Beltane, also known as May Day is celebrated May 1st, which is about halfway between Ostara (Spring Equinox) and Litha, (Summer Solstice). Festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth. There are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It's the time when Mother Earth opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.
"Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is associated with important events in Irish mythology. Also known as Cétshamhain ("first of summer"), it marked the beginning of summer and it was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special
bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattlewould walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí (the fae). Doors, windows, byres and livestock would be decorated with white or yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: typically a thorn bush or branch decorated with flowers, ribbons, bright shells and rushlights. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and
maintain youthfulness." from Wikipedia Today, we still honor the tradition of the Beltane fire. Fire festivals are held throughout much of the UK and Ireland to celebrate as well as in the United States. Dancing, singing, feasting, jumping the fire, and drumming are all festival activities. May Poles are erected to symbolize the phallus of the fertility god and prayers are sent for abundance and prosperity as dancers weave the ribbons around in joyful merriment. You will see maidens wearing flower crowns and others with their wrists and ankles adorned in colorful blooms. Cooking over the open flame is common and encouraged, especially roasted meats. Mead flows freely and hand-fasting ceremonies and "jumping the broom" rituals are prevalent.
Many early Beltane practices were designed to appease the fae and prevent them from stealing dairy products. For example, three black coals were placed under a butter churn to ensure the fairies did not steal one's butter. May poles were hung or erected in or near the barns to ensure the cattle's milk was not stolen. Flowers were also used to decorate the horns of cattle, which was believed to bring good fortune. Food was left or milk poured at the doorstep or places associated with the aos sí, such as 'fairy trees', as an offering. People made the sign of the cross with milk for good luck on Beltane. To protect farm produce and encourage fertility, farmers would lead a procession around the boundaries of their farm. They would "carry with them seeds of grain, implements of husbandry, the first well water, and the herb vervain (or rowan as a substitute). The procession generally stopped at the four cardinal points of the compass, beginning in the east, and rituals were performed in each of the four directions".- Wikipedia Keeping our good relations with the fae is another lasting Beltane tradition. Food and milk
offerings are left for them. Honey is a favorite. Some create fairy gardens or altars in their home where offerings can be given. These offerings might also include shiny objects such as jewelry or stones. Colorful ribbons are tied into "fairy trees". If there isn't a Beltane celebration happening near you, don't fret. There are plenty of ways that you can celebrate the Sabbat in your home or backyard.
1. Have your own Beltane fire. If you have a fire pit in your backyard, then fire it up (if there are no fire bans or restrictions, of course). Dance around the fire and sing songs of Mother Earth. If you do not have a fire pit, you can use your fireplace inside just as easily. No fireplace? Create one in a cauldron or fireproof dish. Add sand to the bottom and then a clear alcohol (Everclear works best as it burns clean). Light and let the alcohol burn itself out. *Please never leave a fire or flame unattended.* 2. Cook over an open flame and FEAST! Fire up the grill and roast meats and spring veggies. Add some wine or mead for the adults. 3. Make and wear a flower crown. Daisies and dandelions are common flowers to use but if there is something else that calls to you, then go with that. 4. Fae offerings. Leave offerings of milk and honey outside for the fair folk. Create a fairy garden in your yard. 5. Make your own May Pole. This doesn't have to be large. You can simply submerge a stick in a flower pot of dirt, tie on some ribbons and decorate the top with flowers. Dance around the May Pole and send your prayers for abundance and prosperity. 6. Create a Beltane altar. This can be indoors or outside. Decorate with spring flowers, god and
goddess symbols/ statues, symbols of fertility such as antlers, sticks, cauldron, acorns or seeds, eggs, and rabbits. Use gold and red candles to represent the Beltane fire. Fairy figurines can also be included. 7. Get outside! Simply getting outside and enjoying the warmer days is a way to celebrate Beltane. go for a nature walk/ hike. Take in the trees that are leafing out. Listen to the birds sing and watch for other wildlife in the area. Enjoy a picnic. Do some gardening or plant colorful blooms in flower pots. 8. Jump the broom. If you want to recommit to your spouse or partner, then jump the broom. This was viewed as a marriage ceremony, especially to those that had little or no money for a wedding. It can symbolize sweeping away the past, or any thing that needs to go, and jumping into the new- a clean future together. Whether you plan to attend a grand Beltane Fire Festival or have a simple day and ritual at home, may you be blessed with abundance and prosperity in the coming months. Blessed Be!