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 us online: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Tumblr

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.

Learn to work with willow [Workshop for BFS members only]

 

Beltane 2016 / The Aerie / St Margaret's House / EdinburghOn Sunday 4 December at the Calton Centre in Edinburgh, 1pm – 5pm, we are holding a free workshop for Beltane Fire Society members on using willow for festival props and decorations. Places on ‘Working with willow: lanterns and puppets and puppety lanterns!’ are very limited, so if you want to join, please book your place now.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A WORKSHOP FOR CURRENT BFS MEMBERS ONLY (i.e those who have taken part as a Beltane Fire Society volunteer in one or more of our recent festivals).

As thoughts of our Edinburgh Beltane’s 30th anniversary are beginning to seep into our creative consciousness, it’s about time to start sharing some of our long-forgotten skills and crafts. In years gone by willow crafts in the forms of lanterns and puppets and puppety-lanterns were a BFS staple; having let this art fall by the wayside in recent years, it’s now time to dust it off and see what we can do with it for Beltane 2017!

BFS invites you to book a free place to join members Helen Bradburn and Ross Flemington for a workshop from 1pm-5pm on Sunday 4th December, in the downstairs studio at the Calton Centre. In the session our volunteer workshop leaders will show you how to play and create with willow (get started by helping make lanterns for the Hill!); to learn and experiment; give you chance to ask questions, and to throw around ideas about the illuminated world of willow lanterns and puppets.

In this workshop we will cover:

  • Suppliers and materials – sourcing
  • Getting to grips with your materials
  • Finding out what BFS has to loan for big projects
  • Scope of ideas – how small, how big?
  • Puppet building – backpacks and the basics (presented by Ross Flemington)
  • Illuminating spaces
  • Making a lantern: finish it on the day or take it away with you and bring it back to the Open Meeting to inspire others… we would like you to contribute your efforts, by making a lantern which will be on the hill for the 30th celebrations… yep, the prep starts here!

Please bring water and lunch/nibbles for yourself and to share, to keep us all going across this bumper workshop!

How to book your place

Please only book a place if you are certain you will attend: places are strictly limited to make sure those who do come along will get as much support and chance to learn as possible. But if you are sure, book your place now via Eventbrite.

Only those who have booked on will be able to take part in this particular workshop, but we’re hoping to run many more as part of the build up to our 30th anniversary, on a whole host of skills, so don’t worry if you can’t make this one!

Photo by Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society

Fire Ravens video

Our Samhuinn 2016 Fire Ravens share a special group project…

The Fire Ravens came together as a band of mercenaries to fight in the battle of Summer and Winter at Samhuinn. Unaligned, the Ravens would side with the strongest on the night. Months of training and development went into making a new group, whose concept had never been tested in BFS before. This video was created as a memory for the group and as a future reference for groups of a similar nature.

We hope you enjoy this little insight into the Raven Brotherhood.

Planniversary! [meeting for current BFS members only]

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On Sunday 20th November, from 2pm – 5pm, we’ll be holding a grand PLANNIVERSARY meeting at the Calton Centre, for any and all BFS members who can make it (and have the energy).

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OPEN MEETING. This is a meeting only for people who are current BFS members, i.e. who have taken part as a BFS volunteer in one or more of our recent festivals. If you want to join us for one of our future festivals, this isn’t the way to do that. Instead, please do come along to the Beltane 2017 open meeting that we’ll be holding in February 2017 – we’ll share all the details in the new year on beltane.org as well as all our social media channels so it’ll be impossible to miss. Thanks!

As you may know, 2017 will be our 30th Beltane Fire Festival, and we’d love BFS members to come share ideas and plan how we can celebrate this special anniversary.

This isn’t an open meeting like the ones we have at the beginning of each festival, and it isn’t like the blethers we hold every now and again: this planniversary meeting is an entirely unique (and beautiful) beast. We want existing BFS members to bring ideas about what we could do to mark the anniversary, over and above our usual festival activities. There will be lots of active smaller group discussion to spark ideas, rather than the one-at-a-time-in-front-of-everyone format we use for blethers. We’ll be looking for people to come ready to start thinking big and help make things happen – but it’s no problem if you don’t have any particular ideas in mind. We just want you to be part of it.

To be clear: this won’t be about tying yourself to anything that will restrict your ability to run or sign up to groups for Beltane 2017 itself – we won’t be discussing festival groups and concepts, characters and so on at this meeting. That’ll all happen in the usual way and to the usual timeline. This event is just about kicking off anything else we might want to make happen, so we don’t miss the opportunity our 30th anniversary provides. We might decide to do very little, or lots – it’s entirely up to us all as BFS members.

So, mark the planniversary meeting in your diaries for 20th November, and we hope to see you there!

Love and hugs,

Your BFS Board and Blues xx

You’re welcome to register your attendance on our Facebook event page.

Photo of Beltane 2016 by Laura Wallace

To align ourselves with the changing season

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Some words from our Blues as we move into the dark half of the year…

Samhuinn passes. The spirits draw back behind the veil as it closes and thickens like the winter mist. All that remains now are traces – shadows, footprints – and flickers of memory, the ever-fainter memories of moments that, like a glimpse of eternity, are paradoxically stretched, yet over before they began.

Those of us on the mortal side of the veil seem to find ourselves in another land. The north winds bear icily down and darkness descends earlier and earlier each night. It is winter now.

Isn’t this what we wanted? But it doesn’t matter what side you were on. The question is immaterial. It will be winter whether we will it or not. The point of the ritual of Samhuinn is not to bring on the winter, which is inevitable, but to align ourselves with the changing season. To acknowledge the cycles of nature, and understand ourselves as a part of it, with our own cycles attuned to the greater wheel.

For that reason, it often strikes us as a shame to hear folk already speaking about Beltane. On one hand, it’s understandable. We’ve had months of intense, bonding activities culminating in a spectacular show of which we can all be proud. Like children, we pour off the ride, “Again! Again!”

But on the other hand, it misses the point. Last Beltane feels an age ago and it will feel a similar age by the time the next Beltane rolls around. In between is a whole season, with its own beauty, gifts, and challenges. It seems a shame to wish it away.

Our lives are richer than our festivals. Our festivals should not be ends in themselves, but focal points, serving to reconnect us to this time, this place…here, now. To rush ahead too far is dilute the spirit of the festival, and to risk losing it in another spectacle of consumption, of which the world has far too much already.

So as we wish you Happy Samhuinn, we also wish you to take the time to breathe, to appreciate the good to be found in the dark half of the year. If you have ideas for Beltane – and especially if you have big ideas – let them simmer in the dream-state, just below consciousness, and focus your energy on connecting to the Here and Now, so that when light starts growing stronger again, you’ll be more in tune with the season, the earth, and yourself, rested and ready to burst forth.

And remember, your community has not gone away. There are plenty of outlets for creative energy and togetherness. We’d love to hear some grassroots ideas to mark our next quarter day – Imbolc – not to mention gathering before that to celebrate the Yule. And for those who can’t resist thinking of Beltane, our Planniversary is coming up on November 20th, where we will be gathering ideas and energies to create an extra-special backdrop for our coming 30th year.

Happy Samhuinn to you all…and, sincerely, enjoy the winter!

Photo by Martin McCarthy

Wandering fae on Samhuinn day

During the daylight hours, before the darkness (and rain, so much rain!) of Samhuinn night descended, our Faerie Porters explored the human city of Edinburgh. They travelled from the wild lands of Leith to Calton Hill to the city centre, via some event spaces and one definitely Not An Event Space, as well as a Samhuinn-themed Wikipedia editathon at which Dr Neil Rhind…sorry, Dr Samnogamus Perygyll de Cluaracaun de Guelph, emerged from a coffin to give an educational talk to the gathered mortals. Photopoint were there to capture the madness, magic, mystery and spontaneous trapeeze-based activities.

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Faerie Porters, Edinburgh

Faerie Porters, Edinburgh

You can see even more photos of the Faerie Porters on Samhuinn day in this album on Facebook.

Photos by (from top, two each) David Purvis, Martin McCarthy and Neil Barton.

Tech heroes!

This is Tech, our amazing stage crew. Photopoint Neil captured them in their boiler-suited glory on Samhuinn night!

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In the run up to Samhuinn they built fire sculptures and prepare everything to be taken to festival venue under the watchful, expert eyes of Group Organisers Helen, Greig and Jonny. On the day, they built stages and decoration as well as setting up the fencing, crowd barriers and lighting. This year, they did a lot of that in the rain. Techie Fenland took some pictures of a backstage view that is rarely seen by anyone other than the crew themselves.

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During the event, as well as looking after the safety of our audience and performers, they lit the fire sculptures and fired the pyrotechnics. At the end of the festival they took it all down again. But that wasn’t the end of their work! In the days following the festival, everything needed to be transported, sorted, inventoried, packed and stored. This year, a LOT of things also needed to be dried. Techies Greig and Jonny took some pictures of the boiler suits, gloves, tarps, tents and various other bits and pieces all laid out to dry the day after the festival.

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Sometimes there’s even a bit of Tech gear overflow, as seen on Techie Matt’s washing line below.

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At our festivals, you see a lot of Tech’s work. You just don’t often see Tech themselves. They’re creative and industrious with serious skills and very little would happen without them. Our heroes!

Samhuinn 2016 video playlist on YouTube

In case you can’t get enough Samhuinn 2016, we’ve been creating a playlist on YouTube so you can relive the night (except with less rain falling on you). Enjoy!

Feast your eyes on more Samhuinn goodness

Our wonderful Photopoint volunteers have delivered their next batch of Samhuinn 2016 photos. There will be hundreds more coming throughout November and you can see them all as they happen in this Facebook album as well as a selection shared on our Instagram. Here are just a few to get you started…

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Samhuinn 2016, Parliament Square, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

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

First Samhuinn 2016 photos!

Our intrepid (and soggy!) Photopoint volunteers share their first shots from the festival. More are on the way over the next few days. HAPPY SAMHUINN!

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Samhuinn 2016, Parliament Square, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Samhuinn 2016, Parliament Square, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Photos (from top, x2 each) by Alasdair Birchwood, Dan Mosley, David Purvis, Maria Astefanoaei, Mark Taylor, Martin McCarthy and Neil Barton

Dancing, not fighting

In our final blog post before Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016, our Cailleach, Diana, talks about facing her demons.

diana-at-the-indoor-walkthrough-by-mark-taylor

Tonight I will dance.

As Cailleach I am as old as rock. I’ve seen thousands of thousands of Winters and am unafraid of the inevitable death and decay that they bring. And tonight I will witness once more a face-off between forces of Summer and Winter, and especially a crisis of control and identity between my Summer and Winter Kings.

I will watch with deepest love, yet I will not intervene even if the actions taken to enact the conflict break my strong heart once again.

And I know that in the shorter days to come the long dark nights will bring a more inward-looking place for humans. Sitting inside, even if blessed by the warmth of the fire, we are perhaps especially likely to face our demons. The internal self-deceptions that tell us we are not worthy; that we must hide ourselves; that we must always serve others until we break rather than dare to care for ourselves, and the many and varied other forms that demons come in, seeming to seek to sabotage us. And by witnessing and acknowledging that they may care for me, I have the chance to turn a demon’s energy into a healthier form of care, to make it my ally. To then perhaps become more considered about how I care for myself.

And if they truly reveal themselves via my curiosity to have no care for me then I may choose to cast them out to melt back into the earth and nourish it. But that is not a given as a response.

So my “Demon Dance” tonight will not be a fight, but just that – a dance. And even as it focuses on inner demons; as I enter into a solo dance before my full revelation as Cailleach, I will also be focused on the outer demonic actions of humans against each other. Even as I express rage at how many of us humans are in life or death struggles with inner demons whose messages to us obscure our gorgeous talents and strong hearts: I will also be enacting a personal raging at the many acts of inhumanity abroad in our world.

And my personal belief is that we must try our best to understand each other and seek solidarity and commonality as we face the inner and outer demons and I will dance for all who have a sense of resonance with any of these themes.

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Photos (from top) by Mark Taylor and Neil Barton.

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