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

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.

Hail Brigantia!

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.

Beltane at Thornborough 2012

Beltane at Thornborough 2006

Thornborough - Orion Alignment

The three prehistoric henges at Thornborough align almost perfectly with the three stars of Orion's Belt, when viewed in the direction of the midwinter sunset on the Winter Solstice, at the time of their construction, 5,000-years-ago.