Beltane is one of the four major fire holidays in Wiccan tradition and a pagan festival enthusiastically observed in the Celtic tradition. Beltane is a celebration of the Celtic God Bel (Belenus, Belenos), a God of fire and sun. His name means “shining one” or “fires of Bel”. It is for Bel that fires are lit. Also known as May Day, it is usually observed on May 1st, around the halfway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice and can be celebrated from sunset April 30th to sunset May 1st. This is thought to be a time of the year when the veils between worlds is thin, making it a perfect time for divination, spell casting & connection with passed ones. If you believe in faeries, it is on Beltane that the faeries come out of their winter sleep and revel in their wild wakefulness.
Beltane is a celebration of fertility - of the earth as flowers bloom and seeds are planted and fertility of animals. In Ireland it was common to celebrate Beltane with cattle, walking the cattle around the lit community bonfire. It was also a time when people would dance around the fire and sometimes jump over it. The lit fires symbolize the sun’s warmth. In Celtic tradition the lines between the classes could be blurred and people met in the forest to go ‘a-maying’. This is far less common now, and the day is marked with dances around Maypoles, feasts and fires. This new way to observe Beltane still focuses on sensuality, but is less sexually primed. The Maypole dance itself is a symbolic expression of the union of the god and goddess – represented by the weaving of the ribbons on the Maypole.
Ways to celebrate Beltane this May 1st are fun and easy! Spend time in nature, play in the dirt and with newly blooming flowers, weave yourself a crown of flowers to honour the spring maiden, tie coloured ribbons on trees or fences to blow in the wind. Feast with friends, light a fire if you can. Give offerings to the earth and recite earth prayers. Dance the Maypole! Have fun!