Updated: May 1, 2022
Beltane marks the midway point between the Spring Equinox & the Summer Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, Beltane is traditionally celebrated on the moonrise of May Eve and ends on the 1st May at sunset.
The word Beltane translates as ‘bright fire’ or ‘bright one’, a time where fires are lit to honour the Bel, the Sun God to protect the emerging harvest and community.
Beltane has Celtic roots set in agrarian culture; a pastoral festival to mark the herds being sent out to pasture. Beltane was a time of great gatherings and feasting. It was the first opportunity for people to gather after the cold winter months; with communities coming together to celebrate life and fertility. Fires were lit and herds driven around the fires to protect them from disease. The gatherers would jump the fire to purify themselves. Rowan twigs were carried around the fire three times, before hanging them over their hearths to bless their home; with embers taken to light fires in their own homes and to protect them in the months ahead.
In Christianity, it is a time where the Virgin Mary is honoured with altars decorated with flowers and candles; processions take place to represent the Divine Feminine, birth and fertility.In Wiccan traditions, the Earth comes alive and is re-birthed as flower buds unfurl and animals are conceived. . Beltane honour the flower Goddess, Flora; depicted as the May Queen, Lady Marian or Guinevere in legends, either way the embodiment of the Maiden - representing fertility. The Goddess and the Green Man come together in Unity to create new life.
Beltane Eve was the night where the God expressed his love for the Goddess, which was consummated in union of Scared Marriage (Heiros Gamos); producing the Divine Child who comes to replace the dying Divine Masculine. New life from death of Winter is created so the peoples can once again be fed. At this time Lovers often disappeared into the forest to make some magic of their own! Folklore believed faeries returned from their winter hideaway to fill the night withmagic and beauty; children conceived on May Eve are known as Merry-Be-Gots and are said to be gifted by Flora and the Green Man. The natural world has a wild and free spirit at this time; it wakes us up and we want to play, create and make love - which are all ways of harnessing our potential.
How To Celebrate Beltane
You can honour the Goddess by wearing lovely coloured clothes or in particular, clothes of green. Wear red if you crave love and passion, white for peace, green for abundance, yellow for happiness, purple for mystic and spiritual growth or blue to aid communication in relationships.
Beltane is the perfect time to go for a forage and find lovely flowers to decorate your home or altar. Flowers such as Primrose, Hawthorn, Hazel, Marigold, Honeysuckle, Lilac and Dandelion. Or why not fragrance the house with heady, sensual Essential oils such as: Ylang Ylang, Rose, Frankincense, Lilac and Jasmine.
Traditionally flowers were collected and placed in the doorways or windows of friends or neighbours as the bright colours evoked Bel, the God of Fire and honoured Flora. Why not make a May basket by adding goodies and some flowers and place them on the doors of friends or neighbours, perhaps an Elderly person who would really appreciate a little love. If you have children or have flowers in abundance, why not make a floral crown to channel Flora.
Beltane is the great marriage of nature. It is a time of fun and frolicking so why not stay up late, enjoy the evening and the morning dew? Maidens, take note! Traditionally rolling in the dew of May Eve or washing ones face in the pre-dawn dew was said to bring health, luck and beauty! Maidens also used to wash their hair in the Beltane rain to bless their head. If that sounds a little too much, perhaps leave an offering to the Beltane waters. You could find a well, pond, spring or waterfall where you walk East around the water and then make a blessing and leave an offering; traditionally coins were left but perhaps a simple flower or leaf is more biological. You might also like to scry the water in the moonlight to see what messages of wisdom you can behold.
Many Wiccans like to watch the moonrise and say a sacred feminine prayer:
“Great earth mother! We give you praise today and ask for your blessing upon us. As seeds spring forth and grass grows green and winds blow gently, the rivers flow and the sun shines down upon our land, we offer thanks to you for your blessings and your gifts of life each Spring”. (Prayer taken from: www.learnreligions.com/simple-prayers-for-beltane-2561674)
And when the sun comes up to honour the Divine Masculine.
“Spring has reached the earth, the land is fertile, seeds will be sown and new life will begin once more. Hail, great gods of the land! Let the soil open up and mother earth's fertile womb receive the seeds of life as we welcome the spring”
The Celts always believed it was important to appease the aos si - nature spirits or faeries that were considered to be active this time of year. Why not create a faery house in the garden, really lovely if you have children (or indeed yourself, if you are just a big kid). Take yourself off on a woodland adventure and find bits and bobs to make the faeries a home; find acorns, moss and use small twigs to make furniture. Bring the bits home and set it up in a corner of your garden somewhere and place coins, flowers, sugar or honey as gifts to appease them. You could even light the house safely with a candle until the dawn comes.
Another nice activity is to make a wish box. The potent energy of Beltane means it is a super time to manifest your desires. You need a small box, some rose petals and some poppy or sunflower seeds. On a piece of paper write a wish and set the intention in your mind and on to the paper. Decorate the box. Put your wish paper at the bottom and then lay in some soil, add the seeds and cover with soil. Find a suitable spot (perhaps near the faery house) and dig a hole, place the box into the ground, cover with a little soil and give it a good water. Concentrate on your wish, ask the seeds to grow strong and towards the sky - visualise your wish coming true as the seeds begin to grow.
Probably the most common Beltane activity is a maypole dance! Why not set up a maypole which represents the Divine Masculine and decorate it with ribbons to represent the Divine Feminine. This roman tradition likely started over 2000 years ago when soldiers would return to celebrate the arrival of Spring and find themselves a maiden! Dance and go wild, be like the animals that get playful in the light of the Summer sun, its a great time to lose your inhibitions, dance to music, have fun and simply enjoy the coming of Summer.
Make a picnic or some food to keep you going through the Beltane period; enjoy it in the sunshine or by the fire at night - ether way the great outdoors is prefect. It is nice to include fruits which represent our fertile Earth including: peaches, pomegranates, cherries and strawberries. You could even make some traditional oatcakes which you can find here: https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/bread/other-bread/beltane-oat-cakes.html You can get some more ideas here too: https://www.ravenandcrone.com/catalog/a2/Beltane,-May-Day,-Food-Recipes/article_info.html or https://www.autostraddle.com/20-recipes-all-night-beltane-party-412595/
And of course, lets not forget the most important part - lighting a fire. We have a chiminea which is lovely of an evening. Why not invite some friends and spend some time bringing your ideas and manifestations to life in the throws of the flames. Listen to each others plans to bring them together, renew your intentions or vows to your partner, for example. Celebrate! It is also a common time for handfastings, where lovers show commitment to one another for a year a day!
The Great Wedding of Nature surely deserves a camp out and a star gaze! I love sleeping outside over Beltane as it is energising and restorative and a way to get as close to the nature as possible. Toast some marshmallows on the fire, tell stories, watch the sunrise, and give thanks for the gifts of life.
Like Samhain (which lies directly opposite from Beltane on the Wheel of the Year), Beltane is seen as a time where the veil between worlds is thin enough that we can connect with our ancestors and dead. Sit by a fire or light a candle and sit quietly, invite your ancestors and spirit guides to be with you, what wisdom do you receive? Some say that the spirits of those who will be born the next year visit the land of the living on this day.
Beltane is all about joy and love, a holiday of Union. Our sensuality is to be revered. As a woman we can honour the Goddess with fruit and flowers at the altar and a cauldron, symbolic of the fertile womb. Sit and take some time to honour your beauty, sexuality, sensuality and connection to nature. It is a time to let go of shame and guilt and instead love our body. If you are single and don’t have anyone to frolic in the forest with then here are some ideas for self-love that you can do instead. Why not have a flower petal bath with some sensual Essential oils, such as Ylang Ylang or maybe make a tea with edible flower petals for a relaxing drink. Afterwards on a piece of paper write your struggles you wish to release. Burn the paper safely and see your struggles disappear. Then with love in your heart charka set an intention to find your own Adonis when the time is right. Light a candle and repeat:
“Dear Artemis, let me run free and wild like you. Dear Isis, help me heal my deepest wounds and create my life anew.Dear Aphrodite, let me embrace my body and enjoy life’s sweetest pleasures.Dear Rhiannon, awaken my magic and wisdom, that I may be the queen of my kingdom. Dear Shakti, awaken your primal power within me, and rise in bliss within and through me. Dear Hera, bless me in sacred union with my beloved, on earth as we dwell already in heaven. Dear Flora, bless me with beauty in all hours.Dear Freya, help me know that it is safe and right for me to be lavished and ravished. Dear Xochiquetzal, help me conceive, nurture and birth every dream within my heart”. (Taken from https://www.flourishinggoddess.com/goddess-rituals-prayers-celebrate-beltane)
Whatever your love status is, it is good to sit with yourself at some point over Beltane and ask yourself a few questions while meditating into the flames of a fire or candle. What is bringing you joy right now? What do you feel inspired to do? What will you grow into your life in the coming weeks until Summer? What do you hope to harvest in Autumn from your fruits of the Summer? Beltane asks us to love ourselves, what areas of your body do you feel confident with, what areas of you do you need to love more? How can you connect to your primal energy force?
Spend time over the Beltaine period putting your energy into new creations as the energy and power of the Earth is very high leading to increased productivity and success so plant a garden, write a story, have a new hair cut...
During this time it can be beneficial to mediate with crystal energy. Crystals such as garnet for the root chakra, sacral chakra stones such as carnelian or orange agate, rose quartz or pink tourmaline for love and citrine for abundance. Hold them in your hand and relax - what lessons do they have to teach you?
Take a walk in woodland over the period and invite your spirit guides to come with you. If you find a Rowan tree and find a fallen branch then take it home and hang over the fire place as this was traditionally considered to bring good luck into the home. Take some time to sit by a lovely Birch tree; Birch represents the female Goddess, what wisdom does she have to tell you? The Hawthorn Tree represents nature’s marriage with the masculine energy if its thorny spikes and the beautiful feminine blossoms, once again said to attract the faery folk so if you are lucky enough to find a fallen branch, maybe bring it home and circle the fire three times. If you do find a Hawthorn tree, why not make some Hawthorn brandy? Ask if you can take the flowers first, and if so, only take 1 in 10 to support the wildlife if you do. You can find out how to make Hawthorn Brandy here: https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2014/09/hawberry-brandy/
The Willow Tree is the Celtic tree for the month of May which is associated with healing and growth. It offers protection and can nurture lost souls. Finding a Willow tree and having a relax can make for simple Beltane should you not be up for the Beltane reverie!
And as a final thought for the Witches amongst us, you may prefer to channel other Deities than the ones mentioned. Other lovely deities include: The wild huntress Artemis, sensual Aphrodite, magical Rhiannon, primal creator Shakti, patron goddess of marriage Hera, flower queen Flora, lover and warrior Freya, queen Isis, or Mayan fertility goddess Xochiquetzal. Male Deities: Bel, Adonis, Achilles, Ariel, Artemis, Apollo, Bacchus, Cernnunos, Cupid, Eros, Faunus, Frey, Herne, Odin, Orion, Pan, Puck.
Whatever you do in the height of Earth energy, do it safely, be careful with fires and don’t wander on your own in the forest at night, Maiden or not! ;) Have a blessed Beltane everyone!
Usual Beltane Events (obviously not on due to Covid, but maybe next year):
Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival
Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, Located near Waterlooville, Hampshire
Beltane at Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire
Beltane Week in Peebles, Scotland