Sunday, 24 April 2016



In the conservative and generally somewhat Catholic-leaning Daily Telegraph is an account of the revival of native British customs. Sort of.
In our peripatetic, deeply temporal, modern society, why would anyone choose to spend a long night marking the passing of Winter and greeting Summer? You can sit at home with a boxed set of The Killing and a Waitrose ready meal. Who celebrates change – apart from the Coalition?

Actually, it emerges, increasing numbers of Britons – old, young, and of worldwide origin – still do. In Edinburgh, thousands will celebrate the 25th Beltane (the name is probably derived from a Gaelic word meaning bright fire) Fire Festival this year. In Yorkshire, Thornborough Henge will see its eighth annual event. Butser Ancient Farm has been building and burning its wicker man for more than a decade.

Events have sprung up from Devon to Peebles, Cardiff to Ireland (where the festival is connected to the legends of Tara). All have seen annual attendance and interest on the rise at a time when modern music festivals are seeing numbers slump. Even Glastonbury is taking a year out, due to lack of Portaloos.

I haven't looked at the comments to the Torygraph article (because I am not that deranged) but I dare say some folk had a good old sneer at the notion that middle-class people driving to burnings of wicker persons and filming it all on their iPhones is a 'proper' tradition. But traditions in a civilized society - let's leave the hunter-gatherers to one side - tend to change and evolve while paradoxically offering a sense of continuity and rootedness. England's state religion is irrelevant to most people, while other Christian sects across Britain are either dull or acridly intolerant. The choice facing the vast majority of people is therefore consumer secularism, or consumer secularism with a dash of paganism. The latter at least offers a bit more fun for the smarter kiddies.

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