Beltaine – the origins of May Day celebrations

Beltaine Blessings <3

For us in the northern hemisphere, May 1st is Beltaine (also known as Bealtaine from the Irish word for balefire), and in the Southern Hemisphere it is celebrated on November 1st. The sacred day begins at moonrise on Beltaine Eve. As the days are becoming warmer and the plant world bursts into life all around us, we celebrate nature’s exuberance. It’s one of the fire festivals in the wheel of the year.

Pronounced “Bell-tayn” or “Be-el-ten-ah”, it falls opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year and holds huge importance.

Beltaine rites celebrate birth, fertility and the blossoming of all life, as personified by the union of the Goddess and the Sun God.

Our ancients held Beltaine celebrations as the young Sun God now matures into manhood. Union and love between the Goddess and God has been celebrated at this time of year since time immemorial, some of the symbolic associations that still survive today are representations of this union, including the cauldron (representing Goddess) and the May Pole (representing God).

Lighting bonfires, jumping over broomsticks and dancing around maypoles are ancient fertility symbols. The traditional dance around the Maypole is an ancient tribute to fertility (the name “May” comes from an old Norse word meaning “to shoot out new growth”).

Beltaine is one of the great Celtic solar festivals, celebrated in ancient times and still in many places today with bonfires, which were believed to bring fertility to crops, homes and livestock. In Celtic tradition, cattle were driven between bonfires to bless them, and people leaped the fires for luck. People dance clockwise, (“deosil”) around the fires or walk between the fires for protection against illness. Ancients lit bonfires on hills with sacred words spoken as they did so.

May 1st was also the midpoint of a five-day Roman festival to Flora, Goddess of Flowers. “Wild” water (dew, flowing streams or sea water) was collected as a basis for healing drinks and potions for the year to come.

Many still do practise and observe many of these rites and traditions, in these modern times however practicality may mean we forego the bonfires and light incense and candles or fire bowls in our homes as tribute to the sacredness of the day and feast on seasonal fruits and veggies.

Some info to help you celebrate as our elders did:

Plants to bring in (ask them permission!) Honeysuckle, St. John’s Wort, Hawthorn, All blossoms of seasonal flowers.

Incense: Frankincense, Lilac, Rose

Colours: Green, Soft pink, blue and yellow.

You could get crafting and create a maypole, strings of coloured beads or flowers, tied ribbons, spring flowers

Foods for feasting! Dairy, Oatmeal cakes, Cherries, Strawberries, Wine punches, Green Salads.

However you choose to mark the occasion, Beltaine is always at its essential core, a celebration of love, and a tribute to creation. Make it your own celebration.

Don’t forget to check out my Beltaine Special Offer before May 2nd…

Bright Blessings

Rachel xx