This week saw the ancient Celtic
Festival of Beltane being celebrated, once again, with a large
gathering on Calton Hill, Edinburgh. The 21st Century Fire Spectacle
was a vivid reminder that our ancestors used Beltane as a symbol
of rebirth and the coming growing season. The fires kindled on 1st may
have very ancient origins, leading back to early Sun worshiping.
Beltane was marked until Victorian times, particularly by hill
shepherds, who would meet in a secret place, on some high hillside, to
remember a festival which stretched back into the mist of history. At
Beltane shepherds cut a circular trench and lit a fire of sacred wood.
They made a caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal and milk, spilling some on
the ground to ensure the safety of their flock in the coming season
and to placate the old Gods. They drank it with beer and whisky. Often
an oatcake was baked with nine knobs dedicated to various deities and
each shepherd broke off a piece and said, "This to thee, preserve
This recipe makes a tasty, thick oatcake
without the need for a griddle!
8 oz oatmeal; 1/2 teasp salt; 4 oz
self-raising flour; 1 teasp sugar; 2-3 oz cooking fat; cold water
Mix the dry ingredients. Rub in the fat,
and add sufficient cold water to form a stiff dough. Turn out on to a
board which has been lightly sprinkled with oatmeal. Knead lightly,
and roll out to a quarter of an inch in thickness. Cut into small
rounds or into quarters of a large round. Place on a greased tray and
bake in a slow oven for 20 minutes. Mark 3 or 350 deg F.