Welcome to Beltane.org

Beltane 2010 by Neil Hodgins

Formed in 1988, Beltane Fire Society is a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

For more information about the Society, our world-famous festivals and how you can get involved, navigate using the menu on the left. Scroll down for our latest news.

Find out all about Samhuin Fire Festival 2016 on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on Monday 31st October HERE.

Want to take part in the festival as a volunteer? Our Stewards and Tech Crew are still open to new members!

Beltane Fire Society is a not-for-profit registered charity in Scotland.
Charity Number SC040137. Company Number SC341753.

Photograph by Neil Hodgins, taken at Beltane Fire Festival 2010.

Announcing our Samhuinn 2016 poster

This year’s foliage and feather laden design is by freelance illustrator, and Beltane Fire Society member, Sonya Hallett. Submitted for last year’s poster competition, the powerful image had lingered in our collective minds. When the submissions this year didn’t quite hit the mark, Sonya’s poster was the obvious choice.

An illustrator, maker and amateur entomologist, Sonya has been a part of the Beltane Fire Society since 2006, often as a member of Elemental groups: “I don’t really have the time to join in as a performer these days, but I wanted to take part in a different way. It feels like I’m doing something, still. One of the things I’ve always loved about Samhuinn is the idea of that horned god creature, who’s worn away, hence the skull as the central image; there’s still the autumn foliage, it’s not devoid of life, but it’s stripped back, and slightly sinister, too.

Samhuinn 2016 poster by Sonya Hallett

Like the spectacle of Samhuinn itself, Sonya’s design is “eye catching from a distance, but if you come up close, there’s lots more to find.” You can enjoy the fine detail up close and in person, this 31st October. Keep an eye on Sonya’s plans to take over the world through insect robots and knitted giant squids here.

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Ripping, wrapping and recycling with the Torchbearers

Torchebearers by Alasdair Birchwood

Torchebearers by Dan Mosley

Torchebearers by David Purvis

Torchebearers by Mark Taylor

Torchebearers by Martin McCarthy

Torchebearers by Neil Barton

Fire on a stick needs fuel, so long before our Torchbearers can shine brightly on Samhuinn night they need to make lots of torchballs to burn. This is no small task as each Torchbearer will use between seven and ten torchballs at Samhuinn and even more at Beltane.

The life of a torchball begins with recycled cotton sheets which we adopt from hospitals and hotels that no longer have any use for them, as well as wax discs from tealight candles. The sheets are ripped into strips, which is surprisingly fun – imagine a tug o’ war where you’re actively trying to destroy the rope – then wrapped by hand around the wax discs until the ball is exactly the right size to fit in a torch. Creating the perfect tension while wrapping the fabric is a little bit art, a little bit science and a little bit Torchie magic.

After that, the torchballs are all soaked in kerosene (Eau de Fuel just might be a Torchbearer’s favourite scent) then drained and packed into airtight casks for storage and transportation before finally being loaded into safely lined bags to be carried through the festival (over the shoulder, under the cloak) and burned to light the performance. A bag full of soaked torchballs is not light and neither is a metal torch. Our Torchbearers are a strong and industrious bunch!

You can see lots more photos of Samhuinn 2016 rehearsals and preparation in this album on Facebook. All our content is publically viewable so you can see if even if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Photos (from top) by Alasdair Birchwood, Dan Mosley, David Purvis, Mark Taylor, Martin McCarthy and Neil Barton

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Guardians, grins and grass stains with our Stewards

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Our Samhuinn 2016 Stewards are the friendly face of Samhuinn and the Guardians of our performers and of our witnesses. They have a unique view of the festival and offer a great way to take part in the event, learn crowd safety skills, boost your confidence, hang out with lovely people and be welcomed into the BFS community. If this sounds perfect for you (and your friends and flatmates!) you’re in luck – there’s still plenty of room in the group for new members.

Their next get-together is this Sunday at 2pm outside the Pavilion cafe on the Meadows in Edinburgh. You can get in touch with their glorious leader, Group Organiser James, at stewards@beltane.org or you’re welcome to just show up and join in. Look for the people doing this stuff!

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Thanks to Steward David for the photos

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

ProREDtariat Revolt!

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by Dan Mosley

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by David Purvis

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by Maria Astefanoaei

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by Mark Taylor

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by Martin McCarthy

Reds rehearsing for Samhuinn 2016, by Neil Barton

Our Samhuinn 2016 Reds are an agile, cheery and enthusiastic bunch of acrobats. They also might be planning a coup. We’re not sure.

You can see lots more photos of Samhuinn 2016 rehearsals and preparation in this album on Facebook. All our content is publically viewable so you can see if even if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Photos (from top) by Dan Mosley, David Purvis, Maria Astefanoaei, Mark Taylor, Martin McCarthy and Neil Barton

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Behind The Pictures: It is more merciful to quickly kill

This is the second of our Behind The Pictures series, where photographers and performers talk about some of their favourite images from last Samhuinn. Today, Raini from Photopoint and Lu from the White Hunt share their thoughts on this photo…

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Raini says…
Having been present at a White Hunt practice, covertly taking photos of them in action, I could sense they were developing as a pack. As the procession moved forward on the night this sense was felt in full force. To capture just one of the White Hunt, standing powerfully alone outside the pack, was a rare opportunity on the night and I seized it.

Lu says…
This moment occurred very early on, even before we met the Winter King. We were curious about why the White Hunt had been called and so we were alert and eager to find what is coming. Personally I always felt there was a serenity and groundedness in the White Hunt, knowing winter is inevitable and it is more merciful to quickly kill now than to let those who won’t make it to the spring suffer and die on their own, and I feel this came out well in this picture.

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Words from our Cailleach: Water

Our Samhuinn 2016 Cailleach, Diana, has been musing on the element of water and would like to share her thoughts with you…

Words from our Cailleach: Water

As I’ve been imagining myself more and more into the role of Cailleach in recent weeks, I’ve been intrigued to notice that I’ve become preoccupied with thoughts and images of water. As if somehow the Cailleach is drawing me particularly to consider that element.

I’ve noticed especially that my lifelong love of visiting the coast, of the calming breathing-out I experience when I look out to sea from a sandy or rocky shore, has been especially much in my heart and mind so for our first relaxed several hours together the weekend before last I suggested to the Summer King and Winter King that we go to the coast South of Edinburgh, on an uncommonly warm yet definitely Autumnal day.

We wandered along the shore barefoot in bath-warm shallow water, discussing our roles for Samhuinn, co-creating the beginnings of shared ritual imagery for the night itself and pausing every few minutes to share a delight with each other in the small matters of tiny fish scooting away from our feet, the structure and patterning of an empty seashell, how seedling seaweeds anchor to a tiny shell. It felt like a re-connecting with Nature, more easily forgotten in town.

We made an impromptu joint decision to swim in the deeper sea when we’d reached a particularly beautiful smaller beach and while strangers a wee way away started a fire and looked timeless in sillhouette against the top of a sand dune, we dared each other into the colder deeper water and shouted with the intensity of it.

I thought of my personal Cailleach story: of her bringing the Winter, that can be the time when our demons are especially likely to come up to be seen and felt, and I dared myself into deeper water than I usually would, past the point where my feet would land easily on the bottom if my legs and arms got too tired to splash about keeping me afloat, and dared myself to feel that fear of the depth and be curious about it. To face it and trust that my beautiful lungs full of air would keep me afloat and my miraculous human limbs would do what they needed to to help. And I remembered one of the stories of the Corryvreckan whirlpool off the West coast of Scotland – the third largest whirlpool in the world so I’ve read – and how the Cailleach would wash her plaid in it until the wool turned pure white, and then she’d lay it over the mountains and so bring the first snows on Winter.

And this touched for me on my very personal memories of the times in my life when the things that get called depression and anxiety and panic disorder and agoraphobia and such have had me tight in their grip and my thinking mind was not clear enough to know how to even sort through clothing and bed linens to choose which could be washed together best, and how since those times the activity of laundering has become a personal ritual that acts as a familiar way to give myself a grounding. If I can have clean and fresh clothes and linens – a trusty washing machine – a sturdy clothes drying pulley of the right size in a convenient place, then something within my power can be right with my world even if I’m feeling a sense of inner or outer chaos. And… I can honour the hands of the people who made my clothing – some of which are several generations old – the skill and the necessity to knit and sew and mend, in the case of the older items often by hand, in order to bring the warmth and comfort of clothes essential to the Scottish climate.

And I look forward to hand-laundering the precious items of costuming that have been gifted to me from their wearers in previous Samhuinn festivals, and the squares of fabric already finding their way to me from my recent invitation; to honouring those previous wearers and the many caring hands who helped create their pieces and the creators of the squares – and in that honouring also make them my own.

And looking forward, I’m determined to visit Corryvreckan, as close as I can anyway – apparently at the start of Winter the crashing of the whirlpool can sometimes be heard twenty miles away -and perhaps even challenge my almost total lack of sealegs into a boat to get a look at it close up and dare those depths to face me again.

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Photograph by Tanya Simpson

Behind The Pictures: Unbridled, rampant joy

Welcome to our new Behind The Pictures series, where photographers and performers talk about some of their favourite images from last Samhuinn. Today, Martin from Photopoint shares his thoughts on this shot…

Behind The Pictures: Unbridled, rampant joy

One thing you can always rely on from the Reds is joy. Unbridled, rampant joy.

Here, Jane is on the bottom layer of a human pyramid with someone standing on her shoulder blades. I’m looking for wide pictures that show the acrobatics skill of the Reds. That’s an important part of the photographers’ job, to document the show and to get across the spectacle. But more importantly I’m looking for the moments and details that show the joy.

Then Jane gives me her beautiful grin…

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Be part of our Cailleach’s Costume

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Our Samhuinn 2016 Cailleach, Diana, has a very special invitation for you…

I would love to incorporate into my costume as Cailleach on Samhuinn night, squares of fabric from anyone near or far who feels a resonance with my personal ideas I will be holding on the night, of Winter being a time when we may be more likely to come face-to-face with our inner demons and that by befriending them, when ready, with support, we can transform them via an empowered and loving curiosity so they can become part of our strength – a strength that is all the more resilient for incorporationg our vulnerabilities and daring to show them.

For safety near fire and for other design reasons, I need the fabric squares to be:

PURE NATURAL FIBRES ONLY (wool, cotton, silk, linen etc.)
WHITE OR CREAM COLOURED
10CM SQUARE (approximately)

They could be knitted, crocheted, embroidered, spun and woven, or simply cut from an old t-shirt. I suggest one per person.

My invitation extends to all those involved in this year’s Samhuinn festival; anyone involved in a previous Beltane Fire Society festival; their friends and family; and on outwards to even include anyone with no direct connection to BFS. I will endeavour to incorporate them all, within reason, and am very open to reading any included notes with great care, though no note is required, and I would be unable to commit for sure to replying.

Please post them to:

Diana Calthrop c/o Beltane Fire Society
Room 1.01
St Margaret’s House
151 London Road
Edinburgh
EH7 6AE

To arrive ideally before the end of September, to have the best chance to be included.

With love and thanks,
Diana

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Cake AND death

Summer’s Fayte are the last, lingering summer fae – dancing, singing and making merry until the cruel winter cuts them down. Group Organisers Hannah and Nate welcomed their new members with a lovely party in the park last weekend. Look at the sweet party bags they made for everyone!

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They all got to know each other over a delicious spread of tasty cake and biscuits, with lots of balloons and bubbles and a view of Arthur’s Seat in the background. Aren’t their rainbow party hats adorable?

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Then they danced and played some games together. Look how much fun they’re having! Don’t you wish you were that happy? It’s like summer will never end. NEVER. It won’t though, right?

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Until…well, we all know what happens to summer at Samhuinn. But everything’s probably fine. They’re OK, aren’t they? AREN’T THEY?

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Clue: They are alright. We’ll be visiting them at a rehearsal this Saturday. If mobile internet reception is behaving itself, we might even go live with some video on Facebook🙂

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.

Introducing Samhuinn 2016 Photopoint

Samhuinn 2016 Photopoint by Neil Barton

Photopoint are BFS’ own squad of volunteer photographers, our purple pixel people, creating a high quality photographic record of the festival, the preceding events and rehearsals, and the people involved. They make our blog and social media beautiful, they work so incredibly hard and they aren’t often in the pictures as they’re usually the ones taking them.

Before they embark on the mammoth task of documenting Samhuinn 2016 and you start enjoying their photos of everyone else, we’d like to introduce you to them. They are (from left) Alasdair, Dan, Maria, Mark (Group Organiser), Martin (Group Organiser) and Neil. We also have a David who isn’t in the picture.

We’re willing to bet their cameras all have names too, but we don’t know what they are.

Photo of Samhuinn 2016 Photopoint by Neil Barton

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.