wine with strawberries, and celebrating the return of our Lady with
rituals that are full of life! And why not? May Day is the festival of
the marriage and mating of the Goddess and her Consort. In honor of
that wondrous event, it seems all of nature is bursting forth with new
growth and renewed vigor! Flowers are blooming, trees are budding with
fresh new green growth, fruits are beginning to form, and the air is
filled with bird song while the birds build their nests and prepare for
The original meaning of the word "Beltane" was Bel-fire, or fire of the
Celtic god Bel (Beli, Balar, Balor, Belenus), "Bright One," God of
light and fire. Although he had Sun-like qualities, he was not strictly
speaking a Sun God. Some have equated him with Cernunnos. Both are seen
as the Great Father who impregnates the Great Mother. Throughout the
british Isles, bonfires were lighted on the hilltops to welcome the
return of life and fertility to the world on May Eve. It was considered
lucky to jump the fire; such an act could help find a mate, bring
fertility to a newly married couple, safe journey to a traveler, and
soon. Cattle were driven through its ashes or between two Bel-fires to
ensure a good milk yield.
In the Celtic tradition, Beltane was the beginning of Summer. On this
date, the herds were driven to the summer pastures, where they would
graze and grow fat for the coming winter. For the villagers, it was a
festival of unashamed sexuality, as couples made love freely in the
fields and gardens to bring fruitfulness to the crops. The maypole is a
frank symbol of the male principle, while the flower crown represents
the womb. The maypole channels the Earth's energy through the circlet
around its top, bringing fertility to all who dance around it. The
ribbons were traditionally red and white, the colors of marriage and
Other sexual symbols found in this sabbat are the nuts that are
customarily placed upon the altar, the choosing of a May Queen and her
king, and the gown of green, which symbolizes the covering of a woman
by a man.
Some May Day suggestions:
Cut branches of fresh green from budding trees, or make garlands of
flowers to decorate the home for this celebration. Hang them on the
doors and windows early, so the may sunrise finds them there!
Collect the May morning dew and wash your face in it; it is said to
beautify the skin.
Tie ribbons to the trees in your garden, or select one special tree,
perhaps a rowan or hawthorn, and decorate it with ribbons and tokens
offered to the Goddess and God in honor of their union.
Build a fire in your yard, maybe in a barbecue or cauldron, and sit
around it on May Eve. (If you decide to jump it, be careful!!! Don't
wear loose clothing, tie up long hair, take precautions.)
Make a flower crown and wear it, or hang it in a tree in your yard, or
in a prominent place in your home.
Erect a maypole and dance around it, or decorate it with ribbons and
flowers. As you dance, envision the things you wish to weave into your
If you have a lover,celebrate this sabbat with a loving, responsible,
safe, private Great rite.
As we move into the warmer months and shift our focus outward, we
rejoice at the love of the Goddess and the God for each other, and we
are reminded to show it in our own lives as well. Now we turn our eyes
forward to Litha and the Lady's promise of abundance.
And so the Wheel turns..
Decorate the altar with May blossoms, lilac, fresh flowers and green
budding branches. Use lots of red and white ribbons, and red, green and
white candles. Burn sandalwood or melissa incense. Have lots of sweet,
honeyed food, cake sand pastries, and elderflower champagne. This is a
big party. If at all possible, celebrate outside in orchards, woodland
or even the local park. Keep a watch out for fairy folk.
Begin once Venus, the evening star, has risen. Invoke the Goddess as
maiden: Flower maiden, Blossom Goddess, scent of summer, rut of stag,
may we all share in your bounty as we dance this magic night. Sing,
dance and celebrate the mysteries of love, beauty and fertility.
But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May.'
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Related Deities: May Queen, Stag Lord, Jack-in-the-Green, the Green Man, Aphrodite, Artemis, Bast, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Maia, Pan, the Horned God, Venus, and all Gods and Goddesses who preside over fertility.
Related Herbs: Lily of the valley, foxglove, broom, Dittany of Crete, elder, mint, Mugwort, thyme, yarrow, almond tree/shrub, clover, ivy, marigold, meadowsweet, rowan, sorrel, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, St. John's Wort, Woodruff, Frankincense, Roses, Lemon Balm, Lemon Thyme, all flowers.
Related Stones: Quartz Crystal, Sunstone, Orange Calcite, Malachite, Bloodstone, sapphire, Emerald, amber, orange carnelian, rose quartz
Animals: Swallow, dove, swan, Cats, lynx, leopard
Colors: Red, White, Brown, Pink, Green
Tools: Broom, May Pole, cauldron
Symbols & Decorations: May Pole, fires, fertility, flowers, growing things, ploughs, cauldrons of flowers
Foods: Dairy, bread, cereals
Other Names: Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain),May Day, Fairy Day,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Bealtunn, 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), Shenn do Boaldyn (Isle of Man), Galan Mae (Welsh)
Beltaine is one of two Celtic fire festivals, a cross-quarter sabbat, and is sometimes referred to as Cetsamhain, meaning "opposite Samhain," because it falls opposite to Samhain in the Wheel of the Year. Likewise, where Samhain is a festival recognizing and honoring the necessity of Death, Beltaine is a celebration of life and fertility returning to the world.
First celebrated by the Celts, Beltaine traditionally begins at sunset on April 30th through May 1st at sunset as they figured their days from sundown to sundown. A fire and fertility festival, the word Beltaine comes from the Welsh words: Bel (name of the Welsh Sky God) and Tan (meaning fire). Combined, the words mean "fire in the sky," an appropriate word for welcoming the Summer. Also, the powers of the fairies and elves are growing and will reach their peak at Midsummer.
By May the light has grown longer and everything is flowering. The virile young lord and fertile maiden celebrate the evident consummation of their relationship. As seen by the Stag Lord and May Queen, an old custom in which every year a boy and girl were trained to play the roles. The boy, in
his role as Stag Lord would run with the deer. At some point the dominant buck of the herd would sense the intruder and the Stag Lord would have to over come him. He would return then victorious and unharmed to mate with the May Queen in symbolic consummation of the marriage of the God and Goddess.
It is a fire and fertility festival that celebrates the transformation from maiden to mother through the mystery of sexuality. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion and hopes consummated. A time to honor the Guardian of the Home.
Maypoles are common, the dancers moving around the maypole in a clockwise motion, the direction of the Sun's journey across the Earth. The pole would remain in the center of the village until replaced the following year and the old pole used to light the new Beltane fires. The fires representing the Sun's lengthening time in the sky. Livestock would be driven between two bonfires during the festival to protect them from disease and ensure fertility for the following year. The frail and sick would also pass between the bonfires as in ancient times, fertility was a matter of life and death and the sick were seldom fruitful for prosperity of the community. It's also common practice too for even couples to leap over the bonfire for fertility and luck.
Flowers and greenery symbolize the Goddess. The maypole, the God. Weaving and plaiting, the joining of two things to make a third is the spirit of Beltaine. Traditional colors of Beltaine are red and white, representing the blood from a woman when her purity is taken.
Ideas and Activities
These are also great to do with children.
Walk the perimeter of your property to check that everything is in good order. Bring trash bags and do a general clean up of anything that is not where it should be.
Make a miniature maypole for your altar if you can not make a full size version
Get a new mirror, or use one you have already, and decorate it with ribbons and flowers for your bedroom.
Fill a cauldron or a large bowl with fresh flowers (wildflowers are best)
Braid bracelets out of white ribbons and give them as gifts to friends or family
Make a dish of fruits, berries, nuts and leave in the wood for the animals and fae folk to enjoy
Cut branches of fresh green from budding trees, or make garlands of flowers to decorate the home for this celebration. Hang them on the doors and windows early, so the may sunrise finds them there!
Create a special wreath for the top of the May Pole
Make "May Day" baskets of flowers and leave on friends and family's doorsteps as a surprise gift. Maybe they'll think a Faerie did it!
Create hair pieces and garlands for decorating your head or around your neck from flowers that are in bloom
Tie ribbons to trees to celebrate the coming of spring. Make a wish each time you tie a ribbon as it's good luck to wish for things on this day!
Bathe your face in the morning dew to retain youth.
The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
Other sources suggest using the dew found under oaks or on ivy leaves. Make a special wish as you wash your face in it or as you drink from a well before sunrise.
Dance the May Pole
During the Maypole dance, think about what you wish to weave into, or out of, your spirit. The Maypole is an ancient symbol of the male aspect of the Divine, while the ribbons are strands of life. Have small baskets of goodies around the room to symbolize the coming abundance and to enjoy after the Circle. Magic is hungry work. (from Trish Telesco's Victorian Grimoire)
Do a Beltane Day Spell for Health and Happiness
Plant your frost sensitive bulbs now.
Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, happens at the
beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring and the
flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora.
The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced
Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God
and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the
Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility,
sensuality, and delight.
Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill and then
give it to someone in need of healing and caring, such as a shut-in
or elderly friend. Form a wreath of freshly picked flowers, wear it
in your hair, and feel yourself radiating joy and beauty. Dress in
bright colors. Dance the Maypole and feel yourself balancing the
Divine Female and Male within. On May Eve, bless your garden in the
old way by making love with your lover in it. Make a wish as you jump
a bonfire or candle flame for good luck. Welcome in the May at dawn
with singing and dancing.
Forms include pole, tree, bush, cross; communal or household;
permanent or annual. * In Germany, Fir tree was cut on May Eve by
young unmarried men, branches removed, decorated, put up in village
square, & guarded all night until dance occurred on May Day. * In
England, permanent Maypoles were erected on village greens * In some
villages, there also were smaller Maypoles in the yards of
households. * Maypole ribbondances, with two circles interweaving;
around decorated bush/tree, clockwise circle dances.
Flowers & Greenwood
Gathering and exchange of Flowers and Greens on May Eve, pre-dawn May
Day, Beltane. * Decorating homes, barns, and other buildings with
Green budding branches, including Hawthorn. * Making and wearing of
garland wreaths of Flowers and/or Greens. * May Baskets were given or
placed secretly on doorsteps to friends, shut-ins, lovers, others. *
May Bowl was punch (wine or non-alcoholic) made of Sweet Woodruff
Traditionally, sacred woods kindled by spark from flint or by
friction -- in Irish Gaelic, the Beltane Fire has been called teine
eigin (fire from rubbing sticks). * Jump over the Beltane Fire, move
through it, or dance clockwise around it. * Livestock was driven
through it or between two fires for purification and fertility
blessings. * In ancient times Druid priests kindled it at sacred
places; later times, Christian priests kindled it in fields near the
church after peforming a Christian church service. * Rowan twigs were
carried around the fire three times, then hung over hearths to bless
homes. * In the past, Beltane community fire purification customs
included symbolic sacrifice of effigy knobs on the Beltane Cake (of
barley) to the fire, or, in medieval times, mock sacrifice of Beltane
Carline (Hag) who received blackened piece of Beltane Cake; Maypoles
in Spain were each topped with a male effigy which was later burned.
Contemporary Pagans burn sacred wood and dried herbs as offerings in
their Beltane fires.
Rolling in May Eve dew or washing face in pre-dawn May Day dew for
health, luck, beauty. * Getting head and hair wet in Beltane rain to
bless the head. * Blessing springs, ponds, other sacred waters with
flowers, garlands, ribbons, other offerings. * Collecting sacred
waters and scrying in sacred springs, wells, ponds, other waters.
3 parts frankincense
2 parts sandalwood
1 part woodruff
1 part rose petals
a few drops jasmine oil
a few drops neroli oil
Burn during the Wiccan rituals on Beltane or on May Day for fortune
and favors and to attune with the changing of the seasons.
If possible, celebrate Beltane in a forest or near a living tree. If this is
impossible, bring a small tree within the circle, preferably potted; it can
be of any type. Create a small token or charm in honour of the wedding of the
Goddess and God
to hang upon the tree. You can make several if you desire. These tokens can
be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings, flower
garlands - whatever your talents an imagination can conjure. Arrange the
altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of
Stones. Recite the Blessing Chant. Invoke the Goddess and God. Stand before
the altar and say, with wand upraised: Mother goddess, Queen of the night and
of the Earth; O Father God, King of
the day and of the forest, I celebrate Your union as nature rejoices in a
riotous blaze of colour and life. Accept my gift, Mother Goddess and Father
God, in honor of Your union. Place the tokens on the tree. From Your mating
shall spring forth life anew; a profusion of living
creatures shall cover the lands, and the winds will blow pure and sweet.
Ancient Ones, I celebrate with You! Works of magick, if necessary, may
follow. Celebrate the Simple Feast. The circle is released.
Title: Beltane Info
Categories: Beltane, Info
[Note: copright Paganet]
Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, happens at the
beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering
of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God
emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced Maypole
represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the
ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum.
Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight.
Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill and then
give it to someone in need of healing and caring, such as a shut-in or
elderly friend. Form a wreath of freshly picked flowers, wear it in
your hair, and feel yourself radiating joy and beauty. Dress in bright
colors. Dance the Maypole and feel yourself balancing the Divine female
and Male within. On May Eve, bless your garden in the old way by making
love with your lover in it. Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle
flame for good luck. Welcome in the May at dawn with singing and
@ Lady Bridget 1997
(From another group)
La Baal Tinne, Beltane, Beltain, all are names for the ritual which was traditionally held on May 1st, also known as May Day. The astrological festival occurs when the Sun reaches 15 ° Taurus, which lately has been happening more towards May 4-6th. Either the traditional date or the astrological date can be used to determine when to hold your festival as both will have significant energies for the season.
And the season is Spring! The lusty month of May is called so for a reason! Watch the animals, they are "rutting" now, looking to attract mates to raise their families. Butterflies and insects are pollenating flowers all over, and trees are bursting into blossoms and new green growth. In spring, "the young man's fancy turns to love.." and the young girls fancies turn to young men!
Beltane, named for the Celtic Sun God, Bel, or Bal, or Baal, also means Bale, to banish, as in the bale fires, which are lit on Beltane to cleanse and purify. Cattle were led between two fires to cleanse them, and I have heard theories that the Druids quite possibly may have put purifying herbs on the fires to physically help the process along, but there is no actual proof of this. Couples would jump the fire to bless their union and to make it fruitful. You can jump the fire to leave behind bad habits or thoughts. Or stand close enough to the fire so that it's heat can "burn out" sickness. You may call upon the flames to burn away whatever you want to be free of by mentally casting it into the fire.
Virgin women would jump the fire to be blessed by a child of the fire, an immaculate conception, as it were. The fire symbolizes life, passion, love and sex, and can also protect you for the coming year. To gaze into the flames and become "firestruck" is to cause an altered state of conciousness that is useful for divination.
"Nine woods in the Bale fire go, Burn them fast and burn them slow..." (from the Wiccan Rede) Those nine woods were usually:
Oak for the God
Birch for the Goddess
Fir for birth
Willow for death
Rowan for magic
Apple for love
Grapevine for joy
Hazel for wisdom
Hawthorne for purity and for May
Now of course if you live in an area, such as South Florida, where there is a definite lack of some of these woods (such as apple) you can always substitute another wood - as long as this wood is also known for the same properties! So do some research, and make intelligent substitutions.
Probably the most memorable and obvious symbol of Beltane is the May Pole. A phallic symbol, it represents the male regenerative force in nature, and is used to show the Sacred Union between the Goddess and God that takes place at this time. The pole represents the God of course, and the earth represents the Goddess. Red and white were the traditional colors of the ribbons on the pole, and there are different explanations for them, one being that they represent the male semen and the female menstrual blood, and are a reminder that this is a "game" that only men and women enjoy, and is not for children. The other is that the red and white represent the two fluids that women safely give, milk and blood, of which men were in awe.
Either way, these can still be seen in the cadaceus, the symbol of healing and also the red and white barbers pole. In ancient times, the Doctor was also the Barber, hence the similar symbolism!
Today we choose a ribbon color which represents something we wish to "weave" into our lives as we weave it onto the pole, hopefully something that will also benefit the community as a whole, since this is a communal dance. Yellow for wisdom and inspiration, orange for success, blue for peace, or peace of mind, pink for friendship or patience, green can be healing or financial gain, white for health, and protection, etc. I have even seen rainbow ribbons, and also plaid ribbons! They certainly do stand out in the pattern.
The pole is erected, with appropriate ritual ceremony (see the file containing the ritual for this Sabbat for details), with the ribbons all tied to the top of the pole. The dancers stand in the circle around it each holding to the ends of the ribbon. Typically this is done with the males and females alternating around the circle, but we almost never have an exactly even number, and it doesn't matter that much. If you do have an almost equal number, then you can have all the males go deosil, and the females go widdershins (clockwise and counter-clockwise) as they go around the pole. If your numbers are too uneven, then have the participants count off by twos, with all the number "ones" going one way and the number "twos" going opposite.
It is better to have some lively music to dance to, we use celtic jigs and reels, and have a half hour tape with just that on it, which is easy to leave on the player, so it can be unattended. 30 minutes is quite sufficient, even a bit long! Believe me, unless you are a professional dancer, you will be tired out long before 30 minutes are over. You can also use Louisiana cajun zydeco, or Tennesse bluegrass, as well as the celtic songs, since all of these have a similar beat, and are very lively. That is the most important thing for a successful dance, because we have found that chanting leaves you out of breath very quickly.
To start the dance, have all the people facing deosil raise their ribbons and the people going widdershins will go under them. Then the widdershins group will raise their ribbons and the deosil group will go under them. So it continues, over and under, over and under, as you progress around the pole. Very quickly a beautiful pattern will emerge, as these bright ribbons are woven together. Don't worry if people forget which way they were supposed to go, this often happens when you have first time dancers, or an uneven number of people, someone is bound to go under when they should have gone over, no matter. It is the enjoyment of the dance that matters most, not whether the weave comes out perfect, and no one can tell the difference anyway!
When the ribbons become too short to allow for comfortably continuing, then it it time to tie off. Tie the ribbon to the pole at the end of the weaving, and you can leave the ribbon hanging loose below the knot. Some groups leave the ribbons on year after year, and simply allow them to build up on the pole, until they decide a new pole is needed, then the old pole with all the layers of ribbons, is ritually burned during the Beltane circle. Other groups will carefully work the old ribbons off the pole just prior to this years dance, and these ribbons will be ritually burned in the balefire. Of course, you could use a new pole each year, and ritually burn the old pole with ribbons intact. Another exception I have seen is where a wheel was used at the top of the pole, and this group actually "unwove" all the ribbons, and left the pole bare again. Personally, I think that it is undoing the magick of weaving into your life if you unweave the ribbons after the dance, but each group must decide for themselves what works best for them.
In our groups, we have men and women, and there is a lot of playing that goes on in the Maypole dance. We kiss, we stroke, we nuzzle a neck here or an outer thigh there, or we give a quick pat on the posterior as we pass by the person. These are all welcome and perfectly expected in our group, and we announce ahead of time, that if anyone is uncomfortable with that then please let us know now so we will not invade their space. You can tell when someone is "unapproachable", they will let you know that these advances are not welcome, and you should honor that. Some groups I know have asked participants not to do any touching or kissing as they dance, and while that may make all the cowans more comfortable, it also leaves the energy of the dance flat.
For this is a dance for fertility! For abundance of the fields! For abundance in our lives! It was meant to be a courtship dance and to raise the libido of both those dancing and those watching, and to add to the sexual flavor that permeates this Sabbat. Keep that in mind, and the pats, hugs, kisses, and squeezes, are simply affection between friends and NOT sexual harassment! Please bear in mind that this is a Sabbat about sexual fertility, and it was very important to our ancestors, and it is a lot of fun for us today. One of the biggest taboos in mainstream religions is about sex, and we as Pagans have always understood the real power behind sexual energy. Please let's not let a "sue happy" society ruin this aspect of our religion and take this away from us! Keep it joyous as it was intended.
Another Beltane tradition is that of electing a King and Queen of the May, a young women and man, who may not necessarily be a couple already, or they can be newlyweds. They are crowned with flowered wreaths, and paraded before everyone, while people cheer "Hurrah for the King and Queen of the May!" In ancient times, this couple would be expected to go into the woods and consummate the energy of the circle for abundant hunts during the coming year, or in the fields for abundant crops. It was not unusual for young ladies and young men to pair off in the forest, and was called a "green wedding". Any child which was a result of those unions was considered a great blessing. This is also the reason for so many June weddings, and why the period after the wedding is call the "Honeymoon", after the Moon in June, which is also called the Honey Moon.
The "scarf chase" is another Beltane tradition, which the couple who are the King and Queen of the May or the couple who are the Lord and Lady, will start. The Lady teases the Lord with a green scarf, and then drops it as his feet as a signal for him to pursue her. She eludes him success fully for a few rounds, then allows him to catch her and rewards his efforts with a kiss. The scarf can then be passed on to another women to do the same to a man of her choice. This originated as a courtship ritual at a time when sexuality was not expressed openly, and was a way for a woman to tastefully let a man know that she was interested in him in a publicly acceptable manner. (Many of our traditional courtship rituals were evolved when it was not considered "lady like" or "genteel" for men and women to be open about their partnership preferences.)
Another variation is to use a wreath with flowers in it, and the woman walks around the circle parading it before her, as men attempt to take a flower out of the wreath. Whoever is successful is rewarded with a kiss, and the wreath is them passed on to another woman. These "chases" can be used to lead into the Spiral dance, which is another Beltane ritual dance, but is used at other Sabbats as well.
The Spiral dance is especially appropriate at Beltane, in that it is reminiscent of the DNA chain. (Which of course we are told our ancestors knew nothing about!) To do the Spiral dance, one person starts by taking the hand of someone next to her, and they take another hand, and so on until all are holding hands and moving in a circle. Usually, the step done with the feet is called the "grapevine" step, and involves one foot crossing in front of the other, then the other foot crossing behind, and the knees are kept flexed for balance. However, the main reason why this is a Spiral dance is that the first person leads the dancers in a tighter and tighter ring toward the center, then abruptly turns inward to face the other dancers, and still everyone follows. The end result is that all the dancers face another person, and the circle then spirals outward again. This sometimes takes practice, but remember not to duck under anyone's arms, for this will only end up in a knot! (Knots can be fun, too, but they do interrupt the flow of energy in the dance!)
Beltane is the exact opposite of Samhain on the wheel of the year, and just as Samhain is an acknowledgement and celebration of death, so Beltane is an equally powerful reaffirmation of life. Other societies have had traditions in the same manner, and have myths that equate with ours regarding the Sacred Union of Lord and Lady; indeed that of all nature, without which life on this planet would cease to exist. Beltane and Samhain are considered the two most powerful, most important Sabbats, and there were cultures that celebrated only those two for many centuries. Today we have the Solar Sabbats and the Agricultural Sabbats, that were the celebrations of two types of culture which were "married" together to form the wheel of the year we know. And of these Sabbats, still the two most powerful and most important are Samhain and Beltane.
Have a joyous, powerful, and wonderful Beltane everyone!