What is Beltane?
Beltane is known by many names such as Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain), May Day, Fairy Day, Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Florida (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-Saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch). Beltane is the 2nd Fire festival of the year and it officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve.
The cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun. In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire.
This is a holiday of Union--both between the Goddess and the God and between man and woman. Handfastings (Pagan marriages) are traditional at this time. It is a time of fertility and harvest, the time for reaping the wealth from the seeds that we have sown. Celebrations include braiding of one's hair (to honour the union of man and woman and Goddess and God), circling the Maypole for fertility and jumping the Beltane fire for luck. Beltane is one of the Major Sabbats of the Wiccan religion. We celebrate sexuality (something we see as holy and intrinsic to us as holy beings), we celebrate life and the unity which fosters it. The myths of Beltane state that the young God has blossomed into manhood, and the Goddess takes him on as her lover. Together, they learn the secrets of the sexual and the sensual, and through their union, all life begins. Beltane is the season of maturing life and deep found love. This is the time of vows, handfastings and commitment. The Lord and his Lady, having reached maturity, come together in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust to celebrate the joy of their union. This is a time to celebrate the coming together of the masculine and feminine creative energies. Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desired the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms and unite.
May Day has long been marked with feasts and rituals. May poles, supremely phallic symbols, were the focal point of old English village rituals. Many people arose at dawn to gather flowers and green branches from the fields and gardens, using them to decorate the village Maypoles.
The May Queen (and often King) is chosen from among the young people, and they go singing from door to door throughout the town carrying flowers or the May tree, soliciting donations for merrymaking in return for the "blessing of May". This is symbolic of bestowing and sharing of the new creative power that is stirring in the world. As the kids go from door to door, the May Bride often sings to the effect that those who give will get of nature's bounty through the year.
In parts of France, some jilted youth will lie in a field on May Day and pretend to sleep. If any village girl is willing to marry him, she goes and wakes him with a kiss; the pair then goes to the village inn together and lead the dance which announces their engagement. The boy is called "the betrothed of May.
The symbolism of Beltane:
Fertility, The Great Union, New life, Purification.
Symbols of Beltane:
Maypole, strings of beads or flowers, ribbons, spring flowers, fires, fertility, growing things, ploughs, cauldrons of flowers, butter churn, baskets, eggs.
Animals of Beltane:
Swallow, dove, swan, Cats, lynx, leopard
Herbs and Flowers of Beltane:
Almond tree/shrub, ash, broom, cinquefoil, clover, Dittany of Crete, elder, foxglove, frankincense, honeysuckle, rowan, sorrel, hawthorn, ivy, lily of the valley, marigold, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, thyme, angelica, bluebells, daisy, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, primrose, and rose may be decorations, St. john’s wort, yarrow
Foods of Beltane:
Dairy, bread, cereals, oatmeal cakes, cherries, strawberries, wine, green salads.
Incenses and oils of Beltane:
Frankincense, lilac, African violet, jasmine, rose, sage and strawberry
Colors of Beltane:
Green, soft pink, blue, yellow, red, brown
Stones of Beltane:
Emerald, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz
Activities of Beltane:
Fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one’s property, feasting
Spellworkings of Beltane:
Magick worked for futility, prosperity, conservation, safety, happiness and love in all things
Deities of Beltane:
Goddesses- All Flower Goddesses, Aphrodite, Asherah, Belili, Brigid, Danu, Freya, Flora, Gwenhwyvar, Hina, Ishtar, Maia, Mary, Oiwyn, Oshun, Ostara, Sappha, Tonantzin, Vesta
Gods- the Green Man, Jack of the Green, Cernunnos, Pan, Bel, Beltene, Cupid/Eros, Manawyddan, All Gods of the Hunt.