Note: This is my write-up from 2013. - sm
I'm a Pagan and I live in Edinburgh: the big question many people are asking me is, "Did you go to Beltane Fire Society??"
Yes, I did. Beloved Wife insisted, of all things; I likely would have done the introvert hermit thing, otherwise. (Big public ritual performance, eek!) Instead, we went together, and had a blast.
Yes, it was fabulous, amazing spectacle. It wasn't the kind of focused ritual work or spiritual work that I would like to be my only celebration of the holiday, but I had a tremendous amount of fun, it was exhilarating, and I'm glad we went. It was very well-run and well-organized. We could tell the crowd was a mix of tourists (of both kinds -- spiritual and geographic) and people for whom this was serious business, and everyone was pretty respectful.
(With a few drunken, or just plain thoughtless, exceptions, but I only had to stifle the urge twice to stifle people I found obnoxious. "This ought to be free. It's on Calton Hill, so it ought to be free." (*eyeroll* Tickets were £8.50 at the door, and much less in advance; and even at the door, that was cheap for how much it costs to put this on, between security, pyrotechnics, police, etc...) "Yeah, I went through a period where I was into witchcraft and all that, and my girlfriends and I even had this coven, but it's not like it's real religion or anything..." (I'll spare you the rest of that overheard conversation.))
We didn't get to see a lot of detail, so for that, I'll refer you to BFS' Flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beltanefiresociety/.
But, yes, wow, the organization, the attention to detail, the thought that went into everything, the drama, the pageantry, the costuming, the use of massed drumming, torches, fire, pyrotechnics...
Heh heh heh heh. Big public dramatic ritual/ritual drama, all right.
It occurs to me: some of my Cherry Hill colleagues are writing analytical critiques of Burning Man and such from Pagan/ritual theory/ritual studies/theaological perspectives. I'd love to see such analyses of any of BFS' big public presentations.