Samhuinn Fire Festival lights up the city

The city's streets are awash with fire and drama as the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhuinn heralds the beginning of winter. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The city's streets are awash with fire and drama as the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhuinn heralds the beginning of winter. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Cloaked torchbearers ran screaming through the night as the Samhuinn Fire Festival came to life.

Hallowe’en revellers turned out in huge numbers to marvel at the ancient Celtic celebration, which marked the end of summer.

They were treated to the lively street theatre, drums and fire displays they have come to expect from the annual 
extravaganza, although there was a freshness this year, with a new route which culminated at the foot of The Mound.

A spokesman from organiser the Beltane Fire Society said: “Samhuinn literally means ‘the end of summer’.

“It is a night where the veil that splits both worlds grows thinner, a night where 
spirits can touch the souls of the living, a night to reflect on the year gone by and to look forward to the one to come.

“Samhuinn celebrates the Celtic New Year, with a spectacular procession and visual pyrotechnic feast in the heart of Edinburgh.”

The pagan-style festival began on the High Street with the lighting of the Neid Fire, which was then transported through the darkness.

The torchlit procession of sinister masked figures wound its way down a packed Cockburn Street accompanied by the pulsing rhythms of the Winter Drummers.

The procession’s arrival at The Mound precinct heralded the beginning of an epic fight for supremacy between the reigning Summer King and the harsh chill of the Prince of Winter.

Crowds several lines deep were left enthralled – and occasionally terrified – by the struggle. There were also hundreds of people standing along Princes Street to marvel at the spectacle.

Following the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, a carnival of summer’s last dance broke out before the Prince of Winter and his minions swept up the last of the light.

The Prince of Winter marched to take his father’s throne but only the Cailleach, a goddess, had the power to decide who would rule in her name.

Other characters in the seasonal drama were the Blues, the Summerlings and the 
Winterlings.

The Reds, meanwhile, were pursued by the Wild Hunt, untamed spirits of nature and bringers of death.

Samhuinn is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunrise on November 1, and is one of the four Gaelic seasonal 
festivals.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com