All fired u

Rooted in pagan myths, Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival is now in its tenth year. And this year's celebration of summer looks likely to be red hot.

Words: Thom Dibdin

Photographs: Marius Alexander

14 "1E “ST 18 Apr— 1 May 1997

SPARKS FLY INTO the night air. glowing as they float down from the hill top. Drums tattoo in intoxicating rhythms. Dancers writhe. there is no other word for it. around the bonfire. Occasionally a couple emerge from the dark to walk across the glowing embers.

Ancient druids performing a pagan ritual‘.’ No: just the good folk of Edinburgh cavorting on the eve of May Day on the city's Calton Hill. Although scenes like this have occurred in Scotland on Beltane. night of 30 April. since time was first counted. the drunken revellers arc glowing in the aftermath of a 2()th century ritual performance reinvented in NBS by Angus Farquhar. founder of NVA. Glasgow‘s experimental theatre collective.

The origins of Beltane are lost. but are


concerned with the cleansing and blessing of the May Queen before her coronation on May Day. It was a time of transition from winter to summer. of asking for fertility for humans. animals and crops.

By day. Chloe Dear works on a Leith drugs project. By night. she is one of the Beltane Festival‘s longest serving participants. Like most of the current performers. she first came to watch and then became increasingly involved. This year she will play one of the three Blue Men: the spiritual guides of the May Queen who represent druids or woad- painted magicians and ensure the safe passage of the Queen‘s procession around Calton Hill.

'For a lot of us. taking part has shaken up our lives.‘ says Dear. ‘Most of us doing it now are not New Agcrs and I wouldn‘t even call us

Beltane Fire Festival: the ideal opportunity to air all those hotpants