Beltane Rites and Rituals

April's showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st (or October 31 - November 1 for our Southern Hemisphere readers), festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history.

There are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It's the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.

Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying—and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead. Try some of these rituals and ceremonies for your Beltane sabbat celebration.

Beltane Altar
Use symbols of the season to decorate your Beltane altar. Patti Wigington

Okay, so we know that Beltane is a fertility festival... but how do you translate that into altar setup? This spring celebration is all about new life, fire, passion and rebirth, so there are all kinds of creative ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas -- obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most. Here are some tips on how to set up your altar to celebrate the Beltane sabbat.  More »

SpringInScotland_1500
Welcome the spring with a simple Beltane blessing. Image by Sri Maiava Rusden/PhotoDisc/Getty Images

Looking for prayers to celebrate Beltane? By the time Beltane rolls around, sprouts and seedlings are appearing, grass is growing, and the forests are alive with new life. If you're looking for prayers to say at your Beltane ceremony, try these simple ones that celebrate the greening of the earth during the fertility feast of Beltane. Here are a few you may wish to add in to your upcoming rites and rituals, including prayers to honor the god Cernunnos, the May Queen, and the gods of the forest. More »

MaypoleDance_1500
Celebrate Beltane with a Maypole dance!. Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images News

The tradition of the Maypole Dance has been around for a long time -- it's a celebration of the fertility of the season. Because Beltane festivities usually kicked off the night before with a big bonfire, the Maypole celebration usually took place shortly after sunrise the next morning. Young people came and danced around the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. As they wove in and out, men going one way and women the other, it created a sleeve of sorts -- the enveloping womb of the earth -- around the pole. By the time they were done, the Maypole was nearly invisible beneath a sheath of ribbons. If you have a big group of friends and a lot of ribbon, you can easily hold your own Maypole Dance as part of your Beltane festivities.  More »

SpringDancingWomen_1500
Celebrate the goddess of your tradition with some good friends and a ritual. Image by Neyya/E+/Getty Images

When spring arrives, we can see the fertility of the earth in full bloom. For many traditions, this brings the opportunity to celebrate the sacred feminine energy of the universe. Take advantage of the blooming of spring, and use this time to celebrate the archetype of the mother goddess, and honor your own female ancestors and friends.

This simple ritual can be performed by both men and women, and is designed to honor the feminine aspects of the universe as well as our female ancestors. If you have a particular deity you call upon, feel free to change names or attributes around where needed. This goddess ritual honors the feminine, while also celebrating our female ancestors. More »

GardeningDadDaughter_1500
A simple planting ceremony is an alternative to traditional Beltane rituals. Image by Ariel Skelley/Brand X/Getty Images

Some parents may not be comfortable with the phallic fertility images so often found at Beltane. If you're looking for a way to celebrate this Sabbat with kids that focuses more on abundance and less on sexuality, try this simple planting ceremony instead. More »

BonfireDance_1500
Celebrate Beltane with a bonfire ritual!. Image by Mark Adams/Image Bank/Getty Images

Beltane is a time of fire and fertility. Combine the passion of a roaring bonfire with the love of the May Queen and the God of the Forest, and you've got a recipe for a fantastic ritual. This ceremony is designed for a group, and includes a symbolic union of the May Queen and the King of the Forest. Depending on the relationship between the people playing these roles, you can get as lusty as you like. If you're doing a family-oriented Beltane celebration, you may choose instead to keep things fairly tame. Use your imagination to kick start your Beltane festivities with this group ritual. More »

SeedPlanting_1500
Use this spring planting ritual to reconnect with the soil. Image by Roger Spooner/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

This ritual is designed for the solitary practitioner, but it can easily be adapted for a small group to perform together. It’s a simple rite that celebrates the fertility of the planting season, and so it’s one that should be performed outside. If you don’t have a yard of your own, you can use pots of soil in place of a garden plot. Don’t worry if the weather is a bit inclement – rain shouldn’t be a deterrent to gardening. More »

WeddingCouple_1500
Image by Quynh Anh Nguyen/Moment/Getty Images

Many people opt to hold a handfasting or wedding at Beltane. Looking for information on how to hold your own handfasting ceremony? Here's where we've got it all covered, from the origins of handfastings to jumping the broom to selecting your cake! Also, be sure to learn about magical handfasting favors to give your guests, and find out what you need to ask the person who's performing your ceremony. More »

Get your little ones moving with a miniature Maypole dance. Image by Cecelia Cartner/Cultura/Getty Images

Every year, when Beltane rolls around, we get emails from folks who are comfortable with the sexual fertility aspect of the season for adults, but who’d like to reign things in just a little when it comes to practicing with their young children. Here are five fun ways you can celebrate Beltane with your young children, and let them participate in family rituals, without having to discuss certain aspects of the season that you’re just not ready to explain yet. More »