Beltane 2017: These Were Some of Our Highlights.. What Were Yours?

It’s been a week now since the neid fire was lit and the call horn sounded on Calton Hill for the 30th time. Before the memories fade into the night we wanted to share with you some of our highlights. And we’d love to hear yours. So think back to the stand out moment that made Beltane Fire Festival so special… and share it with us in the comments section below.

Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
The Reds at the beginning of Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

That moment when we are all outside the getting ready space before we are anywhere near the hill, looking around a group of almost 50 red faces and being met with the feeling of déjà vu, like we have all done this so many times before, like we have lived this lifetime a hundred times we have seen these faces wearing the sacred red paint an infinite amount of times before.  Knowing in that moment that everything we have done, everything we have worked towards, all the connections we have made and the bonds of love that have been created come to this… This one moment … Nothing else matters now, whether or not we pull off all of the pyramids we have trained matters not, because in this moment we are ready we are and always have been and forever will be RED and that will never change.

Will, Red GO

Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
The burning of Water Point’s boat at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

My favourite moments:  when in the last few metres of our Pirate Galleon’s journey across the hill, it was proving tricky to get the boat up a steep hill to red slope, where it was being “parked” until it was time to burn it, the reds stepped out of their narrative and helped us push it up the slope. Was a real moment of community. 

Watching the boat burn: more emotional than expected,  we’d put so much work into building it, the day before we were still adding last minute bits and bobs, but it looked so beautiful on the bonfire. People couldn’t believe that after putting so much effort into making the thing, we were going to burn it, but watching it dissolve into the flames was the perfect end to the evening. 

Katie, Water Point GO

Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
The bonfire at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society.

My favourite moments included watching Margaret Bennett being kidnapped by the Reds to the Bonfire and Angus being pulled into the fenced off area at the last minute before the toast, both with the biggest grins on their faces.

Georgia Royes, Event Coordinator

Copyright Mark S I Taylor for Beltane Fire Society.
The Whites and Court at the Acropolis at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Mark S I Taylor for Beltane Fire Society.

This has been my 5th Beltane Festival. Firstly as a Steward, then as a Bower and the last 3 years I have been one of the Whites.  For me my favourite moment has been the same moment every year I have been White. Once we are on the hill we get into position behind the acropolis waiting for the sun to set for it to be dark enough for the neid fire to be lit. Behind the acropilod loking out over the Bower , Fire Arch and the elements you can see and feel the excitement of the crowd building yet being apart from it. I felt a sense of calm. The culmination of two months of hard work and there is nothing more we can do but perform to the best of our ability.

Night falls and the neid fire is lit. Slowly the torchies and drummers file out into position on the acropolis then it is the turn of the Whites. We get into postion. Turn and kneal. The 3 blasts of the horn then the familiar drum pattern of Acropolis 8s kicks off as we slowly rise from the earth with the May Queen and start the acropolis sequence.

There is nothing like the feeling of hearing the drums that kicks off the whole festival. It gives me shivers of excitement year round when I remember that moment.

Hannah, Whites GO

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

My first Beltane, but my third.  Second festival, but my sixth… I came to BFS as the Event Coordinator for Samhuinn 2014, but for the 30th Beltane I got to be a Beastie.  I’m still aching a little, and I only just washed the last of the red out of my hair today.  I’ve never drummed before, didn’t think I would to be honest, but as it turns out, hitting things with sticks is fun.  

Having made the festival work from a top level production perspective, it was a joy to find that there were still aspects of Beltane left for me to discover.  To develop a relationship with a group, to place my trust in and be led by three extremely talented group leaders, who would challenge me and help me push past my comfort level, to be given license to play… these are experiences not often had in other places.  

We burst through the fire arch, a piece of the chaos of Summer escaping from the underworld.  We got to play on the Acropolis, looking out over Edinburgh.  We hurtled towards the Whites carrying flaming brands.  We drummed ourselves into a reverie by firelight and we threw our heads back in laughter as the Reds built towers and we kept drumming.  Our heartbeat, accompanying the turning of the season.  

Sara Thomas, Ex-Event Coordinator, and First Time Beastie

Copyright Mark S I Taylor for Beltane Fire Society.
The May Queen lights the fire arch at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Mark S I Taylor for Beltane Fire Society.

In my first Beltane volunteering it was my privilege, as a Tech, to physically light one side of the Fire Arch as the performers ritually opened it. No choofers in those days.

It warms my heart that this year’s story has allowed the May Queen to physically light it herself. This is a beautiful photograph which encapsulates so many memories for me, and yet also brings home a part of the night I missed.

Robert J Lee, The Foxes

Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
The opening ceremony on the Acropolis at Beltane Fire Festival 2017 | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

I loved the anticipation as the May Queen mounted the Acropolis, revealing herself to the waiting crowd, and I loved the journey to the end of the night when the pirate ship went up in flames.

Glen Thomson, Event Safety Officer

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

“One of my favorite parts of this Beltane was getting to terrify the audience. My character (as part of the Storm Birds of The Aerie) was a dark, bedraggled vulture with a twisted sense of humor, who liked nothing better than to inspire fear. I snuck up on people and screamed ‘FOOOD’ at them, then laughed maniacally — especially satisfying to do to those watching the performance through the lens of a smartphone!” – Andrew Bell

“When the hill is as packed as it can be, sometimes there’ll be people who don’t get to see much of the performers over everyone else’s heads. My favourite part of the festival was a little moment when The Aerie were going from Air Point to Bower with our Albatross – we had her high up on her poles, and I heard a gasp along the lines of “That’s beautiful!” from a witness tucked behind a few rows of crowd.  Snatched snippets of happiness like that, knowing you’ve brought someone joy, make everything feel worthwhile.” – Sarah Barr

“My favourite part was waiting for the Procession to reach us. It is a special thing to know that the heart of the festival, its primeval force is walking towards you, and that nothing can stop it from reaching you. It felt like a wave to me, almost imperceptible at first, then pressing down on me like a building storm. Our meeting with the May Queen and the Green Man was beyond description. Gentle and furious, tormented and peaceful. At this end, it was a powerful and transcending experience, and it made for a memory that I’ll cherish for a very long time indeed.” – Jay Wiwezar

The Aerie

Featured image by Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

These are a few of the highlights, but we’d love to hear yours. Whether you were an audience member, performer, volunteer, first timer or long time Beltaner, share your highlights in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Beltane 2017: These Were Some of Our Highlights.. What Were Yours?

  1. I came to Beltane as a Steward in 2016, became a group organiser for Samhuinn 2016 as a Fire Raven but this was my first Beltane as a performer. My excitement built throughout the getting ready space and walk to the hill. We started off at Bonfire Point slowely building our performance then it was to the Acropolis where I joined the rest of Aios Fior to do a partner performance. It was fantastic. 2 months of hard work accumulated into a fantastic show. As our props extinguished, it was my big moment. A dream come true. I had the opportunity to perform Charcoal Poi on the Acropolis to end the Aios Fior performance with an explosive shower of sparks.

    The crowd went wild but were completely drowned out by the cheers and supportive shouting from The Beasties, Reds and Aios Fior behind me. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. ❤

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    1. I wish my father could read this (and your post “Stop worrying that your twentysomething is lost”) and understand this. Right now I’m in my third year of university and he keeps giving advice about what I should do – a few courses on Law, or Bussneis-related stuff. (I’m enrolled in two BA programs: English & Chinese Studies.) Luckily my mom understands me, even though I don’t really know what my future’s going to look like – and she knows that.

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    2. From my prospective as an amateur inventor, I think management consulting firms are a contributor to high unemployment. Reason? They, more than likely, advise their clients to ignore, dissuade, or flat out refuse to even consider innovative offerings from amateur inventors like myself. Granted, most patents are issued to companies who utilize, in house, R&D labs; but, that’s no excuse for refusing to, at least, look at likely losers from amateurs. The greatness of this country can largely be attributed to the innovative offerings of amateur inventors. Edison, just to name one. 216 381 3111.

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  2. Nikki, thanks for the comment over at my blog. I enjoy yours as well and am trying to get my blogroll in order. I’m deeitinfly dreading going off my parents insurance in May, but hopefully I’ll be able to find a great job with some awesome benefits.

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