A Merry Beltane

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 30, 2007 — Leave a comment

“What potent blood hath modest May.”
Ralph W. Emerson

Tonight and tomorrow (in the northern hemisphere) are the traditional dates for the major spring/summer festivals in modern Paganism. Beltane, Bealtaine, May Day, Floralia, and Walpurgis Night. This fire festival heralds the coming of summer and is a high holiday, a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the otherworld were thin. In many traditions and cultures it is a time of divine union and fertility.


Walpurgis Night bonfire, near lake Ringsjo, Sweden
Photo by David Castor

“The Beltane Fire Festival celebrates the heritage of Gaelic history, and marks the blossoming of spring and fertility. The name Beltane is thought to have derived from a Celtic word meaning “bright fire”; the fire represents the sun burning away the winter darkness, and the community pass through it to be purified and circle it for good luck.”Lindsay Corr, The Scotsman

“…while Samhain began one kind of yearly cycle, Bealtaine began another, and both could be construed as a kind of “New Year”. In ancient Ireland the High King inaugurated the year on Samhain for his household (and, symbolically, for all the people of Ireland) with the famous ritual of Tara, but in nearby Uisneach, the sacred centre held by the druids in complementary opposition to Tara, it was on Bealtaine that the main ritual cycle was begun. In both cases sacred fires were extinguished and re-lit, though this happened at sunset on Samhain and at dawn on Bealtaine. Bealtaine was a time of opening and expansion, Samhain a time of gathering-in and shutting, and for herd-owners like the Celts this was expressed with particular vividness by the release of cattle into upland pastures on Bealtaine and their return to the safety of the byres on Samhain.”Alexei Kondratiev, Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal

“May Day customs include: walking the circuit of one’s property (“beating the bounds”), repairing fences and boundary markers, processions of chimney sweeps and milkmaids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.”Mike Nichols, A Celebration of May Day

“Dancing was a common way to celebrate the season. The Maypole rites being an obvious example, but before this practice became widespread, dancing without benefit of a giant pole was also common. Dancing round the bonfires was seen as a way to partake of the purification of its flames. Women wanting to get pregnant would perform fertility dances at the fireside. Once the Beltane fires were relit on the hillsides, villagers would carry a flaming torch, the “need-fire, ” back to their homes and relight their hearthfires with it. On the way, it was customary to dance and sing the season in.”Peg Aloi, You Call it May Day, We Call it Beltane

“Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill and then give it to someone in need of healing and caring, such as a shut-in or elderly friend. Form a wreath of freshly picked flowers, wear it in your hair, and feel yourself radiating joy and beauty. Dress in bright colors. Dance the Maypole and feel yourself balancing the Divine Female and Male within. On May Eve, bless your garden in the old way by making love with your lover in it. Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck. Welcome in the May at dawn with singing and dancing.”Selena Fox, Beltane

“I’m sorry if I omitted anyone’s favorite rite of Spring. They are too numerous to list. No matter if you celebrate Easter, Passover, Beltaine or Ridvan, I send you a wish for happiness and re-birth. Now is a good time to remember how similar we are – Christian and Jew, Buddhist and Pagan. I wish you all, ‘Blessed be.'”Adele Elliott, The Commercial Dispatch

May you all be especially blessed this evening and tomorrow.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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