Thursday, July 18, 2013

Edinburgh Fire Festival of 2006

Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival

Firstly, I must say that there is nothing like this in Australia, and Edinburgh prides itself on this famous and unique event. Altogether, it helps when you have so many people involved, and I don't think there are all that many people in Australia who would be involved, unless they make it a huge national event, and get hippy volunteers as well as pagans.

Philip mentioned to one performer that he had someone over from Australia, especially in Edinburgh for the event, and the reply was 'cool!' I did not see him talking to her, but I guessed she was in her early 20's just by the way she spoke! She was apparently painted blue.
It was weird to finally be on the hill in front of that half-built Greek temple - I call the 'columns' and to see the entire city around us watching the sunset. I went with Philip and Samantha (aged 5) and we met Philip's friends Scott, and his son Niko (Dominick) and Eileen (Scott's mother I think) and we stood around waiting for the sun to leave.

When it started, torch bearers came down the steps in the centre of the columns and made two rows on the steps. Then the drummers dressed in black and painted black faces. Then the May Queen's hand maidens dressed in white came down the steps with the Queen following. I could not see very well, and had Sam on my shoulders, but the procession began and disappeared. They did not come my way, but went around to the back of the columns. Sam and I then watched a huge red dragon bobbing its head around the bottom of the steps as well as a tall red lady with her arms waving around on sticks. There was even a red little pixie bobbing above the crowd, a very phallic little red pixie -who almost looked like a little demon. Sam and I then we around the back of the columns and found a fiery arch in which the Queen had passed through, but we missed that bit. Further along the path, we found what reminded me of a White Leafy Sea dragon type creature with long arms and claws, and glowing eyes that changed colour. We took photos of him and watched his accompaniment - people in white with flags doing a choreographed dance, while the dragon circled them.

Our next stop, was people painted green and with brown loin clothes and pants and they crawled around the ground, occasionally jumping up to dance - all done to loud and deep drumming. There was, scattered around, papier mache objects, which, after the people picked up, I realised were tree trucks, and the elements placed them back on and became trees again.

We still had not caught up to the May Queen and her retinue yet, I realised though that these small performance were performed in her honour, and I really noticed something else, when I came across Blue people - these were the elements. The blue people (obviously water) were not doing much when I saw them, so immediately Sam and I hurried on to catch up to the Queen. We saw her followers, but could not catch up to the Queen herself. There were too many people - the crowds were huge. The black drummers were following the white hand maidens, who was obviously following the Queen. Surrounding them were stewards with torches - guarding the retinue from the crowds.
The procession stopped to watch fire twirlers and a different silver dragon who looked like it had the head of a piranha but with long arms and spine - there were fire whips and I watched the fire whips come over, and, holding the dangling whip at the mouth of the silver piranha head, light the mouths that went up in flames! Watching a dragon with a burning mouths was fascinating.

Sam and I went to catch up with the procession, but climbed a small slope to join the crowd who were taking a short cut to the next performance - these were the red people, who I have seen on television before. They were completely red even painted matted hair, and they seemed to try to shock the Queen by pretending to indulge in sex and orgies - also rolling down this slope towards the barrier of white hand maidens. I finally saw the Queen closer and she just stood there silently watching. I then saw a Jack in the Green right behind her too, with antlers on his head. The drums were pounded loudly and the red people climbed on top of each other to form huge human towers. I saw further up the hill, waiting, was the red dragon, red lady and red devil/pixie. Then the procession moved on and this was when Sam and I ran up to find a spot for the Queen to pass right by us. She had a white face and white dress with flowers at the bottom of it, and a halo of flowers - mostly pink behind her head. She had a more flower maiden regal look, with a head piece that no one could mistake belonging to a queen.

She and her followers made their way to the small stage and four of her maidens crouched in each corner, with many of the elementals coming over - the Queen stepped up on the stage and spun in circles coming directly face to face with the Jack in the Green who suddenly fell down dead. Hand maidens picked him up and raised him above their heads and then placed him down again and removed the huge ivy head piece. The queen then circled him and raised him from the dead and he rolled around and began to dance wildly into a crescendo and then he was raised up as her consort and they stood at each corner of the stage to face the crowd with raised arms. They did not bow, but everyone cheered. Then the red people came and intruded, bring their red drummers with them, and began to fire twirl and make human towers again.
Further up on the slope behind them, a bonfire was lit and I only watched it from the distance, with the stage in front of me. This is pretty much where the festival ended for me. It begun to rain softly and Samantha began to whinge as we had lost Philip and co at the beginning. The temperature dropped completely and we got wet and cold waiting for Philip. We ended up over near an info tent with a blanket for Sam and a caravan to sit in, and a search party sent out for Philip, who came in due course. We left the Hill after 1am, Sam extremely tired.

Speaking to volunteers we discovered that 12,000 tickets were sold, but the largest event was 2001 or 2002 with 15,000 people attending.

Absolutely stunning performance - anyone should see it if they can make it here.

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