The veil between our world and the next draws thin on the magical night of Beltane. Strange and otherworldly creatures begin to walk among us at Beltane Fire Festival, allowing us a glimpse of a more supernatural realm. The Torchbearers represent our first step into this new world, standing at the barrier between our witnesses and the festival’s procession, both illuminating our fantastical visitors and guarding the border between the two worlds.
Obscured in dark hooded cloaks, our Torchies are shadowy and mysterious beings who appear familiar in a human-like form yet somehow retain some ethereal essence. They are of the human realm, but also not.
Ordinarily solemn and stoic, our Torchies this year will manifest the joy and happiness that accompanies the wheel’s turn towards Summer. Fire is like a flower that comes in many colours – sometimes red, sometimes orange, yellow, or even blue! – and the flames that the Torchies carry are reminders of the growth and new life that is to come.
The Torchbearers bear the paramount task of igniting and spreading the sacred Neid fire. By sparking the flame and carrying it through the festival, they reignite the fire and warmth of Summer. The spark that they nurture is the embodiment of the returning sun, accompanying the festival’s procession on its circle around the Hill just like the sun’s orbit around the Earth.
Standing all around the Hill, the Torchies draw our community together by lighting our way with torches ignited from that same Neid fire. We are united by the multiple torches lit from the same single spark.
Featured image from still in film by Jacob-Forsyth Davies for Beltane Fire Society.