I first took part in Beltane as a White in 2005. I’ve done three Beltanes as White and three as Red and participated Samhuinn as White, Red and Blue.
The May Queen is a Goddess representation of summer. There is a Scottish tradition that tells of the Cailleach turning herself into stone at the end of her winter reign and then on Beltane Eve, she awakens in her maiden form. If you have seen the acropolis sequence at the start of our performance that is what is happening then. The May Queen rises from the Earth and she blesses the elements and welcomes the audience. She has gone through a major transition but her counterpart; the Green Man is still in his winter guise. Beltane Eve is a liminal night as both deities are discordant with each other. The May Queen embarks on a journey around the hill to gather the new season while the Green Man must cast off the residues of the past winter. Only when he is ready will she accept him as her consort and this culminates with the death and rebirth cycle of the Green Man.
Once the union has been made, the May Queen and Green Man light the bonfire. For me, this is the ultimate symbol. I always like to think of it as the marriage between the earth and the sky. It starts from the first sparks of the neid fire and becomes the often towering inferno of the bonfire. This is an ancient Celtic tradition when people would extinguish the fire in their hearths and congregate to start a new one to mark the start of summer.
One of the privileges of representing this ineffable figurehead is the practical role of gathering and coalescing all the characters, witnesses and people into one centralised space. Everyone is there for the purpose of being together because they want to be – to celebrate and connect. I think BFS provides an outlet for a lot of our members to express this basic need of the human spirit, which is not always easily allowed to flourish in modern city culture. For me community is sacred. And the fact we create one every year in the heart of the city is very cool.
Photos of Anna by Jasper Schwartz (left) and Simon Crofts & Sylwia Kowalczyk (right)
– – – – –
I am proud to be the Green Man this year, hailing from the North and following many of great repute– including my younger brother– in this magical endeavour. I am a dancer, capoeirista, performance-rigger and remedial therapist. After a break of many years, while I danced from London, I have returned to Scotland and made my home by the sea in Edinburgh. The Beltane fire ritual has always been a strong marker in my year, near or far, and I’ve found myself searching stone circles and following the moons as I kept touch with nature’s cycles. Growing up in the forest, people joked that many folk talk to animals, but I am one they talk back to!
Photo of Will (right) by Dana Macphearson