I attended my first Beltain festival last night and I wasn’t sure what to fully expect, however I’m pleased to say I had a great time and will definitely be attending next year.
For those not in the know, Beltain is an ancient British festival that celebrates the arrival of summer by torching a larger Wickerman. I’m sure back in the day it was done quite differently but for the modern person this had to suffice.
The festival stared in the late afternoon and on arrival we had to trek across a hilly field to the ancient farm site where the burning would take place. It had a very Gaelic/medieval/Roman vibe, there were folks dressed up, reenactments, displays and lots on things you could actually get involved with. This is definitely a nice family affair but saying that there were also lots of suitable grown ups on their lonesome.
After meeting up with some friends we headed through some of the exhibitions, past the bird of prey display and nearly to the wickerman. My daughter spotted the face painting, so a slight detor later and we got to the entrance. The sacrificial wooden monolithic man was quite a sight, 30ft or so high with, this year, a head of a stag. We were shown to a stall where we wrote down our wishes for the year and then moved onto to putting them inside the Wickerman itself ready for burning. It’s worth mentioning alot of the stalls were donation only so you could pay what you wanted for the materials and face paints used etc.
After looking around a few more stalls we got some food, drink and found a nice spot to make camp. There was an ample sized stage, the music was ‘folky’ but suited the atmosphere perfectly. After a few ciders and meads most people were up dancing and having a good time.
Dusk was upon us and after some more dancing we retired to one of the larger mud huts which had a suitable fire pit in the centre. While reflecting with friend on how ‘nice’ the day had been a lady dressed in peasants clothes announced the burning of the Wickerman.
Drumming, chanting and dancing sprites surrounded the 30ft sacrifice, it was all very ritualistic but also very light hearted. The legs were set alight and the flames furiously licked higher setting off the inevitable outcome of a huge burning inferno. It sure was a sight to behold, the primitive caveman inside of me couldn’t get enough, the gasps and approval of the people around me further cemented the fact that we all must have that same primal appreciation.
30 minutes later all that was left were burning emebers of the once great stag, people began to filter out. On the horizon you could see a line of burning torches as people trekked back over the hill to find their cars and modern civilisation.
All in all it was a great was to spend the evening and will be returning for sure, I can’t recommend it enough.