Welcome to Beltane.org

Beltane 2010 by Neil Hodgins

Formed in 1988, Beltane Fire Society is a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

For more information about the Society, our world-famous festivals and how you can get involved, navigate using the menu on the left. Scroll down for our latest news and updates.

Beltane Fire Society is a not-for-profit registered charity in Scotland. Charity Number SC040137. Company Number SC341753.

Photograph by Neil Hodgins, taken at Beltane Fire Festival 2010.

Samhuinn Fire Festival 2014

Samhuinn 2014 Poster

9pm, Friday 31st October 2014

Starts on High Street, then down Cockburn Street, on to the stage at the Mound Precinct.

The festival begins on High Street with the lighting of the Neid Fire, the flame which is carried through night by the screaming, cloaked Torchbearers. The Cailleach, our dark goddess, awakens like a winter storm with her wolf familiar, heralded by her priestesses, the Cailleachan. Led by the Blues, the guardians of our ritual, the procession of the seasonal elements of Cearcall Ur Nadir, the stalking terror of the Wild Hunt and the decadent energy of the Reds, winds its way down Cockburn Street, buoyed by beats of the boisterous Beasties and the pulsing rhythms of the Winter Drummers. The procession’s arrival at the stage at the Mound Precinct heralds the beginning of an epic fight for supremacy between the reigning Summer King and the harsh chill of the Prince of Winter.

As the battle rages through fire and scenery created by our Tech team, the audience is safe in the hands of our very own friendly Stewards. If you notice bursts of light flashing from dark lurking figures, don’t worry – that’s Photo Point, our team of photographers capturing the event in pictures to share with the world. BFS events are self-funded and created by volunteers. There are no tickets for Samhuinn and attendance is by donation, so please take a moment to give a contribution to our lovely Bucketeers!

See the Facebook event page for Samhuinn 2014 here
Follow us on Twitter @beltanefs and #samhuinn2014

For press and media resources, please visit this page
For non-press enquiries, please email festival[at]beltane[dot]org

Some pre-Samhuinn press

If you don’t already follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you might have missed some of the press Samhuinn 2014 has been receiving. Here’s a selection of lovely articles about our up-coming festival…

The Wild Hunt don’t take prisoners

Courtesy of Gyorgy Papp of Samhuinn 2014 Photo Point

If you go down to the woods today,
You’re in for a big surprise,
If you go down to the woods today,
You’d better close your eyes.

For every soul that wanders here,
Is doomed to darkness, death and fear,
Because the Hunt is out,
And today they’re here to taaake you.

Courtesy of Mark Taylor of Samhuinn 2014 Photo Point

A group of photographers visited some nearby woods to practice taking pictures in the dark. What they experienced was not something they will soon forget.

Surrounded by darkness amongst the trees, strange noises could be heard. At first they were ignored…normal parts of the woods. Then something laughed maniacally near by; a rustling in the bushes.

Courtesy of Neil Barton of Samhuinn 2014 Photo Point 1

They looked around them only seeing the blackness of the woods and occasional glint from the stars in the sky. They took pictures with their flashes to light up the area around them. Sudden movement was seen and strange noises started all around them. Heavy breathing, soft growling, clicking and even a blood curdling scream.

You could hear their footfalls as they ran passed, so close but yet unseen. Cameras flashed everywhere trying to glimpse the creatures around them. The noises grew louder. They were surrounded. As the beings moved in for the kill a loud roar arose from the group before they and their target were gone.

Courtesy of Neil Barton of Samhuinn 2014 Photo Point 2

Some members are still missing from that night. The Wild Hunt don’t take prisoners. You are either prey or you become part of the Hunt. If you see them about, try not to stare directly at them or you may become their next target.

Courtesy of Neil Barton of Samhuinn 2014 Photo Point

Photos, from top, by Gyorgy Papp, Mark Taylor and Neil Barton x3

A glance behind the scenes of Samhuinn

When you think about preparations for a fire festival, chances are you imagine performers spending long hours rehearsing the fantastic dance, acrobatics, drumming and stage fighting that you’ll see at the event. You might think of costumes being designed and created, puppets and props being built and pyrotechnics being planned. Chances are, unless you’ve been involved in an event like this, it won’t even cross your mind that hours upon hours are spent behind the scenes negotiating with the council, ensuring that every single aspect of the event complies with detailed health and safety legislation, completing the necessary paperwork and documentation involved in running a charity and a company, booking rehearsal spaces, fielding emails at all hours of the day and night, communicating with press and media outlets both locally and further afield, handling the often huge administrative tasks involved with organising groups of volunteers and planning planning planning.

Group Organisers meeting
Volunteer Group Organisers, Court, Blues and our Event Coordinator finalising processional and stage cues at one of our weekly planning meetings. Photo by James Illing.

The community of people who dedicate hundreds of hours every year to creating the shows that you enjoy embrace this labour of love and we know that the outside world will rarely be aware of the late nights, early mornings, long days and incredible amount of work that we pour into making breathtaking public ritual celebrations happen. We do what we do because we’re passionate about it and we get to share it with each other and, of course, with you.

Lanterns made from recycled materials
Lanterns being made from recycled materials by Alan Howse, our resident creator of beautiful and interesting props. Photo by Jackie Burrell.

Elemental motion with Cearcall Ur Nadir

Photo Point attended a Cearcall Ur Nadir rehearsal to photograph the elemental characters doing their thing. To see more photos from that day, and lots of other Samhuinn 2014 group’s rehearsals and meetings, check out this album on Facebook.

Cearcall Ur Nadir by Bleu Hope

Cearcall Ur Nadir by Gyorgy Papp

Cearcall Ur Nadir by James Illing

Cearcall Ur Nadir by Mark Taylor

Cearcall Ur Nadir by Michelle Linnane

Cearcall Ur Nadir by Neil Barton

Photos (from top) by Bleu Hope, Gyorgy Papp, James Illing, Mark Taylor, Michelle Linnane and Neil Barton.

Announcing our Samhuinn 2014 poster!

Samhuinn 2014 Poster

We are very excited to announce our Samhuinn 2014 poster, as voted for by our community, audience and friends around the world! Congratulations to Emma Lindsay on her winning design.

Emma works primarily in stained glass and painting. She has a BA Honours degree in design and recently designed a stained glass window for Canterbury Cathedral. Emma’s work is greatly influenced by nature and it was for this reason that she felt inspired to create a poster design for the festival. Of her design, she says…

The concept of two contrasting sides, Winter and Summer, struck me as being a key aspect of the festival. I wanted to portray the transition from Summer to Winter in a striking and graphic way. The stag skull is symbolic of conflict but also represents of cyclical nature of life.

Keep an eye out for our posters around Edinburgh soon.

Building the beats for Winter

Photo Point hung out at a Winter Drummers rehearsal to take pictures while the drummers prepared their rhythms to usher in the coming of the dark season…

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by James Illing
Photos above by James Illing

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton

Winter Drummers rehearsal by Neil Barton
Photos above by Neil Barton

Imbolc 2015 proposal deadline this Sunday

Events don’t happen instantly so we’re already thinking about what BFS will be doing for Imbolc 2015. The BFS Board of Trustees are looking for an outline proposal for an Imbolc event, so if you have an idea and the drive to see a plan through to completion (with help, of course!) please get in touch.

The deadline for proposals to the Trustees is 10pm on Sunday 12th October. If you would like to submit a proposal, please email the BFS Festival Secretary at festival@beltane.org with any questions, queries, or to request a proposal form to fill in for submission to the Trustees.

Laughter and light

On Samhuinn night, you can expect to see terrifying Torchbearers, cloaked nightmares screaming and roaring their fiery way through the streets of Edinburgh. The off-duty Torchie is an altogether friendlier creature, recognisable by frequent fits of giggles and wide happy smiles. They spent last weekend camping with the Stewards, Photo Point and Tech, bringing flames and happiness to dark places.

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Torchbearers fire practice

Photos by Tanya Simpson