Beltane Drumming With Section 5 Drummers
A very early 2016 morning, but well worth it for the experience
A local tradition is that every year on the 1st of May / Beltane (Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel') a group of local people from Section 5 Drummers go up onto East Hill in Hastings, East Sussex and drum to welcome the sunrise. Unlike some recent years it was clear enough on this morning in 2016 to actually see the sunrise and I was proud, but very knackered to be there to enjoy it with them! :) There was also a wedding going on up there too! If you get the chance to be there to watch or take part then I would highly recommend it!
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Information about the Gaelic May Day Beltane
Beltane is the anglicised name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the festival day is Lá Bealtaine, in Scottish Gaelic Là Bealltainn and in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn/Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai. Most contemporary practitioners emphasize the sexual license of the festivals with little or no reverence of the practical such as the bonfires and local fires that were originally meant to burn off grasses and grains that had become irrevocably dormant, to provide natural nutrient enriching for new planting. These contemporary festivals are contradictory in their basic effort compared to the real struggle that subsistence farmers, in places such as Africa, deal with on a regular basis and those same neopagan people, even though they emphasize fertility in such rituals, only engage in anything comparitable with a concerted effort to increase crop production and ensure the propagation of their tribes. Most Western Europeans are just playing with a tradition that has desperate roots in survival that their ancestors and contemporary subsistence farmers know too well.
Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around or jump over the bonfire or pass between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
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