Thousands turn out for annual Beltane festival across Capital

The city turned out in force last night as thousands of torch-laden revellers gathered at the summit of Calton Hill to toast the start of summer.

Tuesday, 1st May 2018, 10:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st May 2018, 10:55 am
Beltane Fire Festival ushers in summer on Monday 30th April with a spectacular display of fire, immersive theatre, drumming, bodypaint, and elaborate costumes.

A crowd of around 12,000 people from all over the world ascended the city centre peak on what was a balmy evening for the 31st edition of the Beltane Fire Festival.

They watched on as a talented cast of around 300 heavily-body painted performers waved goodbye to the winter months with a frenzy of flame, drums and acrobatic stunts.

Many performers dressed for the occasion in all manner of elaborate pagan-inspired costumes, while some wore very little at all, in accordance with the Beltane’s roots as a fertility festival.

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The live drama unfolded from 8pm onwards culminating in the famous torchlight procession which wound its way around Calton Hill’s National Monument.

The fiery cavalcade was led by a host of other-worldly characters, including the magisterial May Queen, goddess of summer, and her enchanting entourage of white 

The moment the May Queen vanquishes the Green Man, stripping him of his winter guise before ritualistically bringing him back to life is one of the central themes of the night. The mock slaughter precedes the lighting of the traditional Beltane bonfire welcoming summer.

The success of the Beltane Fire Festival is the result of three decades of hard work to reintroduce the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane, which in times gone by traditionally commenced on the evening before May 1 to herald summer’s arrival.

The modern version of the festival was brought to Edinburgh in 1988 and has continued to expand ever since.

Immersed in ancient folk culture, the Beltane still manages to strike a chord.