In the heat of the fire - Beltane

“The Beltane fire sends its flames to the sun, The promise of Summer warmth to come, The Horned God dances through the green, Chasing after his Goddess and Queen. Hawthorn blossoms in radiant white, And clarity grows in the quickening light, Now is the time for action and life, To fertilise plans and banish strife. Take the leap across the Beltane fire, And let the energies take you higher."

Welcome to the Wheel of the Year series, this year on each natural turning point that is celebrated in the Wheel of the Year, I will share with you my thoughts and some history around these specific days.

Usually celebrated on 30 April – 1 May in the Northern Hemisphere and 31 October – 1 November in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sunset. Some people celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice (or the full moon nearest this point). In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 45 degrees.

This is a time when the earth is lush and green as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy. 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, also known as May Day.

Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire.

Beltane History

Beltane, also spelled Beltine or Beltaine, comes from the Celtic word meaning “fires of Bel,” in reference to the Celtic sun deity. This holiday remains an important part of countries’ folk traditions. 

Fire is one of the most significant motifs in the Beltane celebration because of its traditional association with purification and revitalization. As a result, Beltane rituals have historically incorporated bonfires, over which people would jump in the belief that it would bring good fortune and fertility.

Today, many people continue the tradition of building these bonfires since fire is a significant symbol of community bonding. 

Ah! my heart is weary waiting, Waiting for the May: Waiting for the pleasant rambles Where the fragrant hawthorn brambles, Where the woodbine alternating, Scent the dewy way; Ah! my heart is weary, waiting, Waiting for the May.
— Denis Florence McCarthy

Along with building bonfires, Beltane also include dancing around a maypole with ribbons tied to it. The ceremonial folk dance performed around a pole hung with ribbons is not exclusively associated with Beltane and is also a common folk practice across Europe on May 1. 

During the seventeenth century, Puritanical leaders frowned upon the use of the Maypole in celebration – after all, it was a giant phallic symbol in the middle of the village green.

Beltane also is a time for planting and cultivating greens, to honor the holiday’s celebration of fertility. Certain trees have distinct associations with Beltane, including ash, oak and hawthorn.

We are half way into spring and Nature is teaching us to find our balance. I'm watching the last snow falling down with a tan on my face. The energy of purification is in the air, and I can feel it in my bones. 

Each morning when I wake up I check on the little baby plants and herbs that I am growing. Amazed by their strength, I give them fresh water and some sweet words. 

Bless the lands, the fields, the springs and the flowers.

They are full of potential, and so are you!

Happy Beltane!

How are you experiencing this energy of purification and revitalisation? I would love to hear your musings in the comments below.

MusingsIris Nabalo