Our Samhuinn 2016 Blues talk about the traditions and symbolism of their group identity and role within the Society.
The Blues play the role of elders in our colourful tribe. They are chosen from participants who have experienced the festivals from many perspectives, often as, or close to, the Court figures at Beltane or Samhuinn, and who know the traditions and ritual elements of our performances. On the nights of festivals, they array themselves in two colours – blue and copper – symbolising the two key roles they serve for the community.
The Blues are the guardians of the ritual, preserving the traditions that have evolved through our festivals, and guiding their enactment at each turn of the wheel. The colour blue is a hark back to some of the earliest inhabitants of these lands, who it is believed painted themselves with woad before ritual ceremonies or battles. Although our festivals are modern manifestations, not re-enactments, the blue is a wink back at a druidic culture and a worldview that saw humans as part of nature, not opposed to it.
Our festivals are distinctive in that they hold ritual at the heart of the theatrics. We repeat stories and practices in order to connect ourselves to the season, the land, and to those who came before us. Our performances are not about any particular individual, but about the community coming together to participate and witness, and to feel themselves as part of a bigger whole – a society, a species, a planet.
Copper is an excellent conductor and the Blues’ other main role is to act as a connecting thread, both from past to future, and between and among the diverse groups who come together to co-create each festival. Over nearly 30 years, Beltane Fire Society has grown from a small bunch of passionate artists and activists into a vibrant, living community, whose own traditions and mythology have taken root amongst the age-old Scottish folklore we preserve and revive.
Our festival lore is fascinating inasmuch as it remains primarily an oral history. There is richness and depth to the characters we embody and the traditions we enact that is passed on from participant to participant. The Blues act as a living memory of stories and traditions, ensuring that the underlying reasons and themes for our festivals are not forgotten, and helping participants understand where they have come from as they create where they go next.
Blue and copper.
Ritual and tradition.
The blues are guides who point the way…
Photos (from top) by Richard Winpenny of the Blues on stage at Samhuinn 2012, and Martin McCarthy of the Blues preparing for Samhuinn 2016.
The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here.