and the festival as Lá Bealtaine ('day of Bealtaine' or, 'May Day').
In Scottish Gaelic the month is known as either (An) Cèitean or a' Mhàigh, and the festival is known as Latha Bealltainn or simply Bealltainn.
The feast was also known as Céad Shamhain or Cétshamhainin from which the word Céitean derives
Beltane is such a joyous festival, it symbolises the joining of the young God and Goddess and celebrates fertility, life force, vitality and energy. With Nature in full flow all around us, the hope is for a fruitful harvest to come. In days gone by, Beltane was the time of year when the cattle were released from their winter enclosures and moved to their summer grazing land. Two great fires were lit, laced with herbs and other aromatic plants and the cattle would be driven between the fires through the smoke so they could be cleansed of parasites and negative energies. We still use the Beltane fires (balefire) today, using the smoke to purify our body's and souls, the braver actually leaping small fires in hope of being granted fertility! The May pole has a prominent place in Beltane festivals, in ancient times it was a phallic symbol, the male energy being encased within the female womb (ribbons). The joining of the the male and female, represented the union of the God and Goddess and was in itself a fertility rite for an abundant harvest. We still use the may pole today as part of the Beltane celebrations, but for solitaries, the plaiting of white and red ribbons makes a good substitute. Beltane is a very traditional time for handfastings and of union. Handfastings at this time are especially blessed as the union is a mirror of the union of the God and Goddess and a baby born 9 months after Beltane was considered a very special child. As Beltane marks our official start of summer, our thoughts turn to the outdoors environment and we thought it would be nice to add a few new items for the garden this year. The signs are for a good summer ahead and the garden is a haven of tranquillity and peace in which we can take refuge from the days ravages. The gentle lullaby of the wind chimes, the scent of fresh flowers and the symphony of the birds in the trees give us our own sacred space. The smell of fresh mown grass fills the senses, the chatter of children playing outside hums gently in the background and a wash of colour paints the landscape - does life get any better?
In Irish mythology, the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians started at Bealtaine. Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits, such as the Aos Sí. Like the festival of Samhain, opposite Beltane on October 31 Beltane was also a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand.
Early Gaelic sources from around the 10th century state that the druids of the community would create a need-fire on top of a hill on this day and drive the village's cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck (Eadar dà theine Bhealltainn in Scottish Gaelic, 'Between two fires of Beltane'). This term is also found in Irish and is used as a turn of phrase to describe a situation which is difficult to escape from. In Scotland, boughs of juniper were sometimes thrown on the fires to add an additional element of purification and blessing to the smoke. People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves. This was echoed throughout history after Christianization, with lay people instead of Druid priests creating the need-fire. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s, and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today
Wiccans and Wiccan-inspired Neopagans celebrate a variation of Beltane as a sabbat, one of the eight solar holidays. Although the holiday may use features of the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as maypole dancing). Some Wiccans celebrate 'High Beltaine' by enacting a ritual union of the May Lord and Lady.
Among the Wiccan sabbats, Beltane is a cross-quarter day; it is celebrated in the northern hemisphere on May 1 and in the southern hemisphere on November 1. Beltane follows Ostara and precedes Midsummer