In Pictures: Fiery start to May Day celebrations
A member of the Pentacle Drummers performs in front of a burning wicker man during the Beltane Festival at Butser Ancient Farm, in Waterlooville, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Giant bonfires were lit as darkness fell on the last day of April as part of an ancient Celtic celebration to mark the beginning of summer.

Beltane, or Beltain, is centred around the story of the May Queen and the Green Man, and the lighting of bonfires is symbolic of purification, healing and new life.

Beltane fire festivalA giant wicker man, this year representing an Iron Age warrior, is seen before being set alight at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm in Waterlooville, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalWishes are placed inside the wicker man before it is set alight (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalThe May Queen and Green Man dance in front of the giant wicker man as part of the ancient ritual (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalThe fire is lit, as an historical interpreter representing an Iron Age Briton watches on (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalMembers of the Pentacle Drummers perform in front of the burning wicker man (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalThe Hampshire event was popular with onlookers, while similar celebrations took place elsewhere across the country too (Andrew Matthews/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Matthews

Beltane fire festivalIn Edinburgh, the May Queen and Green Man arrived to the dramatic surroundings of Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Jane Barlow

Beltane fire festivalThe large-scale reinterpretation of the ancient celebration featured dozens of participants (Jane Barlow/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Jane Barlow

Beltane fire festivalThe Green Man led a dramatic performance with fire (Jane Barlow/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Jane Barlow

Beltane fire festivalHundreds of spectators gathered for the event, in the shadow of the National Monument (Jane Barlow/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Jane Barlow

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)