There’s a beautiful anarchic spirit about
Beltane Fire Festival with performance groups scampering seemingly everywhere drumming up a noise and playing with fire. But there is method to all the madness, with each section of the festival united by a common narrative.
A lot of the story we embody is down to individual interpretation, but to help you make sense of it all we’ve put together a bare bones description of the procession’s journey – and the groups it meets – around Calton Hill.
To get to know the characters appearing at Beltane this year,
have a read through our first “In pictures” post. the awakening
The first Neid fire is lit at the Acropolis, kicking off the festival with its ritual spark. The Green Man is still in his wintry guise, puffed up from the belief that everyone is gathered for him alone. The May Queen emerges from the Acropolis ready to rebirth Summer. She spots her consort-to-be, the Green Man, who to her dismay is unready for their journey ahead.
Copyright Gordon Veitch (top left), Martin McCarthy (top middle), Vince Graham (top right), and Dan Mosley (bottom) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. Making choices
The May Queen marches forward, taking the procession and the Green Man with her. She must choose to turn left and begin her anti-clockwise walk to start turning the wheel of the seasons. The Unsaeli, the dark court of the faeries, attempt to distract the May Queen from her quest. The procession arrives at Fire Arch, where all – including the Green Man – must shed their past to pass through and enter the Underworld.
Copyright Vince Graham (top left), Duncan Reddish (top middle), Kasia Sowinska (top right), and Gordon Veitch (bottom) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. embracing the elements
The mother goddess journeys to Earth Point, where she meets daughters of the Earth the Gaia Filiae. She moves on and encounters the mysterious Kelpies, the water horses from Scotland’s lochs and rivers.
Copyright Vince Graham (left and right) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. the reds interfere
The Reds, recognising their connection to the Green Man, steal the consort away from his journey. They take him to the stage, where they play and frolic with their leader. But the Reds are drawn again to the procession, captivated by the calmer energies of the Whites. Wanting to better know the Whites and the May Queen, the Reds charge but are fended off by the more self-disciplined objects of their desire. The Green Man is reunited with the procession while the Reds, buoyed up with energy, go on to perform an explosive display of acro with the Beastie drummers.
Copyright Vince Graham (top left), Gordon Veitch (top middle, bottom left, and bottom right), and Scott Miller (top right) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. The green Man’s death and rebirth
To complete the Green Man’s journey to his summer self, he must die at the May Queen’s hand. The May Queen momentarily wavers – can she trust the Green Man to come back? She decides yes, and kills him. She spins anti-clockwise, casting magic and drawing energy from all on the Hill to restore the Green Man. The Green Man takes his first breath as his renewed summery self, and dances a dance of revitalised energy, new beginnings, and love for the months to come. The May Queen crowns the Green Man and welcomes him as her partner in ruling over Summer.
Copyright Gordon Veitch (top left, top middle, and top right) and Martin McCarthy (bottom left and bottom right) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. The first spark of summer sealed with a kiss
The reunited May Queen and Green Man share a kiss that for many represents Summer’s conception. The two light our ritual bonfire together, birthing the spark that will burn all through the Summer. The Reds clamber to make their own pyre onstage, cleansing all who walk between the real and symbolic bonfires.
Copyright Vince Graham (left), Prem Shah (middle), and Martin McCarthy (right) for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved.
Featured image by Scott A. Winchester for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.
Beltane Fire Festival are available to buy online from Citizen Ticket. Join the Facebook event here.