Beltane is the Celtic fire festival that celebrates the beginning of summer. The festival originated with the rural tradition of lighting 'lucky fires' at the start of May. The purpose of these fires was to provide magical protection to people and livestock in the year ahead. Druids were said to have once performed this ancient rite.
Thornborough Henge is a prehistoric monument consisting of three giant circular earthworks. It was constructed 5000 years ago by early stone age farmers as an enclosure for their ritual gatherings. The Henge became an important centre for both pilgrimage and trade although its exact purpose still remains a mystery.
Brigantia is the Celtic goddess of the Brigantes tribe who united the people of northern England 2000 years ago. Thornborough Henge is located in the heart of this tribal kingdom of Brigantia. It is for this reason that we celebrate the festival of Beltane at Thornborough in the name of the goddess Brigantia.
The Brigantes were the largest indigenous tribe in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion in 43AD. Their territory at that time extended from the river Tyne to the Mersey and across the sea into the south east corner of Ireland. This vast kingdom was ruled by a powerful queen named Cartimandua who had inherited this sovereignty in her own right and not through marriage to a superior king.
Two hundred years ago the Industrial Revolution plucked the people of northern England from the land and drove them into the mills and mines that were the genesis of our modern towns and cites. The pastoral 'Wheel of the Year' that had for millennia been driven by the changing seasons was replaced in its dominance over our lives by the relentless whirling of machinery. The ancient festivals that had once been so vital to the annual cycle of rural life were now deprived of their significance and many of our traditional customs and feasts dwindled into obscurity. The mill chimney replaced the bonfire as the beacon of our existence just as the gaslight obscured the ever changing faces of the moon.
Is it any wonder that in the digital age we should seek to reconnect with ourselves and to explore the richness of our native traditions: to discover that we are a people and that we have a tribal name and that our goddess can still be found in the sacred rivers and enchanted landscape of our ancestors; to keep the ritual fires burning in this the sacred land of Brigantia.
Beltane at Thornborough 2013
Sunday May 5th
Starting at 12 noon
at Thornborough Henge
in North Yorkshire
FREE Entry - Everyone Welcome