Our bonfire is lit every year by the May Queen, at roughly midnight, when May Day begins at the start of summer. In Celtic times, livestock was driven close to the fire to drive out disease, so it’s important that our bonfire be a source of much heat and smoke.
We make sure the space on the hill is thoroughly cleaned both before and after the festival so that we not leaving any mark on the hill itself.
Many different types of wood go into the bonfire. Sadly, we don’t have time to wait around while the fire is kindled; the bonfire uses the same sacred fire that is lit from a single spark at the start of the Beltane festivities.
So Dani of the Beltane Bees has been gathering up some old pallets, which will form the main structure of the fire. Pallets aren’t very traditional, but they’re exactly what we need: a big structure to form the fire around, full of holes for airflow so that the fire can inflame quickly and dramatically. These pictures show Tigger the van with a full tummy of pallets.
All the wood for the bonfire comes from the community at large, and this year we have more solid wood that we’ve had for many festivals. This year, we’re honoured to be allowed to have a small group of people staying with the fire in a quiet vigil to show our respects for the hill, the local neighbours and the community at large, so we want to keep the fire that little bit larger than usual.
These pictures show our current wood pile, and while it may look like we have a lot, this will soon disappear in the flames. We still need both green wood and solid wood to burn on the night.
If you’re around Edinburgh and you’d like to donate some old planks, cut-off branches or your old Christmas tree that we know you still have it around (we won’t judge you!), then please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We can collect!
An update from Tanya, GO of Torchbearers about recent rehearsal
The thing with rehearsing in public places is that you suddenly become very interesting. You become a flash mob tourist attraction. People stop and stare. A lot. They take pictures. They film you. You find yourself wondering what they make of the spectacle of a group of black-cloaked people guarding the path of an invisible procession around Calton Hill.
Sometimes they nervously approach you and ask what’s going on and who you are, and when you explain it all to them, they ask where they can find out more and where they can get tickets for Beltane. Sometimes you catch shards of conversation as people walk around you (always around, never through, because for some reason they don’t cross your path) like “It’s those ones that paint themselves and dance around…they give me the heebie jeebies” or “They do that fire thing, you know, the big festival”. But mostly they just watch.
The Torchbearers’ rehearsal on Calton Hill last Saturday was no exception. We might have been an intimidating sight if it wasn’t for the laughter and chatter emanating from the group. People who had climbed onto the acropolis took a step sideways to watch the lighting of the Neid Fire, balancing on the edge and leaning around to take pictures of a tradition and the catching of a spark.
When Photo Point arrived to shoot our live fire practice as the daylight faded, we found ourselves surrounded by an ever-growing crowd. People with cameras saw people with cameras and we became memories, captured on film and in pixels. It’s slightly unnerving, but it’s good practice for the full-cast walkthroughs, which attract groups of tourists, locals, random wanderers, and of course for the night itself, when the crowd grows to thousands and the atmosphere is crackling with the static of excitement.
We light our fires and people are drawn to the flames. They, our witnesses, become part of the event and somewhere in the inference pattern of perspective between ritual and celebration and doing and watching and knowing and interpreting, a unique experience is created, and it is beautiful.
Out width the nominal charges of circumstance, our heroes venture ever onward into the Great Land of No, exploring as a matter of definition, as participation occurs through observation, we are the Schrodinger’s cat of groups. No-one really knows whats going on. Not even the cat.
But withstanding the phenomenological assertions risen through interacting with the creative resonances of absurdia, we find gluten free humus and various things that burn. And from these flames and health sensitive dips we are forging a great and mighty Thing. A Thing so fully possible that suddenly even the contours of my skin are tingling with excitement….
It ain’t easy being a Fool.
But we are making progress. We squat by the edge of the land, feet in water, scooping up stones and sipping them, the walls of reason are crumbling, the empire of logic is flailing, waving surrender flags BUT WE SHOW NO MERCY.
We will not stop until we inhale the stink of freedom, taste the vulnerability of our preconceived notions of up and down, now there is only the absolute potential that allows the stone to become an eagle, the stick to become a song, the very fabric of our clothes becoming the summer stories of yearning and aching for the sun, for the drums, for the sweat of our ancestors to wash away our worries as we dance and leap, into each other, and out again. Heart first.
Belonging is the longing to be, and we’re like totally over 7ft now.
(we be long.)
We love you and miss you and can’t wait to kiss you/suck chocolate off your forehead. Whatever’s easiest for you.
No Love x x x
On 21 March 2014 Edinburgh’s city cafe came alive with the sounds of Equinoise! Anansi, The Reds, The Processionals and The Beasties celebrated the coming of spring the only way they know how… Dancing! Cabaret! Big Ass Drums! Check out our snap shot video of the evening:
If you missed Equinoise! but think that it looks like it was lots of fun, join us for Drum Club!
Information for Drum Club can be found in the Facebook event:
Hope to see you there!
The countdown has begun!
Beltane is just over a month away, come join us on Facebook! Here’s the link to the event, hope to see you there!
Sage, GO of No-Point, gives a look into their world!
A deeper journey calls to us, the eternal internal instinct, the oracular intuition, bids us dig deep and transform from within.
We are unlearning, slowly peeling away the layers of shame and grief and conformity that cover our naked self.
Slowly slipping out of the reigns and harnesses of every day pressures, stars are being born in the dark centre of our eyes again.
We have let go of time. We know only sun and moon, the trees and wind whisper ancient names with silent tongues, and the mystery is waking up.
Crawling from deep underground, pushing through the woven forms of definition, emerging from tamed numb slumber, something wild is reclaiming its space.
Our laughter has an edge to it, our tongues curl loudly with howling cries and core humming purrs….our toes dig into the ground, flower buds push and swell from our limbs, our arms reach out to embrace the earth, the No is going feral…..
Some words from this year’s Bower and their experiences in the start of the Beltane preparations:
Arriving on the hill to locate our Bower and perform a ritual of opening, blessing and protection it was a wonderful surprise to find it full of Whites, walking a circle around its centre point. How perfect. Leaving White to it, we walked the route of the procession, pausing at each point where the May Queen traditionally stops to talk about what happens there, and why, what it reflects of the May Queen’s journey from a performance and a symbolic perspective, and the role of the other groups that traditionally meet the May Queen, especially that of Red and the elements. Fire Arch (Guardians of the Veil) and Red Slope were clearly points of great significance to group members which was clear in our moments of quiet reflection and will return to those points again. Arriving ‘home’, cold and in deep reflection as a group, we took a break, broke bread together and then shared it with the Whites as they ended their practice, while passing round the next round of (frozen) bread dough to get White to ‘give it a chuck and wish it luck’. As White practice closed, we began our planned ritual for protection and well wishing, joined by two members of White (thanks) I say ‘planned’, meaning we agreed this would happen. What actually took place in deeply appropriate but unplanned solemnity, was a native Canadian style ritual led by one of our members who has long been accepted as a resident of a reservation in Canada. She brought her ceremonial pouch, shaman stick, rattle and conch shell and smudged everyone present (meaning wafted smoke of burning sage leaves over people which helps make the energy space around our bodies clear and positive) and we poured and blessed water, each drank some, and poured it on the ground. The shaman stick with its beautiful carving, thread and feather decorations was pushed into the ground and in the space it left we each placed a pinch of tobacco, which we first held and concentrated our wishes that the Bower space and the whole hill be protected and blessed so that our work in the ceremony may have the most positive outcome for the land, the community, the city and the Earth. One member of the Bower also placed in the earth something personal which he had carried for a long time. We poured more water and stood in a ring in silence for a long time, and then, just because it felt right, we all joined our arms together and for a few minutes we had a sound bath, which ended when all the notes harmonised. We poured the second bowl of water at the entrance to the Bower (i.e. between the two trees which is the previous site of the heart of the Bower). We poured the water on a spot where we are told an amethyst heart was buried by previous Beltaners in around 2002. By then it was cold and the light was fading, so off we went to the Regent for warm mulled wine (or tea!) and to meet other group members who couldn’t be with us for work. And we took some Whites with us and sat talking in the cosy pub until we were warm and well fed and it was time to go home.