Beltane is here once more. I love this festival the most, the feelings it evokes inside of me, the rituals, the abundance of flowers…..oh, and my birthday falls very near to this festival too adding an extra layer of sparkle to my celebrations.
What is Beltane?
Beltane is a fire festival. It marks the beginning of summer – although we are led to believe that the beginning of summer is actually around June 21st – 23rd, this is in fact midsummer. Way, way back in time we celebrated the beginning of summer at this time of year in the northern hemisphere. Cattle were driven out to the pastures by walking by the Beltane fire. The tribespeople also walked by or around the Beltane fire too as the flames, smoke, and ashes were believed to have protective qualities.
Maypoles are erected at this time too. The significance of maypoles has been lost through time, but many speculate that they are remnants of the old Gaelic may bushes or trees that became outlawed. Others speculate that the maypole is a phallic symbol and this seems to be quite a popular belief. Beltane is steeped in myth and lore and it is believed that this festival is dedicated to fertility rites.
There are so many myths and legends associated with any of the festivals so it is impossible to tell what is true. What I have found is that we can celebrate these festivals by looking at our surroundings, seeing what is going on in the natural world around us. Indeed, at this time of year life is springing forth all around us and it’s easy to see why our ancestors believed that this was a potent time to perform any kind of fertility rite.
I love the stories about courting couples who would go into the woods on Beltane Eve (April 30th) to bring in the may. Spending the night together in the woods sounds like a fabulous way to start your celebrations off, although the reality of that here up north makes me cold just thinking about it. But this sort of activity was an integral part of the Beltane celebrations with maidens going off to gather flowers to decorate the may tree and their homes. Their suitors would follow them out into the woods to woo them.
Whatever you believe, I hope you have a wonderful Beltane and that your life is filled with love and joy.