Thousands gather for Samhuinn Fire Festival

Samhuinn Fire Festival, Edinburgh. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Samhuinn Fire Festival, Edinburgh. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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THOUSANDS were undeterred by the rain as they gathered in the Old Town last night to see the spectacular Samhuinn Fire Festival celebrate its 21st birthday with a return to its traditional home.

The annual pageant – a modern re-imagining of an ancient pagan ritual heralding the death of summer and the birth of winter – brought a host of volunteer performers with fire, drums and wild costumes to the Royal Mile for an evening of revelry.

A torchlit procession headed down the historic thoroughfare and featured three stages in West Parliament Square, two drum crews, acrobatics, ancient Celtic tradition, pyrotechnics and plenty of fire. The extravaganza then culminated in a fight for supremacy between the reigning Summer King and the harsh Prince of Winter.

The Beltane Fire Society, a charity run by volunteers, is dedicated to marking the fire festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar and keeping traditional Scottish skills of street theatre, music and pageantry alive. The modern event has been held in Edinburgh since 1995.

Beltane, the festival which welcomes the return of summer, takes place on Calton Hill on the last day of April, and has been running since 1988.

The winter version was held in the Grassmarket last year after unexpectedly large crowds 12 months earlier forced the unplanned closure of Market Street.