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Alcohol. Yes. Fire. Yes. Nudity. Why not?

The Beltane Fire Festival was this past Saturday and in true Edinburgh hippy fashion it was celebrated at the top of Calton Hill with all the (fake) pagan fun. It is a Celtic fertility festival. The ritual is about the celebration of fertility of land and the animals practiced. Now it is basically an excuse for the hippies of Edinburgh, mainly students, to go up a hill, drink alcohol, play with fire, and get naked.

Enjoying the festivities

Rosie mentioned it in passing to Lauren and I and ten minutes later a plan and an evening was in the works. After reading the risk on the ticket – involves fire performance, uninhibited behavior, and semi-nudity; attendance at your own risk – my excitement only grew. Following the rules of the festival (no glass, drums, loud instruments, dogs or combustibles) we set off with Kiki, Colm, and a few extras to the hill.

The line to get up to the hill

The line to get into the festival was massive, with a prediction of 12,000 attendants. When we finally got there we did a wee once over of the set-up then found a nice spot to watch the sunset over Edinburgh while enjoying our beer. An hour later we were begging for the festivities to begin as we had not dressed entirely appropriate for a night out in the cold. All we could hope for was for them to starting lighting the fires.

When it did finally begin we forgot all about the cold as we made our way to see the torches. It was insane, 12,000 people all followed these specs of light like bugs to a zapper. The opening ceremonies consisted of lighting fire under the Athenian acropolis (intended to be a replica of the Parthenon but 200 years later still isn’t finished) followed by the Beltane performers scantily dressed and painted in reds and oranges to make their way to different areas of the hill with lit torches. When I say torches I mean legit torches, not how the English refer to flashlights as torches. As we came early we had a great spot for a majority of the show as we watched the performers dance around for an awkward amount of time without fire, then a nice amount of time with fire, and then began to take off some articles of clothing. Then they took off a little bit more. Lots of boobs and butt-cheeks. At one point they seemed to have created an orgy. Which for everyone, at least everyone not involved in the orgy, seemed quite uncomfortable.

No worries, after the orgy scene they went right into what everyone was waiting for – playing with fire! The second the fire tricks of juggling and twirling began so did the “oohs” and “aahs.”I know this was directed at the fire and not the nudity because many of the comments for the nudity such as “gross” or “show us more” stopped, along with some obnoxious American males sitting behind us.

Playing with fire...hopefully they are careful not to burn any of their exposed bits

Any thoughts of joining the nudity in any way shape or form were dashed by the frigid cold air, although attendants don’t normally get naked, it is mostly reserved for the performers. Dodged a bullet there. (I hear St. Andrew’s festivities are more broad to include everyone and more cold as they run into the water naked).

Any hopes of finding people we knew or them finding us were dashed when we realized how packed the hill was. After trips to the bathrooms we found ourselves still having trouble finding the people we left at our spot. Some of us, not mentioning name but rhymes with sholm and shessica, found the lines to the toilets too long. Too weak of a bladder to hold it we took to the hill! Right by the city observatory standing opposite of where all the fire fun was going on was a path. It split in two going in different directions around the observatory. Colm left me with the choice of where to go. I chose to go right. I chose wrong. We were instantly confronted with the back-ends of five men peeing. Clearly I had picked the boy’s bathroom side of the observatory. We quickly back tracked and went left where I found a nice bush while Colm ran interference for me. Once we managed to find our group again, we were up and running to follow the torches.

ohhhh pretty! (followed by "oh no is my hair burning again?")

The fire procession then moved from spot to spot ending with a giant bonfire that sent flakes of fire into the night sky. Another awesome sight which amusement lasted about ten seconds until we all realized we were standing down wind from the fire and our hair was burning.

Did I mention they sold mini torches to the drunks?

The night was a success. Fun, friends, and fire – I couldn’t ask for more. Oh, except a little nudity of course.

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