Beltane, a holiday observed by Wiccans and other contemporary pagans, is a time for celebrating the birth of summer and reveling in the fertility of both humans and the crops they raise. Celebrated on May 1st or 5th on our modern calendar, Beltane was one of the four Fire Festivals celebrated by the ancient Celts.

Even in modern times, bonfires continue to be an important part of Beltane festivities. In Scotland, a volunteer organization called the Beltane Fire Society carries on the ancient traditions of fire, dance, and music—through a yearly Beltane Fire Festival that is held for the public.

The first Beltane Fire Festival was held in Edinburgh in 1988, and the Fire Society was formed a few years later to support the continuation of the festival. The Society’s goals were to “create a sense of community, an appreciation for the cyclical nature of the seasons, and a human connection to the environment”, which are often overlooked in contemporary urban life. Over time, the Festival evolved into an internationally-recognized event that attracts a large public audience.

The Fire Festival portrays the death of Winter and the birth of Summer, and tells the story of the May Queen and the Green Man, the Goddess and God who are at the height of their fertility at this time of year. Performers in the Festival are costumed in vivid garb and body paint that are primitive, colorful, exotic, and sometimes macabre.

To learn more visit the website for the Beltane Fire Society