Samhain

In between working full time, teaching myself to draw by sketching every single day for the year (which, FYI, is looking more and more like sketching every day for the rest of my life because I’m too stubborn to let my draw count reset), attempting to have a social life, and continuing the very necessary habits of binging Netflix and hibernating to reconcile my sleep deficit from the week, it’s hard to keep up with posting on here. I’m slowly catching up but it’s more difficult than I’d like to find the time. But I will get there, so without further ado…

Samhain, pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in, is an ancient Celtic festival celebrating the end of the harvest season and the start of the ‘darker half’ of the year. Each Halloween, the Beltane Fire Society perform a living, dynamic reinterpretation and modernisation of the ancient Iron Age Celtic ritual in central Edinburgh, complete with full costume, acrobatics and pyrotechnics. It was crazy impressive to watch. So much time, effort and dedication goes into the performance and the event is entirely run on donations!

In Celtic mythology, Samhain causes the veil between worlds to weaken, allowing faeries and spirits to cross over into this one. Performers are split between the faeries who belong to the court of Summer. They’re covered in flowers and greenery and interact with the crowd by speaking about perfect weather and how wonderful the Summer King’s eternal reign will be… while the followers of the court of Winter hiss and screech and celebrate the long-awaited coming of the Winter King. The main performance shows the kings and their courts fighting one another and Winter emerging victorious, ready to usher in the colder months.

While utterly otherworldly in person, Samhain was a huge challenge to photograph. It was raining like nobody’s business, so cold I could hardly feel my hands, and the lighting was so strange with the general darkness from Parliament Square and the bright fire. I had to give up on my SLR (i.e. protect it from the elements!) and rely on my phone camera, which I have to say I was actually very impressed with.

Another exciting thing about Samhain for me was that one of my photos of the performance made it to the shortlist of a photography competition run by the Scottish Parliament! Super exciting and I was honoured to be selected for week six!

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