Beltane: A May Day

Beltane is also known as Lá Bealtaine, Calen Mai, Belteinne, Bealteine, Bealtuinn, Roodmas, Summer Day, and May Day. It is celebrated on May 1 or at the first flowering of the hawthorn tree. Rituals can also be held at the full moon in the sign Taurus, which runs from April 21 to May 21. Several of the customs and associations of Beltane are drawn from its history as an ancient fire festival, but it also has no connotations.

It is also said that the ancient Celts extinguished their home hearth fires on Beltane and then relit them with coal from the Beltane bonfire. While you most likely don't have a permanently burning hearth fire at home, you could reignite your inspiration at Beltane.

Beltane Associations

Beltane is the beginning of the light half of the year. It is celebrated as the start of summer. Beltane is a very potent, sexual holiday because it is the occasion of the union of the maiden and the sun lord. Together they ensure the continued fertility of the land. The Lord of the Wildwood, Cernunnos, and the Green Man are appropriate gods for Beltane. Branwen and Blodeuwedd, a maiden made of flowers, are both goddesses connected with Beltane. Blodeuwedd is also Lleu Llaw Gyffes's wife.

At Beltane rituals, aphrodisiac incense such as damiana and jasmine are burned to stir sexual fervor. This is the day when the maiden becomes a mother who will once again give birth to the new sun lord at Midwinter. Life and death are both a part of sex; it creates life, but everything that lives must ultimately die.

Beltane Customs

Most Beltane rituals feature a fire or a pair of fires. The ancient Celts built hilltop bonfires on Beltane and drove their livestock between them to ensure their health and fertility. Modern rituals include activities such as jumping a fire, or running or dancing between a pair of fires to ensure physical and creative fertility, as well as fertility in every other area of life.

Beltane is a popular time for handfastings. The May queen and king may join in a symbolic or actual marriage, and then receive gifts from those present. Often the May queen and king preside over the dancing of the Maypole. Red and white ribbons are traditional, but myriad colors can be hung on the pole. Altars and ritual spaces should be overflowing with flowers, the symbol of this holiday.

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