The Bealtaine Fire Celebration on the Hill of Uisneach, is a genuine gathering of the tribes; people of all creeds, from all over the world coming together with the local community to create a truly unique event.
Bealtaine at Uisneach
By Alexandra Morgan
My heart began dancing on the journey to Uisneach as I found myself surrounded by the lush rolling fields and countryside of Westmeath. Feeling blessed by the presence of the sun, I arrived to see many others flowing from the car park to the sacred site and festivities. How beautiful that so many of us had felt the call to be here. I must remark on how well organized the car parking was.
Experiences flowing with ease bring me deep satisfaction and the organization of this event was impeccable from start to finish. Uisneach was bursting with the fertility of life. Nature held no shyness in boasting her capacity, to once again, renew herself. A reminder to the people of Eiru of our ability to do the same. Bealtaine is a festival that celebrates abundance, fertility and being reborn. It’s where we celebrate the peak of Spring and the coming of summer and welcome the time of year where light dominates the sky.
It’s a time that invites us to honor and reflect on our sexuality as nature demonstrates the power of our creative potential. Animals are delivering their offspring and pollination is occurring to allow for nature to come into her fullest of bloom. It is here we honor the sacred marriage of the Green Man and the Goddess and what gifts of life their union and love bestow. Celtic crafts spread themselves across the hills of Uisneach as did all people of all ages. The smell of food filled the air and the hum of people’s conversation and laughter wrapped itself around me like a warm familiar blanket.
What a beautiful feeling of home, heart and connection. I felt great joy wash over me as I witnessed souls from all walks of life coming together to sing, dance and celebrate Bealtaine. With admiration, I watched as each soul added their magic and unique expression of the Divine, to unfolding of the festivities Bonfires built at this time of year are believed to have protective powers. As the sun dipped beneath the horizon, a woman opened the four directions calling in the spirits and ancestors of the land to come join us in our prayers. As we joined the bonfire in its dance, I gained a newfound respect for the magnificence and power that is the element of fire and transformation. As it blazed, I believe so did sacred flame in each of our hearts. I listened as people gave to the fire what no longer served them and welcomed in new life. The heart of Ireland is stronger than ever, alive and well. Grá mór.
The Bealtaine Festival was revived on the Hill of Uisneach in 2009 and todays’ festival remains much as it was in ancient times, a chance to meet old friends and make new ones. A family-friendly event that welcomes all the different tribes to celebrate the beginning of summer at the sacred centre of Ireland.
In 2017, the ceremonial fire was lit by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins; making him the first Irish Head of State to do so since the last High King, nearly a thousand years ago.
One of the most enduring legends of Uisneach is that it was the location for the first great fire to be lit in Ireland. According to the Dindshenchas (Lore of Places), the fire was lit by a druid named Mide and burned on the Hill for seven years.
As the centuries progressed, the great fire became the catalyst for the Bealtaine festival; an annual gathering and fair at Uisneach that continued to early modern times. Traditionally, the fires in every home and hearth across Ireland would be extinguished in anticipation of a new flame from Uisneach’s Bealtaine Fire.
Fires were then ignited on the other sacred hills of Ireland, created a unique ‘fire eye’ over the island; symbolising the country’s emergence from the darkness of Winter into the light of Summer.
Find out more here: Bealtaine at Uisneach