Friday, 30 April 2010

Beltane...may day 1st May

30th April / 1st May

This is the beginning of the 'lighted half' of the year

when the Sun begins to set later in the evening and the hawthorn blossoms.

To our ancestors Beltane was the coming of summer and fertility.

Nature is in bloom and the earth is full of fecundity and life.

For the Celts, Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season when the herds of livestock were driven out to the summer pastures and mountain grazing lands.

Due to the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, Bealltainn in Scotland was commonly celebrated on May 15

while in Ireland Sean Bhealtain / "Old May" began about the night of May 11.

Beltane or Beltaine (origin Old Irish)
is the anglicised spelling of Bealtaine or Bealltainn,
the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May.

Bealtaine is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun's progress between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

Since the Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is possible that the holiday was celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

In Irish Gaelic, the month of May is known as Mí Bhealtaine or Bealtaine,
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.

As an ancient Gaelic festival, Bealtaine was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, though there were similar festivals held at the same time in the other Celtic countries of Wales, Cornovii areas of England, Brittany and Cornwall.

The lighting of bonfires on Oidhche Bhealtaine ('the eve of Bealtaine')
on mountains and hills of ritual and political significance still takes place.

In modern Scottish Gaelic, Latha Buidhe Bealltainn or Là Buidhe Bealltainn ('the yellow day of Bealltain') is used to describe the first day of May.

This term
Lá Buidhe Bealtaine is also used in Irish and is translated as 'Bright May Day'.

In Ireland it is referred to in a common folk tale as
Luan Lae Bealtaine; the first day of the week (Monday/Luan) is added to emphasise the first day of summer.

Another common aspect of the festival which survived up until the early 20th century in Ireland was the hanging of May Boughs on the doors and windows of houses and the erection of May Bushes in farmyards,

which usually consisted either of a branch of rowan/caorthann (mountain ash) or more commonly whitethorn/sceach geal (hawthorn) which is in bloom at the time and is commonly called the 'May Bush' .

Furze/aiteann was also used for the May Boughs, May Bushes and as fuel for the bonfire.

Young men would circle the Beltaine fires holding Rowan branches to bring protection against evil - its bright berries suggested fire - malign powers were considered particularly active at the year's turning-point.

It was considered unlucky to allow anyone to take fire from one's house on May Eve or May Day, as they would gain power over the inhabitants.


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.

Beltane Incense

3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Sandalwood
1 part Woodruff
1 part Rose petals
Few drops Jasmine oil
Few drops Neroli oil

Burn during Wiccan rituals on Beltane (April 30th)
or on May Day for fortune and favors and to attune with the changing of the seasons.

A Fairy Spell for Beltane

In a woodland clearing, spread a clean green cloth.

On it place small cakes and flowers, especially primroses, in a circle.

Imagine the magic around you and say:

“O Fairy Queen,
Upon your white steed,
Within me plant
A magic seed.
From you may spring
Many new beginnings.
Great Queen,
Accept these offerings.”

Leave the items and walk around the altar three times, then slowly
walk the path back to your home.

Listen for the sound of laughter
and bells and know you are blessed.

Beltane is the time when fairies
return from their winter rest, carefree and full of mischief and

On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would
place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection.

If you do not wish the fairies to visit, do the same!

This is also aperfect time for night or predawn rituals to draw down power to
promote fertility in body and mind.

At Beltane, the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon.

The Pleiades is known as the seven sisters, and resembles a tiny dipper-
shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars in the constellation
of Taurus, near the shoulder.

Watch for it low in the east-northeastsky, just a few minutes before sunrise.

By: Nancy Bennett

Dream Incense

2 parts Sandalwood
1 part Rose petals
1 part Camphor
Few drops Tuberose bouquet
Few drops Jasmine oil

Burn a bit in the bedroom prior to sleep to produce psychic dreams.
Remove the censer from the room before retiring.
Use only genuine camphor.
If this is unavailable, add a few drops spirits of camphor. Available in most drug stores.

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 May 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.

The Maiden

The Triple Goddess - worshipped by the Ancient Britons -

at Beltane is now in her aspect of the Maiden :

The May Queen, May Bride, Goddess of Spring, Flower Bride, Queen of the Fairies

- a symbol of purity, growth and renewal.

The Crone turns to stone on Beltane Eve.

Going 'A-Maying'

Beltane is a time of partnerships and fertility.
New couples proclaim their love for each other on this day.
It is also the perfect time to begin new projects.

True Love Incense

1 part Cinnamon
1 part Orris
a few drops Patchouly oil

Burn for love.

Going 'A-Maying' meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn,
watching the sunrise and making love in the woods
- a 'greenwood marriage'.

Love Incense

2 parts Sandalwood
1/2 part Basil
1/2 part Bergamot
a few drops Rose oil
a few drops Lavender oil

Burn to attract love, to strengthen the love you have,
and to expand your ability to give and receive love.

Incense, Herbs and Woods

Incenses used for Beltane should be intoxicating, heady, and erotic.

Rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, peach, musk, and vanilla are all appropriate.

If you want to use herbs to make an incense or spell powder to throw on the fire, woodruff, fern, rose, chamomile, wormwood, and galangal are good choices.

Often you will read about the nine sacred woods used in kindling the balefire.

Obviously, the trees should all have strong connections to magick, but substitutions can be made depending on where you live.

Oak would be the first choice, the backbone of the fire, so to speak.

To that add eight other types of wood. Any and all of these are acceptable:

apple, Hawthorne, birch, elder, ash, thorn (blackthorn), grape vine, rowan (mountain ash), holly, willow, cedar, yew and hemlock.

The Colors of Beltane

Bright colors abound at this time of year. Some especially connect the colors of purple and green with Beltane -

the deep plum of grape wine, the peridot and hunter greens of the forest -

and the gold of the sun shining through the trees are natural choices for Beltane


May blossom symbolises female fertility, with its creamy/ white, fragrant flowers.

Hawthorn blossom was worn during Beltane celebrations, especially by the May Queen.

It is believed to be a potent magical plant and it is considered unlucky to bring the blossom inside the house, apart from on May eve.

Faerie Lore - The Fae at Beltane

Beltane is traditionally a time when the veil between our world and that of the Fae is thin.

The fairy May Queen is shown as a wheaten haired beauty with a daisy chain in her hair

She is surrounded by a bounty of leaves and beautiful bright flowers,
and symbols of fertility and change of seasons
(such as eggs, honeybees, moon phases, etc.).

She's also accompanied by a handsome Jack-in-the-Green
(aka a "green man")
made of leaves with stag-like antlers.

Fae are associated with magical underground caverns and springs -- it was believed that a traveler who went too far into one of these places would find himself in the Faerie realm.

Another way to access the world of the Fae was to find a secret entrance.

These were typically guarded, but every once in a while an enterprising adventurer would find his way in.

Often, he found upon leaving that more time had passed than he expected.

In several tales, mortals who spend a day in the fairy realm find that seven years have passed in their own world.

May Day - Beltane Traditions

It was a Celtic tradition to fell a birch tree on May day and to bring it into the community.
Crosses of birch and rowan twigs were hung over doors on the May morning, and left until next May day.

Beltane cakes or bannocks - oatcakes coated with a baked on custard made of cream, eggs and butter -
were cooked over open fires and anyone who chose a misshapen piece or a piece with a black spot was likely to suffer bad luck in the coming months.
They were also offered to the spirits who protect the livestock, by facing the Beltane fire and casting them over their shoulders.

Beltane is the festival that celebrates all of the living world: plants, animals, and human beings. On both occasions, the veil between the worlds is said to be thin, and is no more unusual to see the fairies near Beltane, than it is to see the spirits of the dead at Samhain.

Beltane is a time of Faerie Magic and the Queen of faeries is represented by the Queen of the May.

Along with her consort, she rules over the festivities and serves as representative of the Goddess.

In most temperate climates, flowers are now in bloom, trees are in blossom or in full leaf, and gardens are beginning to grow.
All of the hibernating animals are fully awake.
The birds have nested and settled down to raise their brood.

The maypole

- a phallic pole planted deep in the earth representing the potency and fecundity of the God,
its unwinding ribbons symbolized the unwinding of the spiral of life and the union of male and female
- the Goddess and God.
It is usually topped by a ring of flowers to represent the fertile Goddess.

Holiday of fertility.
For Pagans, one of the great gifts of the Goddess is the power of the earth to grow wonderful flowers and fruits and all the things we eat.
We are thankful for the fertility of the earth, and our job is to keep the land and the soil healthy, to protect the animals and plants and trees so that fertility can continue.
The earth is a living being, and all of her creatures are part of her body.
Each has a place, a purpose, a special part in the great dance of life.

Beltane Celebrations and Rituals

The May Queen -
Maid Marion/the Maiden consorts with Robin/ the Green Man in Celtic celebrations of May day.

The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency -
wash your face and body in it and remain fair all year,
and guarantee your youth and beauty continues -
men who wash their hands in it will be good at tying knots and nets -
useful if you're a fisherman!

A time to paint pictures, make up songs, tell new stories, plant a garden, or cook a dinner,
take part in the fertility of the Goddess.

The Altar

The altar for Beltane can be a simple arrangement of flowers in bloom at this time.

May baskets can be made of paper strips or created from existing baskets.

Branches of Hawthorne (the May tree) or oak leaves and branches (sacred to Robin Hood) can form a green background.

You might also want to include pictures of the Fair Folk, and be sure to set out a bowl of milk or cream for them at night.

Don't worry if the cat drinks it - she's probably a Faery in disguise!


This ancient Pagan and Celtic ceremony marked the taking of a partner -
this involves a commitment to perform an annual review of relationship. The couple's hands are ritually bound together to symbolize their union.
Some people choose to use a ribbon that they have both signed.

Between Beltane and the Summer Solstice is the most popular time for handfastings.

When we give each other love the whole earth is blesssed.

Love & light


Healing Woman said...

This was absolutely the best posting I have ever seen. You presented Beltane in a magical, informative way. I loved all the images you used, details, descriptions. Absolutely fabulous!

Thank you!

Lisa said...

Healing Woman took the words from my mouth (fingers). Wonderful post and so informative. THank you!

jasmoonbutterfly said...

bright blessings ladies )O(
Thank you both for your lovely words & feedback ;-)
I was worried it may be a tad too long lol But it is such a special time and creatively inspiring!
love & light
Trace oxox

Suzi Smith said...

yes it is lovely post, thankyou (& thanks to lisa for pointing the way!)

Ayala Art said...

Very nice post! Some things I knew but many others I learned today. Yes it is a long post Trace, but excellent! Don't worry, it is lovely.
Happy May Day.

Susan Gallacher-Turner said...

Lovely pictures and information about Beltane.

I especially loved your quote at the beginning of your inspiring!

TitusL said...

Love this very beautiful post thank you :D
thought you might enjoy my Beltane Blessing machinima film
Bright Blessings
elf ~