The Beltane Fire Festival Welcomes Summer With Flames, Nudity, Masks, And More

Published April 30, 2016
Updated January 18, 2018

Forget buying a new bathing suit; each year, performers in Edinburgh, Scotland's Beltane Fire Festival welcome summer with flames and nudity.

Beltane, in case you weren’t up-to-date on your ancient Gaelic history, is a Pagan holiday celebrated on May 1, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The Beltane festival marks the beginning of summer, and celebrates the fertility of the coming year. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain (more commonly known as Halloween these days), Imbolc and Lughnasadh.

Fire plays an important role in the Beltane festivities: historically, flames, smoke, and ashes from bonfires kindled during the festival were thought to have protective powers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire.

During the Beltane feast, food and drink would be offered to the aos sí, the faeries. Homes and cattle were then decorated with yellow May flowers, another invocation of fire.

In modern times, the Beltane Fire Society has revived these ancient traditions by celebrating the Beltane Fire Festival on April 30 in Calton Hill Park:

Torches Beltane Fire Festival
Procession Beltane Fire Festival
Fire Symbols Beltane Fire Festival
Goddess Beltane Fire Festival
The Beltane Fire Festival Welcomes Summer With Flames, Nudity, Masks, And More
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Next, read about seven of the most unusual religious rituals in the world. Then check out these mystical marshlands of England.

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.