“pagans” in the accepted sense. I know it touches something very deep within me. as it does for everybody who is involved. We feel we are doing something which is very important and precious.‘

Farquhar. who was the brains behind the recent Virtual World Performance and last year‘s Stormy Waters event. both in Glasgow. drew on a variety of pagan rituals for his modern event. Although Farquhar relinquished control of Beltane in l‘)‘)2. he still attends and drums with the performers. ln I988 about l20 people gathered on Calton Hill. Last year l00 times that number watched and 300 took part. Meanwhile. Beltane is also being celebrated on Friday 2 May as part of the Battle of Stirling Bridge‘s 700th anniversary. so Scotland is likely to have a fiery start to summer.

Beltane falls somewhere between per— formance and ritual. There is no overall director for the Edinburgh celebration: the performers work in groups of about 30. each group preparing a separate part of the proceedings so that although there is a certain continuity. the event is constantly evolving. It is also run on a shoe-string: the performers make their own costumes and most of a £3000 Edinburgh City (‘ouncil grant pays for clearing up after the celebrations.

Modern Beltane centres on the procession of the May Queen around Calton Hill with

'For a lot of us, taking part in Beltane has shaken up our lives. It touches something very deep within me. We feel we are doing something which is very important and pFECTOUS.I Chloe Dear

The May Queen: symbolic of the birth of summer

her entourage: her consort the Green Man, the Blue Men. her four l-landmaidens (representing the four seasons). the White Warrior Women who are her guard and a host of drummers to keep pace and ward off evil spirits. On their journey they pass through four elemental points. Earth. Water, Air and Fire. At each point rituals are performed and the participants join the procession. The night culminates in the symbolic killing of the Green Man to

winter and his rebirth. The Queen and a Blue Man then light the

Beltane bonfire and the'

revelry continues into the night. This year’s performance includes other traditional elements. such the baking. blessing and breaking of Beltane Bannoch (a type of bread) and washing in dew. There will of course be plenty of fire and licentious behaviour.

You can believe what you like about the significance of Beltane, but don’t forget it is a tradition founded in fertility. In past times. couples would leap through the fire to ensure a fruitful union. Which might explain why birthdays are common around the end of January.

The Beltane Fire Festival is at Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Wed 30 Apr, 10.30pm to late. See Extra Time, page 89. The Battle of Stirling Bridge Beltane Fire is on Fri 2 May, 8.15—11pm. Call 01786 401297 for Stirling information.

represent the end of


The Beltane Fire Festival

The Beltane Fire Festival is at Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Wednesday 30 April, 10.30pm to late.

Entry to Calton Hill is up the steps from Waterloo Place, up the road from Regent Road or by the gate from Royal Terrace. There is no car parking on Calton Hill. Toilets, food stalls and a first aid stall will be situated in the car park.

Beltane is a time of chaos as well as celebration, so be prepared. Broken glass is a particular problem so please use the bins provided or take your litter home. On leaving, all spectators will be asked to make a donation towards the costs.


These timings are approximate. The May Queen and her entourage process around Calton Hill in a widdershins (counterclockwise) direction until the transition into summer when the movement is deaseil or clockwise. At each of the elemental points, those taking part in the ritual join the procession. The speed of the procession is dictated by the speed at which the drummers can both walk and drum. Because of the number of spectators you are unlikely to be able to view the whole performance.

10.30pm The procession emerges from concealment in the Observatory and goes to the Acropolis for the revealing of the May Queen with fire sculptures.

10.45pm The procession moves off around Calton Hill to the Fire Arch (south—east of the Acropolis) through which it moves to symbolise the passing into the underworld.

10.50pm The May Queen and her entourage are blessed at the earth point (north-east of the Acropolis) by a figure representing the spiritual embodiment of the earth. Beltane Bannochs are broken and handed out.

11pm The procession moves to the Water Point (north of the Acropolis) for ritual washing of the face in dew and drinking of well water.

11.10pm The procession passes through the Air Point (north-west of the Acropolis) symbolising the re-emergence into the material world.

11.20pm The procession passes through the Fire Point (Donald Stewart’s Monument) where there are more fire sculptures and the entourage is tempted by the Red Men.

11.30pm The ritual death and rebirth of the Green Man on the main stage to mark the passage from winter to summer.

Midnight The May Queen and one of the Blue Men light the bonfire. A second symbolic bonfire will be created on the main stage by the red men, fire dancers and drummers.

12.203m The May Queen holds court with her entourage in her bower, on the north side of the Acropolis

1.30am Curfew for drumming on Calton Hill.


There are two official Beltane Clubs. Studio 24 (Calton Road, 013i 558 3758) will be the home of Teknology, with techno rhythms spun by DJs from Lift, Public Nuisance, Purple Moon, Sirius Fuck and Spice. Wilkie House (Cowgate, 0131 225 2935) will host Eden for Afro-Celtic and tribal grooves with the aid of lnnerspace (PA) and DJs from Sublime, Eden and Whirly Dave in the chiller. Entry is £5 to both clubs. See Clubs listings.

l8 Apr—1 May 1997 THE UST15