|Names||Beltane, Beltaine, Walpurgis Night, High Maien, Lady Day, Cetsamhain|
|Meaning in the annual cycle||Beginn of sommer, Beginn of growth and maturation|
|Symbols||Fire, Flowers, Sun, Birch, Whitethorn, Symbols of Sexuality|
|Colours||White, Red, bright colours|
|Stones||Heliodore, Fire opal, red coral|
|Keywords||Fertility, union, sexuality, dance, courtship, wild time|
Why are we celebrating Beltane?
Finally summer is here. After a long waiting and shivering, we can finally pay homage to the fertile Mother Earth. Beltane lies on the other side of Samhain in the Celtic annual circle, which marks the beginning of winter. The Celts knew only two seasons: summer and winter.
With Beltane finally the bright season begins. We celebrate fertility, sexuality and union of Sky and Earth. For our ancestors, the time of hunger was over. Lightness and joy now warm our hearts. May 1st has survived as ‘Labour Day’. Religiously speaking, many Beltane rituals have been postponed to Pentecost. The origin of the word ‘Beltane’ is unknown, but it could stand for ‘bright fire’.
How are we celebrating Beltane today?
Today we celebrate Beltane mainly with fire and dance – a wild party to greet the summer and celebrate your own vitality.
Rituals for Beltane
To celebrate the return of fertility and finally banish winter, people lit fires lit on hills. These were made of oak or yew, or out of 9 different woods. Jumping of the fire should bring luck and fertility. Jumping together hand in hand represented an engagement or even a wedding. The Celts drove their cattle through the smoke of the Beltane Fire for protection. Even today, we can celebrate Beltane with a fire and a jolly celebration. When jumping over the fire, you can let go of old and express wishes.
The Celts paid homage to nature with many rituals. There was a Maybush, which was usually a white thorn bush or a mountain ash bush. They decorated it with ribbons and flowers. (This ritual was adopted in Christianity in the Pentecostal customs). The most important tree to Beltane is the white thorn. This was considered the tree of the goddess and was only allowed to be felled on the day of Beltane.
Today the best known plant for Beltane is probably the maypole. This is usually a spruce, fir, birch or a willow. This custom also comes from the Celts, who danced around a tree. Today, people peel the tree to the crown and decorated it with a wreath and ribbons. Nowadays, locals organize competitions organized here in Austria, where young men have to climb the top of the tree. My two brothers always took part in this contest and also won. Full of tree gum and skinned by the rough surface of the stem, they then shared their prey with me (mostly sweets).
The Celts chose a May queen and a May king at Beltane. They symbolized the natural gods who married each other that night. The two chosen ones occupies the centre stage of the celebrations. Frequently they were married with a Handfasting ceremony (Celtic wedding). Today we can celebrate the binding part with our partner. If you don’t have a partner and you want one, you can use the evening to imagine your dream partner and begin to manifest him or her.
The May water is supposed to have a healing effect. Women washed their faces in the morning dew on May morning. They saw it makes you look even prettier – it’s worth a try. You can also draw spring water on this day (morning hike up the mountain to the spring) and use it all year round for healing rituals.
Walpurgis Night (April 30) is especially known because of Goethe’s Faust. The legend says that the witches meet at Mount Brocken that night. On this mountain with 1142m height in Northern Germany they celebrated a wild party with dancing and more. Exuberant dances have survived to this day. In many places, locals organize the May dances around the maypole. Forget all the rules and just start dancing. Unleash your energy and enjoy your inner wilderness!
Parallels to Hinduism
Also in Hinduism we find a story that fits Beltane. Krishna (8th Avatar of Lord Vishnu) danced with the Gopis (cow herding girls) in an ecstatic dance to the full moon. Each girl danced with a reflection of Krishna as he danced with his lover Radha. Today traditional dance theater (Ras Lila) performed this story.
|1.||Samhain||beginning of the winter half-year, 11th new moon in the calendar year||usually celebrated on the 31st of October|
|2.||Yule||winter solstice||21st of December|
|3.||Imbolc||2nd full moon after Yule||usually celebrated on 2nd of February|
|4.||Ostara||Spring Equinox||21st of March|
|5.||Beltane||Beginning of the summer half-year, 5th full moon after Yule||usually celebrated on 30th of April|
|6.||Litha||Summer solstice||21st of June|
|7.||Lammas||8th full moon after Yule||usually celebrated on 2nd of August|
|8.||Mabon||Autumn equinox||23rd of September|