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With Halloween fast approaching, the Beltane Fire Society will be getting ready for the second of their two annual festivals: Beltane Fire Festival on the night of April 30 is followed by the Samhuinn Fire Festival on Halloween. These are two of the four quarter day seasonal festivals in the Gaelic calendar, along with Imbolc (beginning of Spring) and Lunastal (Harvest). The Beltane Fire Society marks these occasions with displays of fire, drumming and theatrical performances based on ancient beliefs. Although the festivals now take place on Calton Hill, the Edinburghers of old would often gather on Arthur’s Seat to take part in rituals, such as drinking from the healing wells or washing your face in the May dew.
The hills and crags have a number of sacred wells and springs. Water, of course, is the source of all life. One of those healing wells was at Saint Anthony’s Chapel, which you can see from the park at Holyrood. As you approach and start to climb the hill, the ruins might remind you of a half-eaten slice of cake. Nowadays, people throw coins into wells for good luck but in pagan times it was important to show respect to the spirits who were thought to dwell there.
Steve will be running a special Halloween tour of Burke and Hare: Serial Killers, book now!
Find out more about the Samhuinn Fire Festival