Beltane, also known as May day, is one of the four greater Sabats. We celebrate this fire festival on May 1st, traditionally beginning after moonrise. Beltane marks the beginning of the third quarter or the second half of the ancient Celtic year. During this Sabat we celebrate the union of the Goddess and the God through feast, dance, fire and more. Today we will discuss the history, symbols and stories of the Sabat and let you know how you can join in at home too!
HISTORY AND LORE
Beltane is an ancient holiday celebrated on May 1st. In ancient times so much of life was tied into the changing of the seasons and Beltane being a fire festival and celebration of the light part of the year made this fun festival a big deal to the Celts. Since the Sabat revolves around birth, renewal, light and growth many rituals were held to promote fertility and growth.
It was common on Beltane to use Balefires to drive herds from the hills, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations and later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service would be held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire.
Today this is still a holiday of union – both between the Goddess and the God and between man and woman. We, as Pagans, 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 as her lover. Together and through their union, all life begins.
The flowers and greenery we decorate with symbolise the Goddess and the Maypole represents the God. Beltane is the season of maturing life and deep found love. This is the time of vows, handfastings and commitment. Beltane marks the return of vitality and passion of summer.
RITUAL AND OBSERVANCE
There are many ways to celebrate Beltane at home! Here are a few of our favorites…
- Take part in a bonfire, if a bonfire isn’t reasonable given your circumstances, weather or location create a “candle bonfire” and celebrate in doors!
- Build and dance around a May Pole either alone or with friends.
- Dance like no one is watching! This one seems silly but Beltane is all about celebration, being wild, sensuality, love and light.
- Participate in a pleasure or love ritual with your partner.
- Decorate your home and Altar with fresh spring flowers, red and white candles, seeds and eggs. Any symbols of spring and fertility are appropriate.
- Leave an offering in your garden to the fairies as it is believed they can cross over during Beltane.
- Pick wildflowers and reflect on nature.
COLORS: Red, white, pink, green and brown.
ANIMALS: The stag, doves, rabbits, bees and cows.
GODDESSES: Aphrodite, Venus, Diana, Artemis, Persephone, Freya
GODS: Pan, Dionysus, Eros, The Green Man
INCENSE: Frankincense, jasmine, rose, sandalwood
CANDLES: White, red, silver, gold
PLANTS: All blooming flowers, lily, foxglove, jasmine, rose, violet, dasiy
STONE: Rose quartz, emerald, bloodstone
ALTAR DECOR: Fresh cut flowers, seeds, antlers, honey jars, fresh cut herbs
FOODS: Honey, beef, wine, sweets, sugary drinks, breads, dairy products