As the year speeds by, it is only natural to stop, take a breath and observe the natural cycles and passages as they arrive. Beltane, also related to May Day, Walpurgis Night or Calan Mai, occurs from sunset on April 30th to sunset on May 1st. It is a fire festival, a cross-quarter of the Eight-fold year marking the half way point of the succession from spring to summer.
It is the time of growth and renewal, fertility and abundance. The Goddess, celebrated as May Queen or May Bride, and the Masculine God―the Oak King, Jack-In-The-Green, or the Green Man―fall in love and consummate their marriage, assuring blessings and abundance for the growing season.
Beltane is passionate, sexual and fecund. It is a celebration of the principles of pro-creation, the occasion of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos) between god and goddess, earth and sky. Handfasting, a traditional betrothal that lasted for “a year and a day” after which time the couple could either choose to stay together in marriage or part without impediment, very often took place at this celebration.
Traditionally, all of the fires in a community would be put out, a special Beltane Fire lit to use in the ceremonies that followed and to relight the household fires. This was the Need Fire or Teineigen. People would jump the fire to purify and cleanse themselves, and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire hand in hand to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other livestock were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility.
On the first of May, it was common in many Celtic and Pagan communities for them to erect a May Pole. This phallic pole was inserted into the Earth and represented the potency of the God. The ring of flowers at the top of the Maypole represented the fertile Goddess. Its many coloured ribbons and the ensuing weaving dance symbolize the spiral of life and the union between Earth and Sky.
In a world not nearly so agricultural and more technologically inclined, many traditional celebrations have fallen to the wayside. However, Beltane is still observed in many parts of the world, and often in at least symbolic recognition to its roots. In 2019, more than one Beltane Celebration is being used to call attention to the sad plight of our planet and the looming threat of Climate Change. In a world where we, as failed stewards of the land, are largely responsible for the dire straits our home planet is in, it seems apt that we should turn our attention to these problems. Hearkening back to the spiritual underpinnings of nearly lost traditions is a good way to start.
Blessed Beltane to You All…