TWH – For many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists around the world, this week is one to celebrate. The days surrounding the first of May mark many traditional spring festivals and religious holidays recognized around the world. Of these the most well known is Beltane or Bealtaine, which, in some traditions, honors the union of goddess and god and marks the beginning of a Celtic summer. In many secular and non-Pagan religious communities, the day is still celebrated as May Day, complete with the iconic Maypole.
In ancient Greece, the holiday of Anthesteria was celebrated. Today it is more commonly called Protomagia. It is a day that recognizes the rebirth of nature and is associated with the well-known story of Persephone’s ascent from the underworld. While some modern Hellenic polytheists celebrate this day in February, many celebrate it on the first of May, and not long after, as spring continues its dance, some modern Pagans celebrate Thargelia, which is a birthday celebration for Apollon and Artemis.
These festivals and others herald the coming of summer or the apex of spring — a time of merriment, awakening and bounty; a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the other world are thinned. In many traditions and cultures, it is also a time of divine union and fertility.
That does not apply to Pagans everywhere. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are readying for winter. The first of May marks the height of autumn and the end of the harvest season. The celebration of Samhain and other similar holidays that honor the dead or the ancestors are now upon them.
Love, whose month is ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair
Playing in the wanton air.
– William Shakespeare, from Love’s Labour’s Lost,
Act IV, Scene III
Here are some quotes and celebration ideas for this season:
“May starts with the Pagan fertility festival of Beltane. It is day to celebrate all the joys of life and love. Spring has well and truly sprung and all around is greenery and blossom. Birds are nesting, bees are buzzing and flowers are blooming.
“Although May Day this year falls on a weekday, so many of us will be working, you could still go out in the lunch break or after work to do something you enjoy and celebrate the pleasures of life.Beltane is a fire festival, but if it isn’t practical to light a huge bonfire – as is traditional – you can light a candle in the evening and visualise its flame as your own Beltane fire. It is also a great time to try a little candle magic.” The Bad Witch, “Happy Beltane and the First day of May”
“The coming of summer attracted thousands of revellers to Edinburgh last night for the spectacular Beltane Fire Festival. The annual mix of fire, drums, theatre, body paint, elaborate costumes and acrobatics, based on the old Celtic May Day, lit up the skies above Calton Hill as the sun went down . . . . During festivities, the Green Man is killed as the god of winter and reborn as spring to consort with the May Queen, who was played this year by Katie O’Neill. All the fires are put out and relit using a fire made from a piece of wood kept from the previous year’s festival.” – The Edinburgh Herald, “Thousands turn out for a fiery start to the summer at Beltane” 4-30-18
“It is during this time of year that the green magician and herbalist begin laying the sacred plot of the apothecary garden, awakening sleeping roots with offerings of milk and honey and collecting the early blossoms and buds of springtime for the altar and the creation of lustral waters. This year it has stayed cold longer than it normally does, making it feel more like winter than spring. Although the signs of the coming summer are beginning to make themselves known. There are many things to be done both indoors and outdoors to prepare for the growing season.” Coby Michael Ward, “Beltane: Beginning the Growing Season”
“It’s that time of year when the realm of fairies draws near. And fairies love gifts! . . . Whatever you choose to leave as an offering to the fairies, be sure to do so with love and open-hearted generosity. After all, these are the beautiful beings who help our beloved planet to sparkle, shine, burgeon, and bloom.” Tess Whitehurst, “9 Delightful Things You Can Leave as Fairy Offerings”
“Many Pagans are solitary practitioners, either by choice or by necessity. . . . most traditional activities for Beltane are designed for either large groups or for couples (and straight couples at that) . . . [If] you’d like to celebrate Beltane with something other than a ritual? Maybe you’re part of a group that holds its rituals on the Saturday nearest the holiday and you don’t want to do a second ritual. Or maybe you’re just feel the need to do something other than a ritual this time.” John Beckett, “8 Things To Do for Beltane as a Solitary Pagan”
However you are celebrating, may it be merry!