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Beltane, May Day, Activities, Lore

by Raven and Crone

Beltane is on May 1.

Beltane is the second of the fire festivals and the major fertility festival we all know and love today. It is during this time the God and Goddess are wed and massive fertility celebrations occur.

It is during Beltane that the crops are beginning to grow. The ancients would perform rites to not only encourage the crops to grow but to also show them how to grow. It is also during this time the ideas of witches flying on broomsticks came from because the ancient women would take the brooms and other farming utensils and place them between their legs with the head of the broom or utensil upwards, like a stick horse. They would then jump through the fields as high as they could to show the crops just how high they wanted them to grow.

Another symbol of fertility during the Beltane celebration was the Maypole. This is a tall pole with ribbons tied to the top and the folks would dance around it, weaving through each other thus weaving the ribbons around the pole.

During the Beltane celebration there would be bonfires which the women would jump over in order to increase their fertility and cattle would be driven between two bonfires for the same reason.

This is a holiday of love, fertility, weaving of masculine and feminine energy. It is the high point of spring. Oat bread and cookies, spring wines, and egg dishes are appropriate. Ice cream yogurt, cheese are also welcome additions to the menu.

Also known as: May Day, Bealtaine, Beltane, Bhealtainn, Bealtinne, Festival of Tana-Strega, Giamonios, Rudemass, and Walburga-Teutonic, Cetsamhain-opposite Samhain,Fairy Day ,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala-Roman feast of flowers
from April 29 to May 1, Walpurgisnacht-Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga, Thrimilce-Anglo Saxon), Bloumaand-Old Dutch

Beltane Altar: Altars are generally adorned with seasonal flowers. Other appropriate altar decorations for the season include mirrors, a small May pole, phallic-shaped candles to represent fertility, and daisy chains.

Animals: Swallow, dove, swan, Cats, lynx, leopard, goats, rabbits, and honey bees. Mythical beasts associated with Beltane include faeries, pegasus, satyrs, and giants.

Deities: Gods and Goddesses of Beltane, Appropriate Deities for Beltane include all Virgin-Mother Goddesses, all Young Father Gods, all Gods and Goddesses of the Hunt, of Love, and of Fertility. Some Beltane Goddesses to mention by name here include Arianrhod, Astarte, Ariel, Var, Skadi, Shiela-na-gig, Cybele, Xochiquetzal, Freya, and Rhiannon. Beltane Gods include Apollo, Bacchus, Bel-Belanos, Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, Faunus, Cupid-Eros, Odin, Orion, Frey, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and The Great Horned God, Flower Goddesses, Divine Couples, Deities of the Hunt, Aphrodite, Artemis, Bast, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Maia, Pan, the Horned God, Venus. 

Tools: broom, May Pole, cauldron

Beltane offerings: sacred wood and dried herbs burned in Beltane fires

Stones-Gems: emerald, bloodstone, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz

Colors: The most common colors associated with Beltane are white, green, soft pink, blue, yellow, red and brown.. but also appropriate are all the colors of the rainbow spectrum itself.

Herbs and Flowers: almond tree or shrub, ash, broom, cinquefoil, clover, Dittany of Crete, elder, foxglove, belladonna, frankincense, honeysuckle, rowan, sorrel, hawthorn, ivy, lily of the valley, marigold, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, thyme, violets, woodruff may be burned; angelica, bluebells, daisy, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, primrose, and rose may be decorations, st. john's wort, yarrow, basically all flowers. Also included are Yellow cowslip, birch trees, rosemary, lilac and satyrion root.

Incense: Use passion flower, vanilla, frankincense, lilac and rose.. These can be used alone or blended as you like.

Symbols and Decorations: Traditional symbols used to represent Beltane are the May Pole- the traditional full-size one is about 10 feet tall, May baskets, crossroads, eggs, butter churns, strings of beads or flowers, ribbons, fires, fertility, growing things, plows, cauldrons of flowers, baskets and chalices. Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Beltane with fresh flowers all around the ritual area as well as their homes and the cauldron is often totally
filled with gorgeous Springtime flowers. 

Food: dairy, bread, cereals, oatmeal cakes, cherries, strawberries, wine, green salads. Dairy foods and eggs are in tune with this season. Sweets of all kinds, honey, and oats are all fine foods for Beltane. Simple dishes such as vanilla ice cream and egg custard are quite traditional fare on this day. For something a little different, try some of the recipes.

Activities and Rituals: fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one's property, feasting

Wiccan Mythology: sexual union and or marriage of the Goddess and God

It's association with fire also makes Beltaine a holiday of purification. Wiccan weddings are frequently held on or around Beltaine.

May Cup For Beltane

Long-stemmed goblet or glass
Potpourri-seasonal dried or fake flowers
Red, white, and-or gold ribbon
Small grapevine wreath
Charm for decoration

Directions: Fill the cup with floral decorations of the season such as :bluebells, roses, daisies, primroses, lilac or potpourri in May colors such as: green, soft pink, blue, yellow, and-or white. Around the cup, use gold, red, or white ribbon to hang a charm of some sort; some of the best images to use would be a grapevine or twig star-available at most craft stores or easily constructed with twigs and wire, a bell, or a faery image, possibly even a small broom or just a string of beads. Now the stem of the cup can be decorated however you like: Wire-stemmed flowers can be wound around it, or fake ivy, or even red and white ribbons wound around like a maypole if that suits the decoration. Place the cup in the center of the grapevine wreath, and also decorate the wreath with seasonal florals, including red and white ribbons. Use it as a centerpiece for a seasonal altar or kitchen table.

Ritual use: The "May cup" was originally a chalice whose purpose was to hold wine or another beverage which was consumed by the May King and May Queen, elected by the people during the town May Day party. The cup can be used in solitary, couple, or group ritual to hold a blessed beverage for the ritual; the cup can be decorated but left empty of florals until after the beverage has been consumed. Then it can be rinsed with water and filled by the participants with the various florals.

Things to do:

Arise at dawn and wash in the morning dew: the woman who washes her face in it will be beautiful; the man who washes his hands will be skilled with knots and nets.

If you live near water, make a garland or posy of spring flowers and cast it into stream, lake or river to bless the water spirits.

Modern pagans can ritually purify tools or other things in the balefire. Jump the dying embers of the fire for summer blessings.

Dance around the maypole.

Gather the first wild herbs of the season.

Go a-Mayin' by going to the woods and fields to gather flowers. Take a picnic.

Wash your face in dew at sunrise on Beltane for beauty in the coming year. Traditionally the dew from the hawthorn tree, but dew from grass and flowers will do.

Make daisy chains and fresh flower wreaths and chaplets-head dresses to wear and to place atop the maypole. Braid flowers in your hair. Make and wear leafy green masks to represent the Green Man who has returned.

Make a wish at the hawthorn tree, a tree associated with faeries. Place strips of cloth symbolizing your wish in the tree-the color should be appropriate to the nature of your wish, i.e. blue for health, pink or red for love, green or gold for prosperity. Take some time to attune to the tree. When you feel you have contacted its spirit, visualize your wish coming true as you hook the cloth on one of the tree's thorns, chanting your wish. When you have finished, leave a gift for the tree.

Commune with the faeries.

Mark the boundaries of your circle with oatmeal, a traditional Beltane grain.

Beltane is one of the three "spirit-nights" of the year when the faeries can be seen. At dusk, twist a rowan sprig into a ring and look through it, and you may see them.

Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck-but make sure you tie up long skirts first!

Make a May bowl -wine or punch in which the flowers of sweet woodruff or other fragrant blossoms are soaked-and drink with the one you love.

Celebrants sometimes jump over broomsticks, especially at Handfastings which are very common during this season, or dance around May Poles, as both of these are symbols of fertility.

Solitary Practitioners might consider the weaving together of ribbons as an alternative to creating and dancing around the May Pole.

Many like to celebrate Beltane by decorating their homes and themselves with fresh flower garlands, or by stringing up greenery around their homes and places of work.

Sending flowers to loved ones, planting new gardens, cleaning out the cupboards and general spring cleaning are all traditional Beltane gestures.

Plaiting and weaving straw, creating things with wicker, making baskets and fabrics are traditional arts for this turn in the Wheel of the Year.

Light a fire in the fireplace at sundown to invoke the Sun God. Keep it going until sundown on May 1st. If you don't have a fireplace - or it's too hot for a fire - light a large white or yellow seven-day candle. When lighting the fire or the wick, chant: "God of Sun, Fire in the sky, Light the Earth and warm the night. Warm our spirits, hearts, and hands. Shed Your light upon this land."

Using a coat hanger wire as a base, make a door wreath of fresh greenery and flowers- just shape the wire into a circle, then attach small bunches of flowers and greenery with floral wire. Finish off with a pretty bow. Decorate the house with any leftover plant materials.

If you have a yard and can dance the Maypole outside, obtain a closet pole from your nearest hardware store or lumber yard. These make excellent Maypoles and are fairly inexpensive. Cut ribbon streamers twice the length of the pole and fasten them securely to the pole top with small nails or brads. Pound the pole into the ground in the center of the yard.

Hold a food drive and make food baskets. Bless them by chanting: "Fire of Sky and Fire of Sun, End all hunger - be it done. Take the baskets to those less fortunate than you. Deliver them to homeless shelters or to people living on the streets. You can also contact local Church personnel for lists of families needing food.

Serve an evening meal of breakfast foods to invoke the fertility of the Sun God. Pancakes, eggs, milk, cheese, bacon, sausage, and honey are good options. Fix an extra plate for the Sun God, and leave it outside in the East when supper is finished.

Before going to bed, say the following prayer for Universal fertility: "Lord and Lady, Growing Sun. Bless us in our work and fun. Bless the land and animals, too. Bless the crops and morning dew. Bless all that live upon this land, Bestow Your great abundance and Fertilize all that we do. This we humbly ask of You."

We try to credit all articles but sometimes don't know where they came from. Some information is our own research and some is sent into us by friends and customers. If you see something here that is yours and your not getting credit for it please contact us and we will add you as the author or remove it if requested. We want to thank everyone for sharing this wonderful information!

This article was published on Friday 09 April, 2010.
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