Our Photo Guide to Beltane 2017 Characters

There was such a cavalcade of colourful characters roaming the Hill on Sunday night, that you may have wondered who was who. To explain a little more, here’s a handy photo-guide to the groups, characters and production crew that came together on the unforgettable night.

Aaarcadia – Fire Arch and the Dystopian Hippylgrimage

Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Aaarcadia at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society

Aarcadia is bunch of nasty fascists only concerned with protecting their hedge (the fire arch). No one should come or go through this border. We will perform with topical political effigies which will provoke the status quo.

After the arch is opened (and our hedge is destroyed) the Fire Arch Group will transition into the Hippylgrimage, a mask based clowning refugee procession, searching for identity and acceptance from the society, but will/should we ever be reaccepted and welcomed given our previous vile state? Learn more here. 

The Aerie

 

Copyright Andrea Hudecz for Beltane Fire Society.
The Aerie at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Andrea Hudecz for Beltane Fire Society

Messengers of hope, we fly and sing to announce the arrival of the Green Man and the May Queen on Calton Hill.

Throughout history, birds have been represented as the manifestation of the heavens’ will, as kind messengers, or harbingers of doom. The Aerie will explore this concept by offering to the witnesses a performance that would herald the coming of Summer, and the return of the Green Man.

We are a performance group that will focus its efforts into blending the use of noisemakers and puppetry in order to weave a narrative based on conflict, closure and renewal. We will also craft our own wings and our own masks, along with a large bird puppet.

Aether Drummers

 

Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
Aether Drummers at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

In a time before time, in a galaxy before galaxies, there was and was not, the Aether. Our material universe is described by means of four physical elements – air, earth, water and fire. But Aether, the fifth element, describes that which exists beyond matter. It is the space, and the non-space, out of which all material objects spring forth.

The fifth element is considered to be vibrational frequency or sound energy. Although the sound may not always be audible, the vibrations are still there at various frequencies. Everything is in constant motion. Aether is omnipresent – it has always been, and therefore never been. This Beltane night, it is time for these sounds to be heard.

Aios Fior (People of the Fire)

 

 

Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
Aios Fior at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

We’re a fire spinning group who will be doing performing partner/group based fire dancing tricks with conventional fire spinning toys (Poi, hoop, staff…)

The Blues

Blues at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.
Blues at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.

The Blues are the guardians and preservers of the rituals and traditions of our festivals. On the night of Beltane, they open and hold the space in which the May Queen comes to life, serving as guides and protectors of Her procession as She leads the Green Man to his death and rebirth, and the lighting of the Beltane Fire.

During the festival preparations, the Blues likewise have a foot in both worlds ~ holding the ritual, myth and traditions that form the core of our festivals, and guiding the development of the performance that tells those stories anew each year. We act as bridges between the Court and the many groups that make up each festival, helping to weave the stories and visions of 300 performers into a single, spectacular tapestry that is more than the sum of its parts.

The Blues are a year-round group, composed of members with a broad experience of performing and organising elements of our celebrations of the four cross-quarter days. In that sense, we are like ‘elders’ of the Beltane ‘tribe,’ drawing upon our knowledge and experience to guide each festival’s participants as they create a performance that is fresh and new while nevertheless rooted in the heritage of both our own and wider Scottish seasonal traditions.

The Beastie Drummers

Beasties at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
Beasties at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

The Beasties are a force of nature, drumming so strong you can’t help but break through the drone of mundanity and tune into deeper, sacral frequencies where all who hear can connect and revel in the magic. We draw our energy from the earth and seize the spectators’ minds until they are dancing, finally in the present moment, with us. We build fierce, cathartic rhythms, creating a communal consciousness; our breath and heartbeats aligning as one big, pulsating vibration. Our fiery groove will fuel the Red energy bursting through the night, flooding the veins and quickening the hearts of everyone on the Hill; drawing them into the contagious awakening of Summer and alighting their own personal fire inside.

Bower

Bower at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
Bower at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

The Bower is the ‘Home on the Hill’.  It is the start of the event for some and the end of the event for everyone. We will be looking at concepts of space, home and welcoming people. Our main focus will be the physical space of Bower and the part it plays in the culmination of the event on the night. However, once the group is formed we will discuss what else can be done with the people we have.

The 30th Beltane is both a moment to look back but also to look forward to future aspirations so where better to do that than from the comfort of your own Home (on the hill)?

The Evergreens

Evergreens at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Dan Mosley for Beltane Fire Society.
Evergreens at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Dan Mosley for Beltane Fire Society.

The Evergreens are the ghosts, memories and joys of the last 30 years relived on the hill by a group of those who have previously portrayed the natural cycle of birth growth and death as the Green Man at Beltane or one of the Kings at Samhuinn.

The Evergreens will wander amongst the witnesses sharing with them a glimpse of half remembered sword-fights, the start of a dance, the shadow of a death.

They then find their home in the bower to see if there accumulated wisdom can survive the journey out of the land of the fay into the world of the mundane carried by this year’s Green.

Fire Puppet Point

 

Fire Puppets at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Prem Shah for Beltane Fire Society.
Fire Puppets at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Prem Shah for Beltane Fire Society.

The dragon and the phoenix are classic creatures of fire. The dragon is strength and vitality; the phoenix is regeneration and renewal. The dragon will embody the element of fire; and the phoenix will, like the Green Man, make a journey through life to death and back to life again. We intend to make these creatures come to life in the classic tradition of BFS by making the puppets out of paraffin-soaked fire rope and setting them on fire!

The Foxes

Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
The Foxes at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

We are the foxes! We are a family of foxes representing Earth and on Beltane night we’ll be set off on the hunt around Calton Hill. We’ll be focusing on body percussion, dynamic acrobatics and a bit of character work and mask making.

The May Queen & Green Man

The May Queen and Green Man at Beltane 2017 | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.
The May Queen and Green Man at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.

The May Queen embodies purity, strength and the potential for growth. She is the personification of the energy of the earth. The Green Man represents the life that grows on earth. They cannot exist without each other.

When the Horned God (the Winter aspect of the Green Man) sees the May Queen in her Maiden form, he realises that to be with the woman he loves he will need to undergo a huge change. As they process together around the hill, he prepares to surrender his life to her. She then gives him life energy and brings him back in his new form, as the Green Man, so they can be together.

Photopoint

Photopoint at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
Photopoint at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

Photo Point create a high quality photographic, and possible video, record of the festival, the preceding events and rehearsals, and the people involved.

We hold photography workshops specifically aimed at preparing our members for photographing the Beltane festival. We photograph preparations leading up to the festival as well as the festival itself.

Processional Drummers

Copyright Andrea Hudecz for Beltane Fire Society.
Processsionals at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Andrea Hudecz for Beltane Fire Society.

The fanatical drummers driving the procession around the hill, unrelenting, air-tearing rhythms. We devote all our energy and focus into drumming at the exclusion of all else. We will be playing Basses, Toms, Snares, High tension snares and assorted percussion.

Reds

Reds at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society.
Reds at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society.

Reds are elemental creatures of chaos and misrule, representatives both of summer and of the Green Man’s love for the May Queen. We are born on the night of Beltane, and we come to maturity by the end of the ritual, where we are united with the Whites. Along the way we wreak merry havoc, playing with audience members, putting up human pyramids, charging with fire, pranking the main procession and generally revelling in our irrepressible spirit of beautiful pandemonium.

Stewards

Stewards at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society.
Stewards at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society

The friendly human face of the Beltane Fire Festival.

We work with the production crew, emergency services and the performance groups to make sure everyone has a safe and joyful Beltane. We are not a performing group but we will interact heavily with the audience, telling them about the significance of the celebrations and about some of the things they will see so that they can make the most of their experience.

Tech

Tech at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
Tech at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

Tech are the stage crew of Beltane.

In the run up to Beltane we build fire sculptures and props for groups, preparing everything to be taken to the Hill. In the days immediately before and on the day, we prepare Calton Hill for the festival – building stages and decorating the hill, as well as setting up the fencing, crowd barriers, toilets and lighting. During the event, as well as looking after the safety of our audience and performers, we run the neid fire to the key points, making sure all the performers have the light and toys they need and maybe even fire some pyrotechnics. At the end of the event and on the day after we take it all down again.

With this being the 30th Anniversary we will be looking to go a bit bigger than in the last few years with more sculptures, decorations and most importantly MORE FIRE!!!

Torchbearers

 

Torchbearer at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.
Torchbearer at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.

We stand between the darkness and the light allowing the audience to see through the veil and witness the festival.

Torchbearers are the physical representation of the veil between worlds. We provide the light that allows the audience to see the performance and are a visual barrier between the audience and the performance.

In the beginning we light the Neid fire providing all fire on the hill, then carry that fire in our torches along the procession and into performance spaces in order to provide light.

Water Point

 

Water Point at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.
Water Point at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.

Yo ho ho. We be a crew of hearty sea dogs sailing our pirate Galleon across the high seas of Calton Hill.

Whites

 

Whites at Beltane Fire Society | Copyright Prem Shah for Beltane Fire Society.
Whites at Beltane Fire Society | Copyright Prem Shah for Beltane Fire Society.

“We will take this journey without hesitation”

Whites are strong, sure footed, serene and confident beings.

We know there is change in the air, trials to face and lessons we must learn.  We choose to put our complete faith and trust in the May Queen. She is our guide and we are Her companions as we travel together around the hill.

We rise with Her from the Earth and survey the barren landscape, knowing we must journey to create fertile lands once more. Her intentions work through us to help protect the procession from the forces that threaten and test it. In turn She gives us purpose and shows us where our destiny lies.

When the May Queens calls forth a reborn Green Man we know we are nearing the end and that our destiny awaits. Our last duty is to bring our energy to the flame that signals the return of summer. At Bower the reward for our efforts is made real as we have our final, destined, encounter with the Reds.

We choose to do our duty to the Court out of faith, trust and love for the May Queen.

2 thoughts on “Our Photo Guide to Beltane 2017 Characters

  1. Really impressive! But surely Beltane 2017 will not occur until tomorrow, the fifth full moon after the winter solstice? This pagan Celtic festival long pre-dates the imposition of the Roman calendar. The matter of dates for our ancient celebrations is something that I have wondered about for years, and I would welcome your views on this.

    Like

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