I love Beltane, I love it because it is fiery, passionate, intentional and produces results!
Beltane was thought to be one of the more important festivals of the Gaelic calendar. Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community.
Beltane celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility, look at the trees around you – (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), they are bursting forth with bright green leaves and the little sparrows are back as well as the robins. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme.
The Goddess has reached her fullness and is the manifestation of growth and renewal and shows up as the May Queen, Flora, the Goddess of Spring. The God emerges as the Young Oak, May King or as Jack in the Green. They fall in love, the union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage, the union of Earth and Sky. If you have ever read “The Mists of Avalon” you will know what I am talking about. “This is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun!”
On Beltane we honor nature’s oldest love story. Beltane means bright fire, and in earth-based traditions, it represents the handfasting, or marriage, of the God and Goddess and their eternal embrace. In ancient lore, the two are separated all winter long, and their reunion on Beltane is celebrated with food, drink, and multi-colored maypoles, which symbolize female energies wrapping themselves around the male form. The world comes alive in color to celebrate their love. This is a holiday of union, a celebration of the divine balance in the union of masculine and feminine. Having reached maturity through their long separation, Lord and Lady now come together as one.
Have you ever seen a Maypole dance? If you have never seen a proper Maypole dance done, I highly recommend it! A phallic pole, often made from Birch (why Birch you ask – Birch is regarded as a feminine tree and Deities associated with Birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses. It is one of the first trees to show its leaf in Spring), was inserted into the Earth representing the potency of the God. At the top there would be a glorious wreath, most often Hawthorn flowers and the flowers represented the Goddess. Hawthorn is a deeply magical tree and is one of the three trees at the heart of the Celtic Tree Alphabet, the Faery Triad, ‘by Oak, Ash and Thorn’. Traditionally Beltane began when the Hawthorn, the May, blossomed. It is the tree of sexuality and fertility and is the classic flower to decorate a Maypole with.
The dance around the Maypole represented Their unity. Ribbons of Green, White and Red hung down from the top of the pole and each young woman would take an end and dance. As they danced around the pole they would weave in and out and through whilst holding onto their gorgeous ribbon. This weaving represented the Spiral of Life and the union between the God and the Goddess. It’s moving artistry and glorious fun!
So if you haven’t gotten it yet, Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight. The Beltane fires of yore were a time of revelry, pairing and celebrating fertility (there were lots of babies born 9 months after the celebrations!) Also, cattle would be led between two fires for protection and to encourage a strong, fertile herd. People believed the smoke and the ashes from the Beltane fires offered protection and fertility. Holy wells were visited and feasts were had. Rowan was often used in Beltane festivals as it’s a tree of protection and healing. Branches of Rowan were placed as protection over the doors of houses and barns at Beltane to protect from increased Faery activity as they woke from their winter slumber. Sprigs were worn for protection also. Rowan berries have a tiny five-pointed star on the bottom reminiscent of the pentagram.
So all in all a great time to celebrate, set intention, fertilise either self or ideas and have a grand jolly time!
But I guess the question some people have is – “Why bother marking the day?” Good question, and my answer would be because it connects you to something bigger, older and deeper than our modern day to day.
I love the way Donna Henes puts it:- Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama and distinction — to our lives, making the ordinary seem special, and the special, extraordinary. Through the practice of ritual we are privileged to experience ourselves as prepared, present, passionate, principled and potent. When we set aside the quality time and claim the psychic space for ceremony, when we assume the authority to do so, we are able to transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experiences, and in the process, our reality.
Does ritual have to be long, drawn out, complicated and require a shed ton of things you don’t have in your home? Some people believe so, but I don’t. To me ritual is performed when I make food for those I love with the intention of it being nourishing and a dish of connection. It’s also in when I routinely smudge and energetically cleanse my home, or in the Epsom salt tub that I draw up for one of the boys with the oils that will help them.
So with all that being said let’s go explore 3 simple rituals for Beltane. The first one is the egg charm (and I most certainly do this at Easter) and it is so easy to do. The second is a tree blessing, which I love and will be doing. There’s also a very simple dandelion renewal ritual – if spring has sprung early enough for you. And a glorious fun thing to do is a Faery offering!
Here is a lovely guided visualisation/meditation to help you really release and tap into this amazing time. Enjoy!
Pick what resonates for you, or create your own. The key elements are Intention, Willingness and Openness.
Enjoy and have fun!