Arrg kxrrt!

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Beltane

In which we wonder where religions come from


The big problem with three-day weekends* is that you start wishing they were four-day ones.

I didn’t do much for the May Day weekend. Lazed around in the house, then on Monday popped out to York for the day. As it was May 1st, I automatically thought of Edinburgh, and the raucous, fire-whirling Beltane celebrations on Calton Hill.

The Beltane celebrations are very popular in Edinburgh, largely with students and tourists who leap at the chance to do something Celtic, Spiritual and Traditional. Which, of course, is rubbish; Edinburgh Beltane is an entirely modern event, with no connection to some ancient mystical past. That doesn’t mean it isn’t religious and spiritual, of course – we all make our own religions. Although most of the performers are interested primarily in giving a performance, there are a few pagans among the Beltane organisers who see it, personally, as a religious ritual. They are the ones who, if the Christian Fundamentalist wing of Edinburgh Council succeed in getting it blocked,** will sneak away for a private ceremony in a quiet field somewhere, without the fire jugglers and drunken students.

As I said, we all make our own religions. Back home on Monday, I said a quiet and submissive prayer to the Goddess. Not because I believe she exists, but because I believe she might; and you never know what other gods were listening at the time. It’s always nice to think you’re receiving a bit of spiritual guidance, whether it comes from the supernatural world or not.

* apart from them being largely bunched together, as Diamond Geezer has described.

** No, really – there is a small-but-significant Christian Fundamentalist faction in Edinburgh Labour Party, who constantly do their best to block what they see as a Satanist festival. I used to know someone who was closely connected with the Beltane Fire Society, which is how I know all this – although it might be a few years out of date now.

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One comment on “Beltane”

  1. Edinburgh Beltane – well a few connections to the past, though you’re right the current event is a modern event. Current event started in 1988. The folk who started it spent a fair bit of time reading about historical Edinburgh Beltane celebrations (and wider afield) before devising their event. Since then Beltane Fire Society folk have been reading and interacting with a lot of literature and traditions. There were Beltane celebrations in Edinburgh until the late 19th century, email scribe AT beltane.org and they’ll point you in the direction of some of the references. Quite a nice illustration of some Beltane dancing round a maypole at Arthur’s seat exists from the period. Apparently the celebrations of the time were stopped for “dancing, louping, and other ungodly activities” which suggests the current celebrations are continuing the spirit of early revels …

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