03 May 2011

Beltane Fire Festival

Every year on April 30th the Beltane Fire Festival is held on Calton Hill. Meant to mark the beginning of spring, it is an open arts event that is anchored in the rituals of the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane. May 1st is traditionally the day when farmers move their sheep for the summer, so Beltane is meant to symbolize fertility and the blossoming spring. The whole thing sounded pretty cool - we were expecting fire, dancing, music, fire stunts....but sadly, we were gravely disappointed. 

At 8:00 we headed towards Calton Hill eager to find our own seats on the grass. They were expecting about 12,000 attendees, so it was good that we got there when we did. Before the festival began at 9:30 we passed the time with admiring the sunset and laying in the grass. Quite ironically, it was really cold on top of the hill. Beginning of spring my butt...
It's almost 9:00 and it's still light out. What a nice change!
The beginnings of the festival.
The festivities began on the National Monument, where there was lots of pagan dancing and the lighting of the symbols of spring. (I believe one is a thistle and one is a daffodil - but I'm not really sure.) Did I mention yet that all of the dancers were painted? Many were almost nude so the effect was really strange. In my mind they looked exactly how I would imagine pagan dancers to look. Kudos on that front, I suppose.The dancers were eventually joined by the drummers, and this went on for quite a bit. I'm not gonna lie, it was starting to get a wee bit repetitive. When that finally ended, there was a solid hour when nothing really happened. During this time, the drummers were making a winding path around the hill. Now, not to complain or anything, but it's pretty hard to follow them around when there are 12,000 other people there. We decided to stay where we were to ensure that we would have a good view of the stage.
The parade of torches to the National Monument.
After waiting around for an hour, we were starting to get really annoyed. It all seemed pretty unorganized, really. It was taking far too long for the main acts to get started, so we ended up spending most of the time trying to stay warm. In the end, the acts were a big let down. There was no fire dancing or fire gymnastics. It ended up being mostly the drummers and weird pagan dancers again, which was just too repetitive for my tastes. The festival was to end at 1:00, but we ended up leaving at midnight. I guess I just built up the festival too much in my mind before. But seriously - was it too much to ask to have a naked pagan man breathing fire while doing a back flip?
More weird pagan dancing. LAME
Sami, Deirdre, and me at Beltane. We just look cold!

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