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)
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)

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.

A 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)
A 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)
Wishes are placed inside the wicker man before it is set alight (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Wishes are placed inside the wicker man before it is set alight (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The May Queen and Green Man dance in front of the giant wicker man as part of the ancient ritual (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The May Queen and Green Man dance in front of the giant wicker man as part of the ancient ritual (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The fire is lit, as an historical interpreter representing an Iron Age Briton watches on (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The fire is lit, as an historical interpreter representing an Iron Age Briton watches on (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the Pentacle Drummers perform in front of the burning wicker man (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the Pentacle Drummers perform in front of the burning wicker man (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The Hampshire event was popular with onlookers, while similar celebrations took place elsewhere across the country too (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The Hampshire event was popular with onlookers, while similar celebrations took place elsewhere across the country too (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
In Edinburgh, the May Queen and Green Man arrived to the dramatic surroundings of Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
In Edinburgh, the May Queen and Green Man arrived to the dramatic surroundings of Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
The large-scale reinterpretation of the ancient celebration featured dozens of participants (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
The large-scale reinterpretation of the ancient celebration featured dozens of participants (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
The Green Man led a dramatic performance with fire (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
The Green Man led a dramatic performance with fire (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Hundreds of spectators gathered for the event, in the shadow of the National Monument (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Hundreds of spectators gathered for the event, in the shadow of the National Monument (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
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