Beltane is the counterpart to Samhain, which divides the year into two primary seasons, Winter (dark, feminine, death, receptive) and Summer (light, masculine, birth, projective). Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire” or “bale fire”.
Beltane like Samhain is when time and space are temporarily suspended; the Veil between here and there is the thinnest allowing those who are transitioned to their next life experience to communicate with those who are still on this physical plane. It is a time for the fae to awaken from their winter slumber and tempt those in this world to join them in Faeryland. Legend tells of people sitting beneath a tree on Beltane night hearing the sounds of horse’s bells. This is the Queen of the Fae riding on her white
On Beltane eve two large fires, Bel Fires, built from the nine sacred woods would be built and lit. The Bel Fire is a sacred invocation to Bel, the Sun God and consort to Mother Goddess. These fires were healing and purifying. The herds of the tribe would be driven between the two bonfires for purifying, protection, fertility, and to bring luck. The ashes of these fires were smudged on faces and scattered over the fields. Home fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.
Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of Beltane morning with garlands of flowers and / or branches of trees. They would return rumpled from their intimate encounters. Sexuality and fertility were not judged as sinful but instead were seen as joyous expressions of humanity.
The Maypole is an important symbol of Beltane festivals as it encourages the return of fertility to the land. It is a tall pole decorated with long brightly colored ribbons, leaves, flowers, and a wreath on top. Young women and men each hold the end of a ribbon and dance revolving around the base of the pole braiding the ribbons as they dance. As the dancers revolve around the pole the ribbons will weave creating a pattern. The dancing acts as a conduit of energy creating a gateway connecting the three realms. The energy raised during the dance is returned into the earth awakening her womb. It is said that the pattern made by the ribbons indicate the abundance of harvest year. In some places a mummer (a dramatic performer) called Jack in the Green wears a costume made of green leaves as he dances around the May pole.
Crowning the Queen and King of May is also traditional during Beltane. She is chosen at the start of the festival, which was after sundown on the eve before Beltane day. The couple would reign from that even until sunset on Beltane day. Their duties would include announcing the Beltane games and awarding prizes to the victors. The Queen and King of May represent the spiritual handfasting of the Goddess and Her Consort, the Divine Feminine with the Divine Masculine bringing forth consciousness. On the physical level, they mark the union of the Earth and Sun, which brings about the fruitfulness of the season.
Beltane festivals may include: Maypole Dancing, leaping over bonfires, athletic tournaments, gathering flowers, weaving floral wreaths and garlands, baking colorful fruit and spiced breads, music, feasting, and drinking mead.
“I give praise to you, vibrant Goddess of youth and sensuality, Lady of Spring, exuberant Earth maiden, dancing in joyous abandon across the field in spirited hues of brightness, emanating the wondrous soul wildflowers. I offer unto you this floral crown of your creation, laid now upon your daughter’s brow as woven splendor of your art, the many-colored Crown of May, scented with the mystery that is the Maiden. All hail, Lady Fair, with flowered garlands for your hair!”
"All Hail, Lady Fair with flowered garland for your hair!”