceeding counter-clockwise from there. The parade is filled with dancers and celebrators in costume as drums loudly march them on. Leading this procession is the Green Man and May Queen who are modern representations of important characters from the traditions of the ancient celebrations.
Throughout this significant procession, the groups that the parade encounter along the way will either aid or challenge the May Queen and the Green Man. Ultimately, the Green Man meets his demise at the hands of the May Queen, signifying the death of spring and the birth of Summer. Following the performance, the Man and the Queen light the bonfire and so the celebrations begin!
Once the bonfire has been list, the attendees and onlookers all gather at Bower to partake in a traditional dance, wearing white and red. After the dancing, performers and attendees alike celebrate together over home cooked meals, endless drink, and lots of fire!
Overall Beltane will give you an experience you won’t find in any of the other festivals around the world.
While the modern reinstatement of Beltane does not have any ties upfront to any religion, many people that do celebrate the fire festival, do so on a spiritual level. However, you do not have to be Celtic, Scottish, or religious at all the celebrate this holdiay.
Many people outside of Edinburgh like to celebrate Beltane as a “May Day” of sorts. In their own festivals and gatherings, people across the globe will partake in acts to welcome the return of Summer. Many people still wear traditional clothing, participate in the dances and host their own feasts.
Several people across the world that celebrate Beltane choose to get married at this time. This period of rebirth and fertility is believed to be the most opportune time to signify their union. While some societies see this festival as a “pagan” celebration, many people from the Wicca community like to participate in it as well. Those that like to partake in the spiritual aspects of Beltane usually perform rituals, fasts, and prayers during this time. If you are interested in learning more about other aspects of religious Beltane experiences, try a quick Internet search for more information.
What to Wear to Beltane
As the celebration of fire is going to be best seen at night, the Beltane Fire Festival is always held after dark. Keep this in mind as you prepare to attend Beltane. Though Summer is just beginning, Edinburgh at night is going to be cold! Bring layers, jackets, gloves, hats and anything else that will keep you from freezing.
The colors of red and white are very symbolic throughout the celebration of Beltane, so feel free to wear them. One of the bigger parts of Beltane is the procession and dancing, so make sure your footwear is adequate. Try to wear closed toed shoes that will comfortably get you through the festival.
Tickets and Pricing
Tickets for this incredible one day festival are relatively cheap. Pricing starts online at £8.50 and at the gate is £10. However, due to this inexpensive pricing and the high interest level of Beltane Fire Festival, it would be wise for you to purchase your tickets in advance!
As Beltane itself isn’t very expensive, you will be spending most of your money on traveling, food, and hotel accommodations. Check out the festival website for all the best places to stay in the area.
Getting to Edinburgh
If you’re traveling into Scotland to get to Beltane Fire Festival, be sure to book your flights way ahead of time so you have enough leeway to stay a few extra days. When coming form out of town, you should fly into Edinburgh and take a street car or cab to the Calton Hill area. If you get a hotel around Calton Hill, traveling on foot throughout the town should not be a problem.
Consider renting a bike, car, or using public transportation if you plan to explore the rest of the city throughout your stay.
What to Bring to the Fire Festival
Beltane Fire Festival itself has all the elements attendees need for celebration. In other words, your preparation for this festival should be fairly simple. When packing your bags, bring anything you would normally bring for a week or weekend long trip. Consider getting your currency exchanged before flying into Scotland to avoid the hassle of trying to convert it while you’re actually in Edinburgh.
Additionally, make sure your passport is renewed and working months before you try to board a plane into town. Passports renewals can take a while and you don’t want to end up the night before your flight realizing you won’t be allowed on the plane. When realizing what not to take with you on your trip, use common sense.
Yes, you are going to a fire festival but please abstain from bringing anything other than a cigarette lighter with you. You don’t want to be detained for carrying a potential explosive at the airport, especially since you can purchase decorations and festive elements while you’re actually at Beltane.
Outside of Beltane
While you’re in Edinburgh, choose to stay a few extra days to check out the rest of the cites. Book a walking tour in Edinburgh to delve a bit further into the history of this rich community. Try the haunted walking tour for a creative spin on things and explore the murders, legends, and mysteries of Scotland.
Visit the Camera Obscura museum for a wild look at one of the most defining moments in the art and technological world. Check out the Scottish National Gallery for more art and culture. Try the Princes Street Gardens for a change of pace and a little more time for relaxation and meditation.
So whether you have been to the Fire Festival before or not, Beltane is something you need to experience at least once in your life!
Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!