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Rumbledethumps

This week we reach, once again, Beltane, one of the two great Celtic Fire Festivals, on 1 May. On Beltane our Celtic ancestors welcomed with fire, in honour of the sun, the start of summer. Since 1988 the Beltane Fire Festival was revived on Calton Hill in the Scottish Capital, Edinburgh, and over recent years attracted some 15,000 people, from all over the world, to watch the colourful spectacle of fire-juggling acts, dance performers and musicians which echoed our forebear's welcome to the sun and new life. But last month the demands of the Edinburgh City Fathers led to the cancellation of the 2003 Beltane Calton Hill celebrations, instead the organisers are to celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh's Venue nightclub. Not quite the same!
 
In her splendid four volume series 'The Silver Bough' F Marion McNeill in volume four 'The Local Festivals of Scotland' published in 1968 described the, then, Beltane Rites in Edinburgh :-
 
' Arthur's Seat, a hill of over 800 feet, behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, is one of the traditional sites on which our pre-Christian forebears were accustomed to light their Beltane fires at sunrise on the first day of May, to hail the coming of summer and to encourage by mimetic magic the renewal of the food supply.
 
"For the growth of vegetation, not only sunshine, but moisture is necessary; hence not only fire but water had its place in the Beltane ritual. To the Druids, the most sacred of all water forms was dew, and to the dew of Beltane morning they attributed special virtue, gathering it before dawn in stones hollowed out for that purpose. May dew, in a word was the 'holy water' of the Druids. Those on whom it was sprinkled were assured of health and happiness and tradition has it, where young women were concerned, of beauty as well, throughout the ensuing year."
 
To this day, all over Scotland numbers of young girls rise before dawn on the first of May and go out to meadow or hillside to bathe their faces in the dew. Arthur's Seat is a favourite meeting-place, and nearby is St Anthony's Well to which many resort to "wish a wish" on this auspicious day. This picturesque survival of the old pagan rites, together with the Christian service on the summit of the hill, draws hundreds of people to the site. As dawn approaches, numbers of young girls dally on the slopes of Arthur's Seat, laughing and chattering as they perform the immemorial rite, and are regarded with amused tolerance by the majority of the arrivals as they climb to the summit to join in the Sunrise service.'
 
We cannot guarantee the outcome of washing your face in the May morning dew but can guarantee the tastiness of this week's recipe, a great Scottish dish to celebrate Beltane - Rumbledethumps. Traditionally this potato and cabbage based dish is a main course in itself but it can also be served as an accompaniment to roasts and stews.
 
Rumbledethumps
 
Ingredients : 1 lb (500 g) potatoes, cooked and mashed; 1 lb (500 g) cabbage, cooked; 2 oz (50 g) butter; 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 2 oz (50 g) grated cheese; some chopped chives
 
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion. Cook gently for five minutes without browning. Add potatoes, chives and cabbage and mix together. Season well and put into a pie dish. Cover with cheese and brown under the grill or in the oven. Serve hot.

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