Hey, my name is Jay, and I’m a Beltane virgin. Well, not anymore, for obvious reasons. I decided several months ago to part of the Beltane Fire Society, after having been privileged enough to watch their celebrations of Summer. It was a dreary, soggy, slightly windy day. And yet, the Magick was there. The drums shook the earth, fire danced and writhed, and the wind rose hungrily to greet the performers as they walked around Calton Hill. I was like a kid brought to the fair for the first time. I could not stay in one spot. I had to be here, there, possibly everywhere.
Most of the people who had welcomed me, an outsider, into this fair city were part of it. I wanted to see them, to watch their own vision of the Summer festival. It increasingly felt like an invitation to me. Through the drums, the screams and joyous dances, I could feel that a door had opened that night. For me, and possibly others.
I had to know what was behind that door, what my friends had found there.
So I became a Torchbearer for Samhuinn, and so many things changed. I went through that door, and discovered myself. I saw my own weakness, my desire to be accepted, my crushing fear to be judged by others. And my respect for the performers increased even more. Slowly, I became aware that the door had closed behind me. And I realized I was one of them.
And the fear started to vanish, to be replaced by wonderful, tantalizing images of the grinning horror that I would become, for that night, the first of the Long Nights to come. I came back to the Torchies, still nervous about my status as a newcomer, and found nothing but welcoming smiles, and an open mind. Tanya and David Simpson, Group Organisers of the Torchbearers, were there at every stage of celebration to make sure we would all know what to do, where to go, and more importantly, who we were.
Then Samhuinn came. The anxiety of the last few hours dissolved like mist once the celebration started, and I can’t honestly say how long it lasted. It felt like a dream. Only this time, I was not looking at it as bystander. I was a part of it.
The process of becoming a Torchie was sometimes a challenging one, there is no doubt about that. But searching for a moment of truth carries its own rewards, and being part of that group made it all so much worthwhile.
To all the bystanders who would stumble upon this testimony, I say : Don’t miss that door if you see it ! You don’t know for how long it might stay open.
Photo of Jay at Samhuinn 2014 by Gyorgy Papp.