Edinburgh’s Premiere Celtic Festival in Full Swing – Beltane Fire Society

The Beltane Fire Festival to be held at Edinburgh’s Calton Hill on April 30 – May 1, 2016 is the premier event celebrating the Celtic Festival of Beltane. The international prestige of Beltane Fire festival grows stronger every year.  The Beltane Fire festival was first held in 1988 and has developed its own traditions built on the legacy of 2,500 years of Beltane observances. The Beltane Fire Society is a Community Arts Performance Charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival as well as Halloween's Samhuinn (Samhain) Fire Festival.  The Beltane Fire Society Festival also celebrates the Celtic Cross-Quarter days of Imbolc and Lughnasadh as well as Solstices and Equinoxes.   


Originally Posted to Transceltic on April 16, 2014:

The Celtic year is divided by the four annual Celtic Feast Days which are celebrated on the first of the month: The November Celtic New Year of Samhain (Halloween), Imbolg which was also the Feast Day of the Celtic Goddess Brigid in February, the May Spring Festival of Beltane and the August Harvest Festival of Lughnasa.

Unique amongst the Four Celtic Feast days, Beltane observances have survived in essentially archaic form due in part to its simplicity in that the celebrations historically included the lighting of bonfires.  Elements of the tradition have survived into modern times throughout the Six Nations with remnants of the ancient customs surviving into the 20th century in Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland and the Isle of Man (MacKillop).  As the Pan-Celtic movement continues to strengthen, Beltane is experiencing resurgence.

There is evidence that Beltane had its origins in rituals associated with the Pan-Celtic Solar God "Bel" and it is believed that the Druidical Orders historically played a central role." This was a time when the Celts offered praise to Bel, who was not only a god of death but of life as well, for he is represented as a solar deity and he was regarded as having gained victory over the powers of darkness by bringing the people within sight of another harvest. On that day (Beltane) the fires of the household would be extinguished.  At a given time, the Druids would rekindle the fires from the torches lit by 'The Sacred Fires of Bel', the rays of the sun, and the new flames symbolized a fresh start for everyone. (Ellis)

The sources agree that Beltane was universally celebrated throughout the Celtic world and was centered on the fertility of the new season: The festival was associated with the start of open pasturing, with the beginning of summer and the welcoming of the sun’s heat…Bonfires were kindled in sympathetic magic…two fires were lit by Druids and animals were driven between them in a magical fertility rite. (Green)

The themes of fire and fertility run deep in the historic record and into modern times which is reflected in the sexual connotations connected to Beltane:  " Beltane Dew was believed to have the power to increase sexual attractiveness. Maidens would roll in the grass or dip their fingers in the dew...one of their numbers would be chosen as the May Queen. Sexual license, with the magical intentions of increasing the land’s yield, is believed to have been part of the annual event.”   Beltane customs continued in parts of England as Celtic folk memories centered on the May Pole, “...a transparently phallic symbol..."(Monaghan)

(1) Peter Beresford Ellis: "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology"

(2) Miranda J. Green: "Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend"

(3) Patricia Monaghan: "The Encyclopedia of Celtc Mythology and Folklore"



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