It’s fair to say that this is one of our most complex Samhuinn Fire Festivals yet. We’ve got not just one but three court members that wend their separate ways around Calton Hill, each interacting with a series of other characters who may accompany them as they embark on their respective journeys to a new season.
This means that you can choose to align yourself with Winter, Summer, or to follow the mysterious Cailleach as she turns the wheel of the year into its Winter aspect. Are you a lover of Summer parties, warming yourself at Winter’s hearth, or witnessing the Crone goddess’s journey from anger and grief through to acceptance and peace? Where you start your night on Calton Hill is decided by that.
This blog post describes the beginning of the festival’s performance, so you can pick where you position yourself to witness the start of the Samhuinn story.
Summer throws one last massive party
Better to go out with a bang than a whimper, eh? That’s what the Beastie drummers would say! As the Summer King stands at Kings Point surveying his kingdom, his warmblooded followers – the Beasties and the Reds – are drumming up the final party for the season.
The Summer King and his community have celebrated, frolicked and gathered all the way through the warm months, and now they have a plenteous harvest stored. But something isn’t quite right. The world is changing rapidly, and the seasons are not what they once were. The Summer King is initially oblivious to the changes, but it is widely known that he is not much longer for this world. Later in the evening the Callieach passes her wisdom to these two kings and it becomes clear what must happen next. Only one king will remain.
Summer has grown overripe. It is tenacious, hyperactive, filled with energy that spreads all over Calton Hill. As new forces begin to stir around the festival, the Beastie drummers march on to Earth Point and the Reds spill over the Acropolis in defiance of what lies ahead.
The crone goddess emerges from the Otherworld
The Neid fire awakens the Cailleach from her slumber, and She rises out of her cave and enters the mortal realm. The cycle of the triple goddess has begun its turn around the year, and with Winter on the horizon it is the Crone goddess’s turn to walk once more.
She wakes at Earth Point, the Cailleach’s Cavern, surrounded by Her followers – the Gaia Filiae, the Triskele drummers, and the Cailleachan. They are gathered here to celebrate balance and the never ending cycle from one season to the next. There is work to be done. As the Triskele begin to drum, the Cailleach sends the Guth na Mara (Voice of the Sea) away to awaken the Winter King.
Summer’s forces are beginning to move, and the Beastie drummers stumble on this solemn gathering as their journey across the Hill. They travel with the Cailleach’s entourage to Air Point, all spurred on by forces greater than themselves.
Winter stirs from its slumber
Quietly, unbeknownst to Summer’s forces, a secretive flock of winged creatures have stood watch all the way through the warmer months. These are the Valravn, keepers of The Hearth and guardians of the new season. Under their watchful eye, the Winter King has slept.
He wakes to the sound of the sea, borne from his trance on eery voices from the dark, watery depths. The world around him feels new, confusing, solitary. He has no idea what season it is, or why he has been called back into the world now. Drawn by a powerful energy outside, he ventures forth from The Hearth into the night.
There he bumps into a familiar face, though he can’t quite place them straight away. The Winter King and Summer King are cautious of each other at first, but then accepting. They are both looking for a friend, and they find one in each other.
Featured image by Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.