Beltane History – Celebrating May Day by Patti Wigington

THE FIRES OF TARA

Beltane kicks off the merry month of May, and has a long history. This fire festival is celebrated on May 1 with bonfires, Maypoles, dancing, and lots of good old fashioned sexual energy. The Celts honored the fertility of the gods with gifts and offerings, sometimes including animal or human sacrifice. Cattle were driven through the smoke of the balefires, and blessed with health and fertility for the coming year.

In Ireland, the fires of Tara were the first ones lit every year at Beltane, and all other fires were lit with a flame from Tara.

ROMAN INFLUENCES

The Romans, always known for celebrating holidays in a big way, spent the first day of May paying tribute to their Lares, the gods of their household. They also celebrated the Floralia, or festival of flowers, which consisted of three days of unbridled sexual activity. Participants wore flowers in their hair (much like May Day celebrants later on), and there were plays, songs, and dances. At the end of the festivities, animals were set loose inside the Circus Maximus, and beans were scattered around to ensure fertility. The fire festival of Bona Dea was also celebrated on May 2nd.

A PAGAN MARTYR…

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Flashback – Beltane 2003

“In ancient times, people extinguished all their fires on BEltane and then lit a single new fire. They relit all the extinguished fries from this “need fire.”

To create your own need fire ritual, you’ll need to gather the nine sacred woods: birch, rowan, ash, adler, willow, hawthron, oak, holly, and hazel. If you are unable to find all the different types, try to make sure you have at least three: oak, ash and hawthron.

If you don’t have any open fires to put out, use candles to symbolize your fires. Take either three or nine tapers and set them in a row. Light the candles and all them to burn for a little while, then put them out, thinking of those things you wish to put out of your life. Now prepare the need fire of nine woods in a fireplace, an outdoor fire ring or even in a grill on a balcony or patio. Make a wood bow (as described in the Boy Scout Handbook, for example) or get a magnifying glass to set fire to the tinder. THe fire should be allowed to spread to the oak wood first, then to the others. While you light the fire, and as you watch it burn, think of those things you wish to “catch fire” in your life.

Copyright 2003 Magenta Griffith Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2003 Page 67

Beltane – Day 19

Beltane Magic [Part 8]

8.  The Magic of Butterflies

The butterfly is one of nature’s most perfect examples of change, transformation, and growth. Because of this, it has long been the subject of magical folklore and legend in a variety of societies and cultures. Let’s look at some of the magical meanings behind butterflies. [Click on “The Magic of Butterflies” in blue on this post]

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2002

“Prepare for Beltane by leaving tokens for the fairy folk in the woods or in your herb garden. Tie glitzy ribbons for the undines near a natural spring or river. Gather spring flowers at dawn to adorn your door, and prepare a traditional May bowl for your ritual.

First, harvest several stems of flowering sweet woodruff to steep in white wine or champagne, Then stir in a cup of brandy or strawberry wine, adding whole stawberries, rose petals, and floating red candles. EMpowerthe whole bowl for your ritual. Make a mini-Maypole for your altar. FInd small smooth egg-shaped stones and half bury in pots of herbs or directly in the soil to update the ancient tradition of Hermes seeding the soil for fertility. For this ritual, use red as the main color theme in circle as a nod to the red moonflow of ancient ceremonies.”

Copyright202 K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002

Beltane – Day 17

Beltane Magic [Part 6]

6.  Dandelion Magic

Although many suburban homeowners see dandelions as the bane of their existence, and spend significant amounts of money trying to eradicate them from sight, the fact is that dandelions have a long and rich folkloric history, both from a magical and medicinal perspective. Let’s look at some of the ways people have utilized dandelions throughout the ages.More »

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2001

“Beltane honors the sacred marriage of the God and Goddess, whos union will produce the harvets to come. It also celebrates the start of summer in full bloom. For this ritual, gather or purchase wildflowers. With raffia, twine, or string, tie flowers together in long garlands; ten feet in length or longer is perfect. These don’t have to look professionally crafted. They only need to hold together for the purpose of your ritual. When you have completed the garlands, go out to a park or wooded area. Touch the land and its plants and trees with your hands, allowing yourself to connectwith the pulsing lifeforce of the area. Look around for items that are either feminine or masculine in their energy and begin linking them together with the flowery garlands to honor the union of the divine male and female energies. For example, you can link stones to oak trees, riverbanks to abandoned fire pits, or flowering plants to spikey ones.”

Copyright 2001 Edian McCoy LLewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2001e

Beltane – Flashback 2000

“When the Sun travels through Taurus, Spring has reached its fertile peak. Trees are lush and green, flowers bloom, and birds wrestle meals for their youngsters from the moist ground. The air smells fresh, clean and “green.” This is the time of year for all of us to take a moment to appreciate the gifts of the Earth-Mother, both for this richness of her bounty and the home she provides. As the most pleasure-loving sign of all, Taurus is expert at enjoying all those wonderful experiences that make life inside the human body so delightful. This sign loves to indulge in good food, listen to sweet strains of music, and sit in awed silence as yet anothe sunset slowly fills the sky with color. The ancients danced their fertility rites on this day, taking pleasure in the sensual, fruitful touch of each other’s bodies, another delight the union of the Goddess and God provides. Whether you dance around a Maypole or  simply partake of a divine feast with friends at this magical time, be sure to revel in your body, the divine instrument that allows you to sample the wonders of our planet.”

Copyright 2000 Kim Rogers-Gallagher Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 200 Page 69

All About Beltane

April’s showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st (or October 31 – November 1 for our Southern Hemisphere readers), festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It’s a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history. Depending on your tradition, there are a number of ways you can celebrate this Sabbat. First, you might want to read up on:

Rituals and Ceremonies

Depending on your particular tradition, 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.

Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying — and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

Customs and Folklore

Interested in learning about some of the traditions behind the celebrations of May Day? Learn why the Romans had a big party, and who the popular fertility gods are.

Beltane Magic

Beltane is a season of fertility and fire, and we often find this reflected in the magic of the season. Let’s look at some of that spring magic, from ritual sex to fertility magic, along with the magic found in gardens and nature.

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.

Feasting and Food

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. Enjoy light spring soups, Scottish bannocks, fertility bread loaves, and more.

Related Articles

From and owned  by About.com: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/beltanemayday/a/AllAboutBeltane.htm

Beltane

beltane
herne

April 30th / May 1 – Beltane
Also known as Roodmas or May Day
Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Beltane.  It is one of eight solar Sabbats.  This holiday incorporates traditions from the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, but it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as May pole dancing).  Some traditions celebrate this holiday on May 1 or May day, whiles others begin their celebration the eve before or April 30th.Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. The name means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times.In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods “A-Maying,” and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole — namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar, this was celebrated as ‘Roodmas’. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or ‘Walpurgisnacht’. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens. (Both ‘Lady Day’ and ‘Ostara’ are names incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca.)

The May pole was a focal point of the old English village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. Women traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their bodies. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion. Ancient Pagan traditions say that Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared. Let Them guide you! Breads and cereals are popular. Try oatmeal cakes or cookies sweetened with a dab of honey. Dairy foods are again appropriate…just make a lovely wedding feast and you are sure to enjoy yourself! An early morning walk through a local park or forest could be fun for everyone. Gather up some plants or flowers to display in your home. Mom and daughter could braid their hair, and weave in a few tender blossoms.

Blessed Be!

 


 

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A Detailed History of Beltane

“…There have been many waves of Beltane festivals, each in its own generation with a different facet, but all saying ‘We Need To Celebrate’”
– Margaret Bennett, 2006

To the pastoral Celtic people’s of Europe the changing pattern of the seasons was a matter of life and death, and marking these changes key moments in the life of the community. Beltane – “bright fire” – was one such marker celebrated in various forms across Ireland, Scotland and Man as the starting point of summer. A celebration of the time of light and growth to come, Beltane was associated with a variety of practices, from the display of fresh greenery to the baking of Beltane bannocks. Perhaps the most important element, however, was the lighting of Beltane fires on the first of May, which would recall the growing power of the sun and provide an opportunity to cleanse and renew the conditions of a community – both humans and their animals – that had spent the dark months indoors. In Scotland, the lighting of Beltane fires – round which cattle were driven, over which brave souls danced and leapt – would survive into modern times, although a process of slow decline saw towns and villages slowly abandon the practice in the nineteenth century. The last Beltane fire recorded in Helmsdale took place in 1820. In the middle years of the century the fires of Fife spluttered out, and by the 1870s they would go unlit in the Shetland Isles. By the start of the twentieth century, Edinburgh, which had for time immemorial seen beacons lit on Arthur’s Seat, ceased such public Beltane celebrations.

In 1988 Edinburgh’s Beltane fires were brought to life once more, led by Angus Farquhar – then of industrial band Test Dept, who took part in the first Beltane performance, now ofNVA. The inspiration here was the idea of recreating a sense of community and an appreciation of the cyclical nature of the seasons and our connection to the environment. With the aid of choreographer Lindsay John and a folklorist Margaret Bennett of Edinburgh University’s School of Scottish Studies, this first performance drew on existing folk traditions surrounding Beltane to create a modern celebration of the festival which has continued to grow and evolve as the years have gone by.

This first modern Beltane saw only five performers take to Calton Hill, watched by an audience of fifty to a hundred people. Within five years this had grown to several hundred performers and three thousand audience members, during which time the Society came into place to support the continuation of the festival. While Arthur’s Seat had traditionally been the location for Edinburgh’s Beltane celebrations, at the time of the planning of the ‘new’ Beltane Festival a location was needed that was more accessible and central, while still maintaining an association with nature and the environment. Calton Hill also at that time had a bad reputation relating to sex and drugs and was a ‘no go’ area of the city, and part of the aim was to ‘reclaim’ that space for the local community through our celebrations.

As the Beltane Fire Festival has grown and developed, change has been inevitable. In 1992, Angus Farquhar organised his last Beltane, and the following year the Beltane Fire Society formed to take on his mantle. By 1999, audience numbers had reached ten thousand, and in 2001 the Festival took on its first paid production manager to co-ordinate the growing event, currently a part-time paid role in an otherwise volunteer organisation. Growing costs, attendance numbers and council licensing requirements meant that in 2004 the decision was made for the previously free event to be ticketed for the first time. An admission charge did little to effect the festival’s popularity, however, and in 2004 the event sold out for the first time with an audience of twelve thousand. In recent years, the audience has varied between six and twelve thousand people, experiencing a cast of around three hundred performers, plus support groups, technicians and production groups.

As “Beltane” has got bigger, it also expanded outwith the night itself, part of a cultural mileau which helped to spawn several performance groups which would move beyond the bounds of Beltane. Most notable was te POOKa, a performing arts charity which for many years had a symbiotic relationship with the festival, sharing personnel, headquarters and, in its early years, the name “Beltane Productions”. The charitable objectives of the Society, which in part seeks to raise awareness of the Quarter Days of the Scottish seasonal calendar, have also expanded its own performances to mark these complementary festivals. While the festivals of Imbolc and Lugnasadh have generally been small, informal affairs for members of the Society, the most established alternate celebration is Samhuinn – 31st October – when the coming of winter is marked by a public procession in Edinburgh city centre.

Despite these changes, BFS remains a volunteer-run community charity, with the performance on the night itself at its core. And, while the performance itself has grown and changed, it has firmly retained key elements – the procession of the May Queen, the death and rebirth of Green Man, the lighting of the bonfire – which provide a backbone of continuity while allowing a huge amount of flexibility within each group and each character as to how they wish to engage with and shape the story of our Festival. The Beltane fires have returned to Edinburgh in a vibrant, modern tradition which has become a world-renowned spectacle.

From:

Beltane Fire Society

Formed in 1988, Beltane Fire Society is a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh.