For us pagans in the northern hemisphere, May 1st is Beltane (also known as Beltaine, or Bealtaine from the Irish word for balefire). In the Southern Hemisphere it is celebrated on November 1st. The sabbat begins at moonrise on Beltane Eve.
As the days are becoming warmer and the plant world bursts into life all around us, we celebrate nature’s enthusiastic growth. We can echo nature’s enthusiasm by working on our own personal growth too.
Pronounced “Bell-tayn” or “Be-el-ten-ah”, it falls opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year and holds huge importance no matter which form of pagan tradition you observe. Some of us don’t worship pagan gods, but plenty do.
Beltane rites celebrate birth, fertility and the blossoming of all life, personified by the union of the Goddess and the Sun God.
Beltane is celebrated as the young Sun God now matures into manhood. Union and love between the Goddess and God has been celebrated at this time of year since time immemorial, some of the symbolic associations that still survive today are actually representations of this union, including the cauldron (representing Goddess) and the May Pole (representing God).
Jumping over broomsticks and dancing around maypoles are ancient fertility rites. The traditional dance around the Maypole is an ancient tribute to fertility (the name “May” comes from an old Norse word meaning “to shoot out new growth”).
Bealtaine is one of the great Celtic solar festivals, celebrated in ancient times and still in many places today with bonfires, which were believed to bring fertility to crops, homes and livestock. In Celtic tradition, cattle were driven between bonfires to bless them, and people leaped the fires for luck. People dance clockwise, (“deosil”) around the fires or walk between the fires for protection against illness. Ancients lit bonfires on hills with sacred words spoken.
May 1st was also the midpoint of a five-day Roman festival to Flora, Goddess of Flowers. “Wild” water (dew, flowing streams or sea water) was collected as a basis for healing drinks and potions for the year to come.
Many still do practise and observe many of these rites and traditions, in these modern times however practicality may mean we forego the bonfires and light candles or fire bowls instead as tribute to the sacredness of the day… but however you choose to mark the occasion, Beltane is always at its essential core, a celebration of love, and a tribute to creation. Make it your own celebration!
Some simple ways to celebrate Beltane:
Lighting a fire or candles, incense.
The veil is thin between worlds just as Samhain – so we can take a moment to honour our ancestors and loved ones by thinking of them, lighting a candle next to their photo, setting an extra place at the table at dinner.
Write a letter to your future self about your hopes, dreams, plans to grow and bring to fruition. What do you desire? Write it as if you are speaking to the most beloved and inspiring person in your life.
Celebrate by bringing these into your home on Beltane:
|Beltane||Honeysuckle, St. John’s wort, Hawthorn, Lavender, Bay, All flowers||Frankincense, Lilac, Rose||Green, Soft pink, blue and yellow||Maypole, Strings of beads or flowers, Ribbons, Spring flowers||Dairy, Oatmeal cakes, Cherries, Strawberries, Wine punches, Green Salads|
(c) Rachel Keene 2011