Beltane Fire Festival


~ Image by ANDRZEJ SUCHODOLSKI / OSADA photography ~ 

BELTANE is an ancient Celtic tradition that arrives at the peak of Spring, welcoming the Summertime  glory and all the thriving life it brings along with it. A time of celebration for the abundance of nature, it welcomes the fertility of the harvest, alongside our own creative endeavours… Symbolising reigniting the spark within us after surviving the harsh darkness of Winter, to come into full embodiment of our passion for LIFE.

Upon my discovery of this ages old Pagan way, I found the largest celebration in the world happened over in Edinburgh… So I followed my guidance up yonder. My first encounter with the festival, I was spellbound by the retelling of the story and honouring of the natural world in such a ceremonial and aesthetic form. There were so many layers to understand and numerous veils to uncover… So much was happening and so much revealed.

What. A. Spectacle.

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~ Image by GORDON VEITCH ~

As the blanket of darkness covers the hill, the first torch is lit in honour of the Sun. This torch becomes the source of all other flames, held by cloaked torchbearers, that ignite and light the way through the night… all the way to the eminent bonfire at the near end.

Over 5 hours, the procession strode with gentle yet fierce grace of dancing, soothing flames, drums thundering like lightening behind them. Underneath the Fire arch they went, moving through the Air, Earth and Water element points around the hill, signifying the turn of the wheel as the seasons begin to change…



As embodiments of the Earth, the Green Man reemerges from the Underworld, whilst the Winter Queen dies and is reborn into the Bride of May. The Green Man, clad in layers and layers of Earth, having been buried deep, sheds layers (and getting stuck in a tree whilst doing so) as he makes his way through the elements, becoming accustomed to them once more. The Queen herself usually emerges all finely dressed and elegant. Not this year. With a focus on the pain of the Earth at this current time, she was depicted as messy as the state of the planet. Covered in oils spills, rubbish-cladden and grieving, this time round was a more distressing procession on her behalf. She is angry and distraught.

Vince Graham

~ Image by VINCE GRAHAM ~

A soul-tingling moment:

“Retribution will be swift” the Druids hissed.


~ Image by GORDON VEITCH ~

Meanwhile, the wild and raunchy Spirits of the Underworld roamed around in pure primal mode; painted blood-red from head to toe, half-naked and unashamedly, promisciously provocative… playing havoc, they revelled in the chaos, representing the sexual and sensual side of our human nature.



A merge of the opposing spirits took place on the hillside. The Spirits of the North marched towards their fate, mourning the death process whilst the Fire lot were roaring away, making a commotion, flaming Yoni symbols behind them and penises on heads (yes, you read correctly). As the drumming from each side escalated, there was a surge of intimidation towards the ice. They halt on the verge just before an attack… Later to be found dancing around in each other’s arms, a balance restored and opposites back complimenting one another.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, crowd, wedding and outdoor

~ Image by GORDON VEITCH ~

The May Bride and Green Man finally reunite in harmony after sparking the bonfire. Blessings were shared for the lovers present – couples ‘jumped the broomstick’, were bound in Handfasting and toasts were raised.

Throughout all this wonderful mayhem, a peaceful choir called Voice of the Cattle, representing the Sacred Cows (real cows being no longer involved in such shenanigans) were somewhere in the midst of it keeping ground.



Open-air imaginative theatre at its finest; it’s just not possible to be everywhere at once, to experience everything going on on the hillside that night. It’s actually recommended that you pick a spot to settle in and enjoy the show from there. Well of course we took no notice of this and got swept up in the motions, excitable and intrigued by the vibrancy of it all and wondering what was going on for the most part.

Fire is known for its healing abilities of purification and transformation. Whilst the message this year is loud and clear, there lies hope in the fate of our world. Beltane brings us into a time of joy and fruitfulness, allowing ideas, hopes and dreams to come into light. And welcoming all the action that comes along with it…




~ Artwork by NATALIA ZOή ~



  • BELTANE FIRE SOCIETY are made up of volunteers, Firekeepers, artists, performers, Druids and magical folk. They can be found during the annual celebrations of Beltane and Samhuinn festivals come sundown, on Carlton Hill…
  • See more captured moments here






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