Fire is a powerful force to bring people together, whether it happens around a bonfire, a hearth in a home, or a flame on the stove. This Halloween night, thousands will gather at our 2022 Samhuinn Fire Festival, where the flames will connect us to each character sharing their transitional tale.
Read on and discover the types of fire that you’ll see at our wintry celebration, and how they warm our community for the coming cold months.
Our Relighting the sacred Neid fire
Without our sacred Neid Fire we have no festival. The Neid Fire acts as a purifying flame, passing along warmth and protection for those to handle the darker months ahead.
Using traditional Celtic methods, we start our Neid fire 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.
In old Celtic communities, the fire in each home was extinguished on the night of Samhuinn and relit from one Neid flame. A torch was then carried from the Neid fire to each family, so that their fireplace could be renewed for the winter months. Families became connected by a united hearth, and their togetherness strengthened the transition into the new season.
Passing the torch with the Torchbearers
Our entire festival becomes lit from that first Neid fire, spreading the warmth onwards with our Torchbearers. As they go forth to carry their torches from space to space, they become a dotted line of beacons that help us all find our way across Holyrood Park.
The Torchbearers illuminate the darkness, shedding light on the otherworldly creatures that have come to visit for all to see. They are a window from the mortal realm, connecting our witnesses to our performers while solemnly guarding the border between.
Burning away the past with Obsidian
The Neid fire was considered to be a purifying flame at old Samhuinn celebrations, where communities lit two bonfires and drove their livestock between them. They believed that the smoke would cleanse their cattle of any diseases and ensure its survival through the cold months.
This had practical ramifications for those ancient communities, but at our Samhuinn Fire Festival that cleansing is more symbolic. The turn of the season is a chance for us all to pause, take stock of what we are holding onto, and burn it. It will be easier to march into the unknown with less baggage.
Obsidian, the Winter King’s fierce warriors, embody this change in their fire play. They act as a destructive and chaotic force, named after the volcanic rock that forms when lava cools down. As their spinning intensifies throughout the night of Samhuinn, their performance expands into an eruptive energy, one that will help to eradicate Summer and make way for a new season to reign.
Mirroring Summer with our Winter bonfire
Just as we gather at the Beltane bonfire to witness the birth of Summer, so we come together at the end of Samhuinn to witness Winter’s confirmation. The Winter King has just defeated Summer on the main stage, and now his forces move towards the pyre to celebrate their triumph.
The Winter King and the Cailleach light the bonfire side by side, completing the ritual that ignites the new season’s spark. Its towering flames are a warming force as the air grows cold, and the crowd grows around them, all drawn to the warming beacon at the corner of the Hill.
Coming home to the Hearth with Valravn
One by one, our host of otherworldly creatures return to the Neid fire’s source and welcome the Cailleach into the festival home. Here, there will be nourishment, celebration and well wishes for a new season. This is where we reaffirm our connection with each other following a transformative night.