Ordinarily at our Beltane celebrations, the lighting of the ritual bonfire would signify the rebirth of Summer. It’s our way of shedding off the cold months and the hardships that came with it and turning our faces to the beginning of a new season. This year things will be quite different.
We can’t gather in person, but we can gather online. The world is a scary place at the moment, and all we can do is our best to get each other through it. Our community is hard at work right now planning BOnFire (Beltane Online Fire Festival), which is our attempt to bring our witnesses together and emulate Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival in the digital sphere.
We believe that Beltane is still worth celebrating, even in these unsettling times. It’s a sense of history, tradition and community that has kept us going so far, and we wanted to share some of those motives for marking the beginning of the new season with you.
Reigniting the Summer months
Our world has come to a standstill, but the wheel keeps on turning. The seasons are changing, as they do every year, and we are beginning to witness the lengthening days through our windows. The trees will soon blossom and the sun will hang higher in the sky, of that we can be certain. It’s nice to dwell on certain things when we don’t know what tomorrow might bring.
Connecting with our ancestors
People have marked this rebirth for thousands of years on the night of Beltane, and even with no Beltane Fire Festival the Celtic holiday will still happen. There’s something comforting about maintaining those traditions in the face of so many changes.
Each Beltane, our ancestors would light a Neid fire – believed to be a sacred purifying fire – to signify an end to hard times, then brought on by harsh Winters that threatened their food stocks and health. We are working on bringing our own Neid fire – safely! – to BOnFire, where it will once again ground us in our festival’s roots, reminding us of the communities who not only struggled before but also survived.
Bringing together our worldwide community
A key part of our festival is celebrating community, be it our wonderful volunteers who put their heart and soul into building our performance, or the witnesses who come to celebrate with us each year. We know that members of our family all around the world will still find a way to celebrate Beltane, and we wanted to create a way for us all to do that together.
It’s a magical feeling, being on Calton Hill with thousands of others to see the new season in. Let’s remember that feeling when we gather at BOnFire, and look forward to the next time we’re able to gather. Summer will come again.
Featured image by Andrzej Suchodolslci for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.