All About Beltane

Celebrating the Fertility of Spring

Beltane Festival
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April's showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land turns green, Beltane celebrates the coming new life and growth. Observed on May 1st in the Northern Hemisphere (or October 31–November 1 in the Southern Hemisphere), festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April.

Originally a tradition found in the Celtic-language lands, Beltane is observed by many Pagans today as a time for lighting a bonfire, dancing, and performing rituals.

In other cultures, such as the ancient Romans' Floralia celebration and the ancient Norse festival for Eyvind Kelda, there are similar traditions around May Day.

One common theme is that of the abundance of the fertile earth. For some, the history seems almost blush-worthy, but Beltane can be celebrated by everyone, young and old, and in a number of ways.

Beltane History 

Beltane, or May Day, has been marked by many cultures, over many centuries. This celebration is surrounded by a large number of the legends and lore surrounding ways to become more fertile during this time. Typically, this is a sabbat or holiday to celebrate deities associated with Beltane, such as the gods of the hunt or of the forest, and goddesses of passion and motherhood, as well as agricultural deities. 

Beltane Magic

Beltane is a season of fertility and fire, and you'll often see this reflected in the magic of the season.

In many traditions, this is the time of year for ritual sex and fertility magic, and for the magic found in gardens and nature. Depending on what kind of spellwork you're exploring, this can even be a good time to go collect some graveyard dirt. If you want to get your herbal magic on, be sure to include some of the sacred plants of the Beltane season in your workings, and open yourself up to learning about the magic to be had surrounding this season.

 

In many Pagan traditions, including some forms of Wicca, it is believed that on Beltane the veil between earth and the faerie world is thin. There is plenty of faerie lore that makes the connection between Beltane and the mischievous fae. Plant flowers, herbs,  that welcome faeries to your garden. Butterflies are mystical and magical and tied to the fae world, too.

Rituals and Ceremonies

Set up your Beltane altar for the season using rich greens and colors reflecting the spring flowers. Incorporate a candle signifying the Beltane fire. Fertility symbols from nature like horns, seeds, and flowers, and a mother goddess symbol can round out the altar.

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.

Read up on a few rituals you may want to think about trying. These can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead. For example, you can honor the sacred feminine with a goddess ritual; if you are alone, you can perform the Beltane planting ritual for solitaries, which will get you into the spirit of the season.

You can hold a bonfire ritual if you'd like to celebrate the fiery aspects of the Beltane sabbat. The Bale fire of Beltane is a tradition believed to stem from early Ireland. Each community lit a giant bonfire and shared the fire with everyone, in order to light their home. Similarly in Germany, during Beltane, German Pagans celebrate  Walpurgisnacht, a giant bonfire celebrated much like a May Day celebration.

If you're not quite ready to hold a full-on ritual, think about hosting a Maypole dance instead. The Maypole dance is a time-honored tradition. Maypoles have a rich history; men dance in one direction, women go the other. Each holds a ribbon, and they weave them together to sheath the Maypole, another symbol of fertility.

Celebrating Beltane with Children

If you're raising little Pagans, try these fun ways to embrace the Beltane season with your kids.

The Family Abundance Ritual is a good place to start. Children love the Maypole and wrapping it with ribbon, too. Get the children involved with simple crafts like decorating the house or making floral wreaths.

Beltane Prayers

If you are a planning a special ceremony, some appropriate prayers include the "Beltane Blessing," a prayer to the horned god Cernunnos, prayers to Mother Earth and the gods and spirits of the forest, and the May Queen.

Handfastings and Weddings

Handfastings and weddings are popular during Beltane, the traditional season of fertility. Once popular in the British Isles, and now seeing a resurgence, the traditions of the handfasting go back a long way. In some areas, jumping the broom is a way of reconnecting with ancestral customs. Handfasting cakes, once provided by guests, are now presented by the wedding couple. 

Decide if you want a ceremonial handfasting or if you want to get official with a marriage certificate–and be sure you know who can perform your ceremony! Either way, there are a few tips to keep in mind if you're planning on a magical way to tie the knot!

Crafts and Creations

As Beltane approaches, you can decorate your home (and keep your kids entertained) with a number of easy craft projects. Start celebrating a bit early with fun floral crowns and a Maypole altar centerpiece. You can do some meditative braiding or make some faerie-size furniture for your garden.

Beltane Recipes & Cooking

No Pagan celebration is really complete without a meal to go along with it.

For Beltane, celebrate with foods that honor fertility of the earth. Bake a Green Man cake to celebrate the lusty fertility god of the woodlands, mix up a light early summer salad, and stick some traditional Scottish oatcakes in the oven. 

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Wigington, Patti. "All About Beltane." ThoughtCo, Mar. 13, 2018, thoughtco.com/guide-to-the-beltane-celebration-2561640. Wigington, Patti. (2018, March 13). All About Beltane. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/guide-to-the-beltane-celebration-2561640 Wigington, Patti. "All About Beltane." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/guide-to-the-beltane-celebration-2561640 (accessed April 23, 2018).