Ronald Hutton, at the University of Bristol, states that May Day used to be “more like Christmas, Easter and Whitsun, one of the great turning points of the year…It was the English version of the feast which opened the summer season, across northern Europe: when the grass was growing again and so livestock could be put into the outfields or summer pastures, which often involved a lot of movement. In agrarian societies, the crops had all been sown and were sprouting, and a break could be taken before the weeding really began.”
May Day celebrations have historically gone up and down in popularity, but at the moment they are on the rise again, with different festivities celebrated both by pagans and non-pagans as we approach May 1st. There has been a real renaissance in May events across the country, with newer celebrations joining older events such as the Edinburgh Beltane festivities and the Hastings Jack in the Green festival.
So if you fancy making the most of Beltane this year – at a henge, a sacred well, or the centre of town – here’s a look at what’s coming up this year.
Thornborough Henge in North Yorkshire will be hosting a Beltane celebration in 2019 on Sunday 5th of May (May Day Bank Holiday weekend). The ceremony will start at 12 noon and there is free entry for day visitors. Camping at the site is now fully booked but you can camp at nearby Sentry Circle, near Northallerton, which will also be holding Beltane celebrations of its own.
At Thornborough, three enormous henges were built 5,000-years-ago, forming a single ritual complex and making Thornborough Henge one of Britain’s most important prehistoric sacred sites.
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In Sussex, Into the Wild gathering will be hosting a Beltane Fire Festival at Broomlands, near Cowden (East Sussex TN8 7EA) on May 3 – 6th 2019. Describing the event as ‘small and super friendly,’ Into the Wild says:
“This weekend is open to people of all ages, with a wide range of workshops and activities. Come and join us for a wildly enchanting weekend.
With inspiring Workshops, Yoga, Meditation, Bushcraft Skills, Foraging, Herbal walks, kids’ area workshops & games, Archery, Martial arts, Dzogchen, Shamanism, Tantra, Singing, Dance, Talks from Elders, Rituals, Storytelling, Skating, Slack-lining, Falconry, Circus Skills, Ceremony, Teen area, Cinema, Stalls and much more.
With delicious food from The Hearth in Lewes, The Organic Chip shop, Great sauna, Into the Wild Cafe & Carlitos Burrito, Fantastical Botanicals, Outer Regions Tibetan Cafe plus Amazing Peruvian Coffee from Easy Jose and lots more.”
Also in Sussex, the town of Hastings will be holding its annual Jack in the Green festivity, which this year will be running for four days over the May Bank holiday weekend.
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In Glastonbury, the town will be holding its now-annual Dragon Parade, along with a Maypole celebration. The Goddess Hall will also be hosting a Beltane ceremony and the Chalice Well will be marking the season with a ‘Flowering’ celebration, with free entry to the well gardens from 6 a.m. to noon on Tuesday May 1st. You can find out all the details of these events and others via the Pilgrim Reception Centre.
On Saturday May 5th, Glastonbury will also be hosting a Dragon Conference, with speakers including John Matthews, Peter Knight, Richard Freeman, Yuri Leitch, Alan Royce and Gary Biltcliffe.
The PRC says:
“Be it a climb to the Tor to witness the Morris Dancers at dawn, join the Maypole procession up through the lanes to Bushy Coombe or just to soak up the celebratory atmosphere, a trip to Glastonbury during this time is the highlight of the year for many people.”
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be hosting its first ever Beltane celebration at Bourton-on-the-Water:
“Entertainment will include Iron Age cooking workshops, Iron Age blacksmithing demonstrations, an exhibition of Iron Age hunting tools and equipment, weaving and spinning demonstrations, falconry, wattle and daub making, children’s maypole dancing, and live music performed by the band Brocc.”
They will also be undertaking the burning of a wicker man (hopefully without the addition of a captured policeman).
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North of the border, Edinburgh will be hosting its annual Beltane celebrations at Calton Hill, but this is a very popular event – make sure you book early through their website.
“For one special night, hundreds of otherworldly creatures will descend on Calton Hill to mark the change of the seasons. When the drums start to thunder, the May Queen awakens and leads her followers on a spectacular procession, watched by an audience of thousands against the backdrop of Edinburgh’s stunning skyline.”
In Cornwall, Karen Kay will be hosting an Arthurian themed Faery Ball in Tintagel on Sat 4 May 2019 at King Arthur’s Great Halls.
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If you’re in Lincolnshire, you might also like to visit the Spirit of the Marsh Beltane gathering, 3rd May to the 6th May 2019. Tickets and the itinerary are available on their website or their Facebook page.
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London will be seeing the Pagan Pride March on Sunday May 12th, starting at noon in Russell Square. And later on in the month, the 2019 Witchfest Midlands will be held at the University of Stoke in Trent on Saturday 25th May. Speakers include Kate West
Emma Restall Orr, Mike Stygal from the Pagan Federation and many more, with evening entertainment by Damh the Bard, Inkubus Sukkubus, Green Fortune, and Oblivion Rock Club.
If your group is hosting a celebration, do feel free to mention it in the comments. And happy Beltane from the Brits!