Beltane, an ancient Celtic holiday celebrated on May 1, is halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. A festival of fertility and new beginnings, Beltane marks the ‘light’ time of year and reminds us to celebrate the growing season of the Earth and an expansion of natural energy that is inevitable at this time of year.
I’m interested in ancient rituals and celebrations that originated when humans lived in deeper connection with the Earth. Honoring the seasonal shifts that connect me to deeper planetary and evolutionary pulsation is important to me and my work as Yoga Health Coach. For many reasons humans have become more disconnected with the Earth. As the human race has become more aware of this disconnect, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, drawing us back to a time when we experienced a deeper connection to mother Earth and her rhythms.
Participating in solitary or collective rituals helps to flow through the seasons with greater ease. Rituals such as Beltane have been revived because many people feel the same pull towards ancient rituals in modern times. As the resurgence of many ancient practices is facilitated by the sharing of information over the internet. Across oceans and land we share our thoughts and images of our own sacred ways of honoring nature and rituals such as Beltane.
We don’t have to have Celtic or Gaelic heritage (Irish or Scottish) to enjoy celebrating Beltane.
The action of rituals, ceremonies and practices at special times during the year help us to digest the past and look ahead to what’s next. These celebrations gives us a chance to think of time passing and to reflect on questions such as;
- What are my goals?
- How can I focus my attention?
- How can I focus on what I want to grow in my life?
Rituals help us solidify what we want to cultivate in our gardens, in our minds, and bodies.
Deepening Your Intuition
Ancient seasonal rituals help us connect to our intuition. By asking questions such as; “how can we live in flow with the seasons, with the planet, and with other humans as individuals and communities?” We start to connect deeper with the rhythm inside. By coming together in groups we collectively revitalize our communal intuition so that we can thrive in an aligned and powerful unity.
Many believe the word Beltane means ‘lucky fire.’ The origins of the word Beltane are difficult to pin down, yet it is certain that fire drives the celebration of Beltane. The presence of fire as a part of the ritual has been documented through the ages. Fire shines on the Earth in the form of light, as the days grow longer after May 1.
The element of fire symbolizes drive, passion, fertility and transformation. In Ayurveda fire is part of the Pitta Dosha which is the dominant element of Summer. Although in the Northern hemisphere summer doesn’t officially start until mid June, the Celts recognized only two seasons, Winter and Summer. So the fire of Beltane symbolizes the growth of this element on Earth that begins May 1. If you live down under or anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, you can celebrate Samhain on April May 1 and then Beltane on November 1.
Traditionally Bonfires were lit on the eve of Beltane. People and cattle would walk between two Beltane fires and sometimes leap over flames. Beltane bonfires burned on into the night and were accompanied by raucous celebrations. In ancient times Beltane festivities could get decadent. For this reason the Church of England tried to ban all celebrations of Beltane. After feasting and drinking lots of mead, couples of all ages were known to go “A-Maying”, spending the night in the forest making love.
The ashes from the ritual Beltane fires were believed to bestow protective powers and were scattered over crops for a good harvest. Before electricity all the flames in a home were doused and then relit with the Beltane fire.
The Beltane Performance
Edinburgh, Scotland is the home of the largest modern Beltane celebration, where over 10,000 people gather for The Beltane Festival of Fire. On April 30, a three hour ritual unfolds in a narrative performance. The May queen leads her court in a procession towards summer. Meanwhile, the green man is stripped of his winter costume and becomes reborn. The May queen and the green man are destined to meet, fall in love and become lovers. Anna Chaney, of The Beltane Festival of Fire, says the union between the green man and the May queen, “is the ultimate symbol. I always like to think of it as the marriage between the earth and the sky.”
The colorful community ceremony known as the May Pole dance has origins all over Western Europe. After being banned by the Puritans, it has been revived as a symbol of bringing together community on May 1.
The veil between the spirit world and the material world is said to be much thinner on the eve of May 1. Food and drink are symbolically offered to the Aos Si, who are beings similar to elves and fairies. According to the Celts, the Aos Si coexist with humans, and live in a parallel universe that allows them to interact with humans. Gaelic mythology describes the Aos Si as being deeply connected to nature. On Beltane it is believed to be easier for humans to communicate with the spirits of nature, such as fairies and Aos Si.
Creative Guide to Design Your Own Life Affirming Beltane Celebration
1. Make a Beltane Altar – Add symbols of fertility spring and fire. Use the alter to affirm what is growing and germinating in your life. What do you want to expand and increase? Include symbols or talismans that represent your goals. Decorate the altar let the magic begin.
2. Get crafty with flowers, plants and trees. Create a floral crown to symbolize fertility and new beginnings. Play the May Queen and adorn your head with fresh daffodils, lilacs or your favorite seasonal blooms. Construct a Maypole using a large tree branch or poll. Attach colorful with ribbons. Invite the community to grab a streamer and dance the circle. P. S. This is a sure hit if kids are involved. Or consider having a planting party. Plant seeds in the garden or give guests seeds to plant in small pots. There are many creative ways to affirm and celebrate the growing season.
3. Light a fire. There are so many ways to ignite the element of fire. Light a big bonfire on the evening before Beltane and invite your favorite people to dance, sing, feast and celebrate. If you have a fireplace or fire pit, a sacred Beltane soiree would be a cozy, more intimate gathering. If you are alone or want to keep it super simple, light a candle or incense to acknowledge the growing light that Beltane initiates.
4. Hold a gathering – Invite friends, family, partners and lovers. Celebrate with a feast surrounded by those you love and multiple good feelings and blessings. Invite friends over or treat everyone to a special festively prepared meal. Perhaps invite only one guest, if you would prefer a sacred evening with your lover. If you hold the party at night, plan the event by adding some to the ideas in this guide to your evening. If you want to hold your May day celebration during the day and make it more family friendly include a May Pole dance.
5. Speak to the spirits – Get quiet, meditate and listen. This could mean you hold a group meditation or you do it solo. Ancient Celts thought that the Fae, or fairy people were traveling close to the Earth on Beltane. The veil is thin on Beltane. Think of it as a time to get your messages across dimensions. In other words you have a good internet connection to the spirit world. It’s a good time to send a telepathic text message to a fairy or any spirit you want to speak to on the other side.
6. Connect to your inner lover. Whether you have someone to love or there’s no lover in sight, It’s always good practice to honor your inner lover. Take some time on Beltane to give yourself some love. Indulge in a warm candlelight bath, buy yourself fresh flowers, practice abhyanga. Celebrate the love taking care of yourself to connect to your own fire, passion and desire.
Go forth, make merriment and sacred ritual on Beltane. Let me know how your DIY celebration goes.