About Beltane at Thornborough
The Festival of Beltane
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 beginning of May. People and livestock would pass between these fires in order to be given magical protection in the year ahead. This ancient rite was said to have once been performed by the Druids of Britain.
Thornborough Henge is a prehistoric monument consisting of three giant circular earthworks. It was constructed 5,000-years-ago by the first neolithic farmers as an enclosure for their ritual gatherings. The Henge became an important centre in Britain for pilgrimage and trade. Although the exact purpose of henge monuments remains a mystery, the three henges at Thornborough (which are arranged slightly askew on the ground) do appear to align with the three stars of Orion's on the Winter Solstice.
The Goddess Brigantia
Brigantia is the Celtic goddess of the Brigantes tribe, who were the largest tribal group in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, 2,000-years-ago. Their territory extended from the river Mersey to the river Tyne and covered most of what is now northern England. They were also recorded as having territory in south east Ireland, and Brigantia may be considered cognate with the Irish deity Brigid.
Thornborough Henge is located in the heart of the tribal territory of the Brigantes. It is for this reason that we celebrate the festival of Beltane at Thornborough in honour of the goddess of this land, Brigantia.