Why do we celebrate an ancient pagan festival in modern times?

The stories that we tell each other are so important for reflecting on our world, and Beltane Fire Festival is no exception, There are lots of ways that the narrative we tell at our Summer festival is tied to key parts of modern life, and we wanted to share some of them with you.

We connect with the earth

A major part of Beltane Fire Festival is holding a torch up to nature and the ways that it nurtures us. The May Queen can be read as an embodiment of Spring and the plants, flowers, and new animals that begin to grow. We have performance groups portraying the elements – Air, Earth, Water, and of course Fire. And by marking the turn of the seasons, we pay tribute to the sun’s pull on our planet and the enormous impact that it has had on our way of life through the ages.

The May Queen on the environmental message in her performance at this year’s Beltane Fire Festival

This year our festival will also draw attention to the ways that we can try and protect our planet at a crucial time for its future health. Our May Queen will explore the goddess’s fierce maternal love towards the earth and how rage like hers over how badly it has been treated can be harnessed for positive action. Parts of her dress will highlight the damage done by trash to our oceans, and more widely we are encouraging our performance groups to create their costumes out of recycled materials and fabrics to help reduce waste.

We come together as a community

In times like these it’s especially important to come together and reflect on our relationships in all their lovely messy glory. Community is the glue that holds our festival together, both today and in ancient times. At traditional Beltane celebrations all the fires in the community were put out and relit using the flame from one single Neid fire, a cleansing fire that was believed to ward off disease and keep families safe. By reinvigorating their hearths from the same spark, the community could shake off the last vestiges of Winter and march forward together.

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

In modern times, we’re very proud of the Beltane community that we lovingly foster throughout the year. It’s like a big family, held together by the strong friendships that are forged between our volunteers in the run up to each festival. We still light all the fires on the Hill at Beltane Fire Festival from the same small spark, drawing our own community and all our witnesses together as we turn to embrace the new Summer months.

We celebrate being in the moment

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

In our busy tech-heavy world it’s difficult to take a moment to look up from our devices and really take in the “now”. We think that Beltane Fire Festival is a perfect time to slow down for a minute and soak in the atmosphere. There’s so much to experience! Fire, costumes, singing, drumming, dancing, acrobatics, and a whole lot of unbridled joy. We’d encourage you to put down your phone at the festival, really lap up all the sights and sounds, and forget about the rest of the world down the bottom of the Hill for one dazzling night.

We remember the significance of public ritual

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

We cannot emphasise enough how important we think it is for people to come together for a party. Because that’s what Beltane Fire Festival is at heart – a huge revelry when thousands of us allow ourselves to enjoy the moment together. Our festival was originally founded in 1988 by members of the industrial band Test Dept and notable Scottish folklorists near the time that Margaret Thatcher began clamping down on unlicensed public gatherings. In a cultural climate when the authorities were cracking down on large spontaneous celebrations, Beltane Fire Festival showed an ancient history of communities partying and feeling joy together in the face of hardship.

Featured image by Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

Tickets for Beltane Fire Festival are available to buy online from Citizen Ticket. Join the Facebook event here.

2 thoughts on “Why do we celebrate an ancient pagan festival in modern times?

  1. Ive gone to this every year for the last 14 years and every year its totaly fantastic just would like to thank everyone thats makes this happen thank you xx


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