BELTANE from Sunset on April 30 to sunset on May 2
This is the second major festival or Sabbat of the Year. Beltane or Beltain is named after the Irish Bealtaine meaning ‘Bel-fire’, the fire of the Celtic god of light, known as Bel, Beli or Belinus. Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, Beltane occurs at the beginning of May. It celebrates coming of the old summer and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora, Goddess of Flowers whose festival was celebrated in Ancient Rome in early May.
Incense and herbs: almond, angelica, ash, cowslip, frankincense, hawthorn, lilac, marigold and roses for love.
Candle Colours: dark green, scarlet and silver candles
Crystals: Sparkling citrines, clear crystal quartz, golden tiger’s eyes, amber and topaz.
Symbols: As a focus, gather fresh greenery, especially hawthorn (indoors only on May 1), any flowers that are native to your region. Dew is especially potent when gathered on May 1 morning – traditionally girls would bathe their faces in it, You can substitute pure spring water left for a moon and sun cycle in a crystal or glass container, beginning at sunset on April 30.
Deities: Sulis (Minerva). At the sacred Celtic hot springs at Baths, the Romans built their own magnificent healing edifices, combining the indigenous Sulis, the Celtic Sun Goddess and resident patroness of the sacred waters at Bath, with their own Minerva Goddess of Wisdom.
These are for maximising the fertility energies first experienced at the Equinox, whether for conceiving a child or bringing a business matter to fruition. They can improve health and increase in energy, optimism and self-confidence as the light and warmth move into summer.
Sundown on May Eve heralded the signal for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires from nine different kinds of wood by turning an oaken spindle in an oaken sockets, on top of the nearest beacon hill, for example on Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland, former home of the Dagda the hero gods of old Ireland. As time went on every village would have its Beltane fires which were attributed with both fertility and healing powers.
Young couples leapt over the twin Beltane Fires, ran between them or danced clockwise. Cattle released from the barns after the long winter, were driven between two fires to cleanse them of disease and ensure their continuing fertility and rich milk yield for the coming months.
But the chief feature of the festival was the custom that dates back to the first farming communities and finds echoes worldwide of young couples going into the woods and fields to make love and bring back the first May or hawthorn blossoms to decorate homes and barns. May Day is the only time of year, according to tradition, that hawthorn may be brought indoors.
May Baskets filled with the first flowers of summer
were left on doorsteps of friends, family, lovers and the elderly and
infirm, a custom that is worthy of revival in every community and home.
Beltane is therefore a festival potent for fertility magic of all kinds, whether conceiving a child or financial or business ventures bearing fruit, for an improvement in health and an increase in energy as the light and warmth move into summer.
As a focus gather fresh greenery, especially hawthorn (indoors only on May 1), any flowers that are native to your region, placed in baskets; gather dew potent especially on May 1 morn when girls would bathe their faces in it, or pure spring water left for a full sun and moon cycle in a crystal or glass container.
On the Summer Solstice, greet the dawn by lighting a lantern just before sunrise, from an East facing hill or plain. Spend the day in the open air and then say farewell to the Sun on a West facing slope, lighting your lantern once more to give the sun power even as it descends.
Cast golden flowers or herbs into the air from a hill, a handful at a time, making empowerments for courage and achievement to the winds. Where they land and take root represents in the old traditions places of buried treasure or in this case symbolises new or buried talents you can develop to realise your hidden potential.
Make your Solstice water, the most potent Sun water of the year, leaving water in a gold coloured dish surrounded by golden-coloured flowers from dusk on the Solstice Eve until Noon on the Longest Day. This is especially healing and empowering and you can keep it in clear glass or gold coloured bottles to drink or add to bath water to give you energy and confidence.
Make a small sun wheel garden, either indoors or out using the flowering herbs of Midsummer vervain and St John’s Wort, Sun herbs such as frankincense, juniper, rosemary and saffron and all yellow or golden flowers, arrange them in the form of a wheel and fill in the centre with tiny golden crystals or glass nuggets. You can breathe in the golden light from your living sun wheel.
Light sun oils, frankincense, juniper, rosemary, orange or benzoin or burn them as incense to bring the sun power into your home or workplace.
A Beltane fertility ritual
This can be carried at any time when you need fertility on any New moon or on Beltane Eve.
Take a tiny doll and make for it a cradle of flowers and greenery.
Place in the cradle symbols of increase, with golden coins, sparkling crystals, ears of corn , nuts, seeds.
Loop over the cradle, nine ribbons, red, yellow, green ,blue ribbons for the four seasons, silver for the Moon, gold for the Sun and white for the Earth Mother, purple for the Sky Father and pink for new life.
As you bind each ribbon clockwise say,
Grow strong in love,
Bear fruit and multiply,
Child of mine, (or substitute whatever it is you wish to increase)
From seed to fruition,
Be safe from all harm, all fear.
You whom I bind close with hope,
All the spiralling energies of earth, air, fire,
water, moon, sky and mother Earth
Who gives life to all,
Secure each ribbon underneath in a loose knot to another so they form threes; saying:
As one becomes two, becomes three,
So three to six to nine,
Babe of mine (or wish if it is another fertility matter).
Go into the open air and make love in a private place or of this is not possible go outdoors immediately afterwards and gather greenery to bring indoors. This is effective for the fertility of joint ventures as well as for conceiving an infant.
If you do not have a partner, gather greenery and flowers (even from a balcony or window box) and encircle yourself with them before you go to sleep.
In either case, have the cradle close to you while you sleep.
In the morning, sprinkle salt nine times clockwise over the cradle, then nine drops of water or Dew (May dew is most potent of all); burn a silver candle, a colour especially associated with fertility and pass it clockwise over the cradle being careful not to let any wax fall.
Finally waft the smoke of rose or frankincense incense clockwise.
Leave the cradle by your need either until the Full Moon or for fourteen days after Beltane Eve, replacing any greenery or flowers that are wilting with fresh ones.
After this period, bury all the greenery in the earth, and cover over the cradle.
Repeat monthly if necessary.
I have a knitted cradle that folds like a bag over the baby within, or you can buy large pottery or wooden hens used for holding eggs. But any lid will do - even the lid of a silver-coloured wok. Magic is all about adapting the available tools, rather than modifying or not carrying out a ritual. Our ancestors managed remarkably well with the hedgerows and fields as source material and much of today’s most potent magic has a simple countryside origin.
Throw the pieces on to a bonfire or fire in a domestic hearth and look into the embers to see pictures of a brighter tomorrow.
A joint Beltane and Samhain twin apple ritual
Apples represent life and health and fertility/creativity.
Take two identical apples, eat one and then say, So do I absorb the new life of Beltane and take within me the creativity and fertility to achieve what I do most desire. As this is a waxing festival let the cosmos send you what you most need which may not be what you think you want.
Scatter any pips and shred the core on soil so they will be absorbed in their own way.
Now take the second apple and bury it near where you scattered the pips and say, So do I bury the Samhain potential of the future to decay and be transformed in its own time to new growth.
Even if your Samhain seeds do not take root, you have symbolically set in motion long term growth in your life. As this is a waning festival name the influence of what or whom is holding you back from happiness and plan the first step to replace what will be left behind.
Wherever you live in the world I wish you a happy Samhain and Beltane as the Wheel of the World turns in our lives and may you find the joy and blessings you seek and leave behind the sorrows.
The Place on the Wheel
Beltaine or Beltane is named after the Irish god of light, in whose honour fires were kindled at this time by rubbing wood together.
Sundown on May Eve heralded the signal for the Celtic Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires from nine different kinds of wood. At this time cattle were released from the winter barns and driven between twin fires to cleanse them and to invoke fertility as they were released into the fields.
Winter was finally dead as at midnight on May Eve Caillieach Bhuer, the old hag of winter, cast her staff under a holly bush and turned to stone until six months later on Halloween.
A time of great fairy activity, especially around standing stones and stone circles.
Sacred wells are very potent on May 1 both for healing and fertility.
Ways of Marking the Festival in the Modern World
Light your own Bel bonfire burning as many different kinds of wood as you can find. When the fire is burned though, scatter a few of the ashes to the four winds from a hilltop or open space, sending your wishes for the future with them. Bury the rest.
Alternatively light a huge scarlet candle embedded in sand or earth and drop dried rosemary, lavender or rose petals into the flame, asking the cosmos to send what you most need which may be different from what you think you want .
Trade plants with friends and save any fragrant flowers or herbs you pick or are given over the coming weeks to dry and make into potpourri or home made incense to burn on charcoal or outdoor fires
Make a garland on a circle of wire or fill a vase with nine different flowers or different coloured flowers Bloddeuwedd the Welsh maiden goddess was made on May 1 from nine different flowers to be the bride of Llew the young Welsh god of light. For each flower make a wish, some that will need all your power and optimism to fulfil.
Rise at dawn on May morning and wash your face by adding a few drops of the morning dew (you can collect it with an eye dropper) to a bowl of water. May morning dawn is said to make you radiant and bring health and fertility.
Fill small baskets with garden flowers or greenery and leave them on the doorsteps of anyone who is sick or lonely to spread the abundance of the season.
Visit a sacred well or a small lake or pool in accordance with tradition just before sunrise and walk round it three times sunwise (clockwise), asking for healing for yourself or loved ones. Tie a ribbon to a nearby tree as a way of saying thank you to Mother Nature.
Run, cycle, dance, swim, roller blade or jump and stir up the energies as a way of building up your inner power. Go up hill and then freewheel down.
If possible go along to one of the traditional May morning celebrations in your area or invite a group of friends for a flower party and ask them all to bring along a few flowers or plants to exchange.
Decorate a tree or a branch from a tree with flowers, ribbons and bells and your May time symbols and spiral round it, allowing your feet to trace and amplify the energies of the earth, as if you were Maypole dancing.