Beltane was an important festival in the Celtic calendar.
The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel meaning the ‘bright one’, and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire, giving the name ‘bealtain’, meaning ‘bright fire’.
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into the two seasons, Winter (Dark) & Summer(Light).
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 Winter and rules over Summer & life again.
Beltaine then Signifies The Awakening of New Life & The Start of the Bright part of the year.
This date has long been considered a ‘power point’ of the Zodiac,& is symbolized by the Bull, one of the ‘tetramorph’ figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune.
(The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.)
Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four ‘fixed’ signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius).
Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers….
At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon (Winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset).
The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the ‘Seven Sisters’ in the constellation of Taurus, standing very low in the east-northeast sky for a few minutes before sunrise.
video by paganboynuneaton.
Beltane is one of the three ‘Spirit-Nights’ of the year when the ‘faeries’ may be seen…it is a time of ‘No Time’ when the two worlds intermingle and magic abounds!
The Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse on Beltane eve & will try to entice people away to Faeryland…
Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see Her,if you hide your face She will pass you by, but if you look at Her, She may take you.
To our ancestors Beltane was the coming of summer and fertility.
Much of ancient Celtic magic was sympathetic, meaning that actions were performed to simulate the desired result.
May was the time to encourage the untamed forces of nature to expand their power and cause crops, animals, and people to grow and reproduce abundantly.
Couplings among unmarried partners, often outdoors or in wooded areas, was one way to encourage this result, but it was considered unlucky to marry at this time of disorder….
For the crops, it is however still a precarious time, as they are very young and tender, susceptible to late frost and early blight…
The lighting of bonfires on ‘Oidhche Bhealtaine’ (the eve of Bealtaine) upon mountains and hills of religious & tribal significance was one of the main activities of the festival.
The lighting of a community Bealtaine fire from which individual hearth fires are then relit was therefore observed as the Druids of each community would create a fire on top of a hill and drive the village’s cattle through the fires to purify them and bringing luck ‘Between the two fires of Beltane’.
People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves.
When the Druids raised these Beltane fires, they were performing an act of sympathetic magic, as the fires were lit in order to bring the sun’s light down to earth.
When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of light over the dark half of the year.
May Day – Beltane Traditions
Beltane is a time of partnerships and fertility.
New couples proclaim their love for each other on this day.
It is also the perfect time to begin new projects.
The Maypole – a phallic pole planted deep in the earth represents the potency and fecundity of the God, its unwinding ribbons symbolize the unwinding of the spiral of life and the union of male and female – the Goddess and God.
It is usually topped by a ring of flowers to represent the fertile Goddess.
(The Puritans banned maypoles during the 17th Century)
Hanging May Boughs of Hawthorn and crosses of Birch and Rowan twigs over doors on the May morning were left until the next May to bless & protect the home.
Hawthorn blossom symbolises female fertility, with its creamy/ white, fragrant flowers.
Hawthorn blossom was also worn during Beltane celebrations, especially by the May Queen.
It is believed to be a potent magical plant and it is considered unlucky to bring the blossom inside the house, apart from on May eve.
Pilgrimages to holy wells are also traditional at this time, and offerings and prayers to the spirits or deities of the wells are usually part of this practice. Crafts such as the making of equal-armed rowan crosses are common, and often part of rituals performed for the blessing and protection of the household and land.
Beltane Cake, baked with eggs. – oatcakes baked with eggs, coated with a custard made of cream, eggs and butter – were cooked over open fires and anyone who chose a misshapen piece or a piece with a black spot referred to as the ‘Beltane Carline’ would be set upon by the others who would attempt to throw them on the fire.
This would be prevented by the rest of the festivalgoers.
The unlucky person would be considered a symbolic sacrifice and referred as being dead for the rest of the evening.
The ‘Obby ‘Oss, at Padstow, Cornwall – still carried on today, consists of a processional dance with the participants wearing animal skins & is believed to be a relic of a Pagan sacred marriage between earth and sky, the dance enacts the fertility god sacrificed for the good of his people.
Going ‘A-Maying’ meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods.
The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency –
wash your face and body in it and remain fair all year, and guarantee your youth and beauty continues.
Bright Blessings & Happy Beltaine !