Beltane is a fire festival; it’s name taken from the Celtic word for the God Bel and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire.
Celebrated around the 1st of May, it is the festival between the Spring Equinox (Ostara) and Summer Solstice (Litha). The opposite of Samhain. A time when we celebrate the coupling of the Goddess and the God, The Green Man and the May Queen. Thus bringing the Goddess from Maiden into her Mother form. Where thoughts, seeds and ideas are consummated. A celebration of life and joy in being alive.
Having sown the seeds both physically and mentally by focusing our intentions in Spring: Now is the time we celebrate fertility (not just physically but the fertility of ideas and plans) and the coming summer as we begin to see the signs of growth and success. Ensuring a bountiful harvest when the time comes to reap what we have sown.
Like many traditions we still celebrate in our society, the Mayday festivities hark back to our old ways. For example, the dressing of a May Pole; the pole representing a phallus and the virility of the Green Man. At the top is hung a wreath of flowers to represent the fertility of the Goddess. The young people of a community would then dance around the pole and wind it with colourful ribbons to represent (I’m sure you can guess) the joining of energy and affirming of the union between them. Sorry, not sorry, christians, it is all about sex with us pagan folk.
Another tradition we still have is to take time off from our regular work and duties (we still have a day off in England) and do what I refer to as ‘partying like a pagan’ or a more crude description, feasting and fucking. (a swear?! Kate the Goth, nice to meet ya 😉)
People, particularly those coming of age, were encouraged to go out into the woods and meadows and ‘couple’. Married couples also were excused of their vows should they wish it, to join in. Filling the environment with the powerful energy and ensuring the fertility of the land. This was (obviously) more important then as entire communities depended on the success of crops. We lived much more in harmony with our seasons and surroundings. Children conceived from these couplings were believed to be blessed children of the Green Man. They would have been celebrated and cared for by the entire community.
Other traditions performed at this time were:
Handfasting, the joining of lovers for a decided length of time. A tradition I see coming back as a different choice to marriage ceremonies.
Jumping the ‘Bel Fire’ to cleanse oneself and bless with fertility. Again, I see this coming back more and more every year.
The May Blossom, the blossoms from the Hawthorn tree are sacred this time of year. It is bad luck to bring them into your home any other day as they are sacred to the Fae also. Another Beltane tradition was to collect some hawthorn blossoms and decorate your home with them. One spell describes making a ball from sprigs of Hawthorn branches and blossoms to protect your home from fire and hanging it in your home. The following year the old one is burnt on the Belfire and a new one created.
Celebrating Beltane as a modern witch
OK, so orgies in the woods are somewhat frowned upon in our modern society. Indecent exposure being illegal and all that. I’ll leave you all to do with that information what you will. That aside, what other traditions can we partake in?
- Making and wearing a flower crown.
- Walking in green spaces and reflecting upon the intentions planted in spring, how you can ‘fertilize’ them.
- Collecting May Blossoms and decorating your home with them(Please be sure to leave appropriate offerings in thanks and don’t decimate one tree).
- Share a meal with friends and loved ones, a picnic is very fitting.
- Make a bonfire, a wish/prayer and jump over it (with caution).
- Tie ribbons from a tree representing your wishes and intentions for the coming year. Speaking them as you do.
- Dressing yourself and your altar to honour the Sun.
There are many traditions you could explore not listed on my page. Personally, this year I will be visiting my favourite tree with offerings and reflecting upon my intentions. I also collect up May Blossoms and we are going to attempt to make a wine from them to enjoy at our wedding next year.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.
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Love Kate xxx