Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Beltane

Ok, for any of you who are interested, here's what happens at Edinburgh's Beltane celebrations.

Beltane is a fertility festival, and involves a lot of fire. The event begins with torches and burning shapes being lit upon the Parthenon-like monument at the top of Calton Hill.

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A group of drummers dressed in black come forward and start playing, then the May Queen appears.

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She is accompanied by her entourage of White Warrior Women, who are there to protect her and provide a sense of order.

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They are the opposite of the mostly-naked Red Men and their drummers, who are there to create chaos, scaring and sometimes kissing members of the audience.
(These Red Men are dressed slightly differently from the ones this year, as this photo is from last year's event. I didn't get any good pictures of them this time. They are also still wearing the cloaks that they have on for the earlier part of the night.)

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The Blue Men are the wise Elders, who guide the procession and create the necessary space by using their bunches of twigs to sweep people aside.

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Also with the Queen is the Green Man, who, at this point, is the aged Holly King of winter.

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The procession comes down from the monument, and follows the path through a fiery archway, which leads to the place of the elemental spirits.

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The May Queen and her party visit each of the elements in turn, where there is a short performance, after which the Queen is given a gift.

The first element to be visited is Air. Here's some of the warriors doing battle here, and a huge dragon puppet.

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Next is Earth. These are two of the performers from this area.

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They visit Water next, and this picture's of some of the people in this space, before the procession arrives.

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This is a lovely sea-dragon sort of puppet.

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Lastly, they visit the spirits of fire, but we didn't see that part as we wanted to get a good spot from which to watch the final ceremony.

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I know this picture is somewhat blurry, but I hope you can get the general idea. There's a stage, where the White Women dance before stripping the Green Man of all his foliage. He is then reborn as a young, virile king, who can now wed the May Queen.

After this, the main procession leaves the area. The court drummers and the Red drummers have time to perform now - they were excellent. (And I love their badgery makeup!)

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Part of me wants to join the group so that I can take part, but the whole night has a certain kind of magic to it, and I think that seeing it from the inside might spoil it somehow.

The other Red Men join the drummers, juggling with fire, and using flaming poi. I love these next two photos, which only worked so well because I was too far away to use flash.

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I really enjoy Beltane. Even though I don't share in the beliefs of quite a few of the people attending, the atmosphere is so amazing that I almost can, if only for one night, and that feels really good.

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6 Comments:

At 11:04 pm, Blogger Hieronymus Anonymous said...

It makes you feel the magic that some people believe in. It's a lovely night.

Thanks for the photos.

:-)

 
At 11:08 pm, Blogger Nettie said...

The photos are awesome love!

It's a bit sad actually, we don't really have anything like that over here (not that I know of anyway). I think it would be really nice to feel part of something like that, even if it was juts for the one night.

 
At 12:37 am, Blogger MadCarlotta said...

Wow, I really wish I could go to something like that.

 
At 10:28 am, Blogger Smerk said...

Wow, that looks spectacular. Although it's vaguely interesting to see that the May Queen and all her white warrior women seem to be kitted out in kimonos and have japanese-style weapons...

 
At 7:14 pm, Blogger oppiejoe said...

amazing

 
At 11:27 am, Blogger LaMa said...

Nice pictures! They seem to make quite a spectacle of it at your place.

 

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