City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Samhuinn Fire Festival

By edg - Posted on 31 October 2017

Samhuinn 2014 by Gyorgy Papp 01.jpg
Event details
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 9:00pm - 11:00pm

The Beltane Fire Society - best known for the Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill - bring their unique brand of neo-pagan street theatre, pulsating drums, acrobatics, and fire dancing to Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile on Hallowe'en night. Samhuinn, which literally means "the end of Summer", has taken place for over two decades now.

Samhuinn performers will process down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade to outside the Fringe office where a stage performance takes place. Dozens of volunteers will act out battles between the forces of summer and winter.

Samhuinn is free and tickets are not required although donations will be collected from the audience through the website and by costumed BFS members.

What is Samhuinn?

The Beltane Fire Society describes Samhuinn as "A night where the veil that splits both worlds grows thinner, a night where spirits can touch the souls of the living. A night to reflect on the year gone by and to look forward to the one to come. Samhuinn celebrates the Celtic New Year, with a spectacular torchlit procession, and visual pyrotechnic feast in the heart of Edinburgh."

The Summer King leads a carnival of summer's last dance - accompanied by the season's final vibrant beats of the summer musicians, the ethereal dance of summer nymphs and sylphs, fire performers and jesters.

Shudder from winter's fury, as the relentless force of drummers, hunters, and wolves, sweep up the last of summer's light and unleash the hollowing force of the Winter King.

Be one of the few to witness the true all power form of the Cailleach.

Beltane Fire Society take the blows of the Winter, setting a dramatic, dark, and hunting performance that will evoke the last dance of the Summer before the land takes its winter gown.

Background to Samhuinn

Samhuinn (Samhain) for ancient Celts was the time of the year to bring the cattle in from summer pastures to lowland fields for protection. Considering the signs of approaching winter, the trees were bare and the land was barren, nature itself seemed to be dying.

Outside it is dark for most of the day and the weather is harsh and unrelenting. Black energy grips the land and life struggles to survive in small sanctuaries.

Samhuinn is also the time when the rising of the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) proclaims the triumph of darkness over light. Many ancient cultures celebrated this changeover time from the old cycle to the new. It is believed that peoples as diverse as the Polynesians, ancient Egyptians and Greeks looked to the dawn sky for rising of Pleiades marking the end of the old year."

The Beltane Fire Society

BFS events are a unique opportunity in today's fragmented Society for the whole community of Edinburgh to join in a celebration of the country's ancient heritage. The Beltane Fire Society is managed by a voluntary committee, and all the performers are volunteers.

The process of developing the events each year has also proven to be a valuable catalyst for community development. All the performers are voluntary, and many are previously inexperienced in performance skills. They either join by word of mouth or by attending one of the advertised open meetings held early in the year. Under the guidance of professional performers and community artists, the volunteers are trained in the technical aspects of event production, prop construction, in character performance techniques, team building, percussion skills and the safety considerations of outdoor events.

Many of the participants have since gone on to develop careers in community education and performance art as a result of their experiences with Beltane.

Information for Spectators

Samhuinn is free although donations will be collected from the audience by costumed BFS members.

Come dressed warm, but also be creative in Halloween/Samhuinn inspired cloaks, masks and costumes.