Beltane Fire Society

Igniting the traditional Neid Fire

Copyright Dan Mosley for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. www.beltane.org / facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

One of the most famous aspects of all our festivals is the fire. At Samhuinn Fire Festival, our volunteers make a striking spectacle as they make their way down the Royal Mile surrounded by flames. It doesn’t just look good though. It also ties us to the ancient traditions at the heart of Samhuinn.

The night starts with the lighting of our torches, which are ignited from one single fire called the Neid Fire. The Neid Fire itself is lit using a traditional method that has been passed down for generations since the original Celtic celebrations. We start it by hand with a bow, a hazel spindle, and a pine hearth board, using a bit of good old-fashioned friction to spark the kindling. Once we have a smouldering ember, it is spun through the air in a metal contraption to give it plenty of oxygen and help it catch fully alight.

Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / http://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

In ancient communities, the hearth in every home would be extinguished to make way for the new purified fire. A torch was carried from the Neid fire to each family, so that their fireplace could be renewed for the winter months. Communities faced the cold that was drawing in together and embraced the changes on the horizon.

It was believed to be bad luck if any of the fires went out, so great pains were taken to keep them alight. The flames offered protection to families, lighting up the darker months and keeping their homes warm against the elements.

We too will keep our torches alight as our procession moves down the Royal Mile to maintain that link with all those who have celebrated Samhuinn before us. The fire unites our own community, and lights up the sky as we put on one of Edinburgh’s most unique shows.

Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / http://www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

Samhuinn Fire Festival takes place on Tuesday 31st October around 9pm. More information about the event is available here: https://beltane.org/samhuinn-fire-festival-2017/

Photo of Samhuinn 2016 – Copyright Dan Mosley for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. http://www.beltane.org / facebook.com/beltanefiresociety