Spring has finally arrived in Scotland. Although it is still cold, days are much longer and brighter and we can finally enjoy some sunshine.
In Scotland, the spring season is always warmly welcomed and it is celebrated with a festival - the Beltane Fire Festival!
The word ‘Beltane’ is a Scottish-Gaelic word which originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’ meaning ‘the bright one’ and the word ‘teine’ meaning ‘fire’. So Beltane can be translated as ‘bright fire’. Beltane is an Irish Pagan Festival, which is also very popular in Scotland and is always celebrated around the 1st of May, the date, which indicates the beginning of the Irish Spring. This is also usually a day between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice. In Irish, Beltane also means ‘the month of May’.
The new brighter season is celebrated with bonfires to encourage God Bel to purify the community, spread fertility and protect the harvest and cattle. This is why it was believed that this season was the best time of the year to get married in Pagan Ireland and Scotland!
In Edinburgh, the festival is celebrated every year on the night of the 30th of April on the top of the monumental Calton Hill. It is organised by the Beltane Fire Society, but a lot of different people perform in this festival using ancient art forms such as ‘fire spinning’ and ‘drumming’. Performers are dressed up with costumes that refer to nature. Many of them are naked with their body painted with symbols that refer to Mother Earth.
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I met Gregorio, a guy who performs fire spinning during the festival. He is very enthusiastic and works really hard on improving this art. I asked him a couple of questions about his approach:
When did you first hear about Beltane and why did you join the society?
"In winter 2013 I saw the Beltane Fire Society rehearse for the winter festival and since I already used to perform with fire in my country I felt attracted by them. I asked for information about how to get involved in this society. They were very welcoming and invited me to join them straight away. So in May 2015 I performed at the Beltane Fire Festival for the first time and this year I will do it again."
As a Colombian guy, how do you experience the Beltane Fire Festival?
"For me the Beltane Festival is a strong, grounded and old tradition that still persists. Therefore, my participation at the Beltane is a contribution to keep this tradition alive. I am glad to share this cultural inheritance and to support this art form which still attracts a lot of people from all over the world."
I would like to thank Gregorio for sharing his story with us. I believe that the Beltane is a great cultural event. It is a local tradition that encourages people to get together and fosters an openness to multiculturalism.
Some interesting vocabulary:
= a big fire which people gather around to share a sense of community/friendship
= the crops (wheat, corn, etc.) which are collected from the land, mainly in autumn
= general noun (uncountable) for cows, bulls and calfs
= wearing particular clothes/costume for a special occasion (e.g. Vampire costume at Halloween) or also for a formal occasion (e.g. black/white tie)
= the traditions and believes that are passed on by your parents/grandparents and other members of your community
= to create an environment in which something can grow and flourish
N = noun, V = verb, Adj. = adjective, Adv. = adverb, I = idiom