Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. It traditionally marked the arrival of summer in ancient times. Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of "no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight...When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland.
Beltane translated means "fire of Bel" or "bright fire" - the "bale-fire". Bel is the known as the bright and shinning one, a Celtic Sun God. Beli is the father, protector, and the husband of the Mother Goddess.
Beltane is the time of the yearly battle between the Welsh God of death and the hero Gwythur for the hand of Creudylad [the beautiful maiden]. A myth of the battle of winter and summer for the magnificent blossoming earth.
The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields.
Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying". Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers.
- Sexual symbols, such as the maypole, or the dagger and chalice.
- The color green
- "Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring"[source].
- "Water is another important association of Beltane, water is refreshing and rejuvenating, it is also imperative to life. It is said that if you bathe in the dew gathered before dawn on Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Those who are sprinkled with May dew are insured of health and happiness. There are other folk customs such as drinking from the well before sunrise on Beltane Morn to insure good health and fortune" [source].
|a Green Man cake|
- Bannock, or oat scones (this isn't a traditional Beltane recipe, but it's one we like. Here is a more traditional recipe)
- Make a Green Man cake (a cake decorated to look like the Green Man)
- Serve punch or water with ice cubes that have flowers frozen into them
- Spring salad
- Sweet breads, usually with sweetmeat or spices in the center
- Colorful fruit
- Dairy foods
|leaping the bonfire (source link)|
- Wear bright colors
- Wear flowers in your hair
- Have a bonfire! If you're daring, make it a low narrow one (or not!), and jump over it
- Raise a May Pole, and dance the ribbons around it (here are directions, you can use a branch or a tetherball or volleyball post for your pole)
winding the ribbons around the may pole
- Gather flowers, and decorate the house with them
- Take flowers to your friends and neighbors
- Gather the first herbs of the season
- Go on a picnic
- Wash your face in the dew at sunrise on Mayday (or in the evening dew on Beltane evening)
- If it rains, go out and get your face and hair wet in it, feeling the blessing of the life-giving water
- Hold a mock battle between Winter and Summer (they did this in ancient Scandinavia)
- Make love with your spouse outdoors (in the woods, or in the privacy of your own backyard) (If you didn't follow the link before, check out my post about the Great Rite)
- Go on a walk in nature.
- Look for fairies!
- Read fairy stories
- Decorate your yard with ribbons, flowers and shiny things to attract fairies
- Build little fairy homes in your yard with rocks, leaves, sticks, ribbons, buttons, etc
- Say a blessing over your garden (the space or the new starts growing)
- Read in the scriptures about when God put plants on the Earth
It is the child's unrestrained expression of bliss and delight that is what Beltane is all about. It is the sheer joy of running through fields, picking flowers, rapturing in the sunlight, delighting in the fragrance of spring, dancing in the fresh dew covered grass. Our children guide us through the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities and show us how to take grand pleasure, warmth and bliss from the gift of Beltane.