In Pictures: Fiery start to May Day celebrations

·1-min read

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