5 Ways to Observe Beltane
This week marks the Pagan holiday of Beltane, or May Day. Falling on May 1st and celebrated anytime between April 30th through May 5th in the Northern Hemisphere, Beltane is a celebration marked by fires and fertility. The weather is beautiful and flowers are in bloom.
This is a time to celebrate. But celebrate how?
What is Beltane?
Beltane, also known as May Day among other names, is a festival of fire and fertility. The name is sometimes translated to mean “bonfires of Belos/Bel” or “bale fire” or, more accurately, “the month of May.” Regardless, it is common to celebrate this holiday with fire of some sort.
During this time of the year, spring planting is happening and thus it was seen as a time to bless the fields with fertility for an abundant harvest come fall.
In Wiccan traditions, it is a holiday celebrating the Divine Union of the God and Goddess in their sacred marriage. This connection heavily associates the holiday with sexuality, fertility, and lovemaking.
This time of the year also lends itself to being favorited by fairies. As flowers bloom and more of the natural world is coming to life again, fairies also begin running amok.
Traditions of May Day grant the titles of May Queen and May King to two young people as symbolic partners. Participants at May Day celebrations will dance around a maypole, wrapping long ribbons around it as they dance. The symbolism of the maypole is highly debated on whether it represents the axis mundi or has more phallic symbolism for fertility rites.
Walpurgisnacht is a holiday around this time that is Germanic in origin and is related to the Christian Saint Walpurga. Saint Walpurga was believed to have fought against witchcraft in her time and is celebrated in a manner similar to Halloween by dressing as witches and also lighting bonfires to keep away malevolent spirits.
Beltane is a sunny, energetic holiday that is almost always connected to fires. The Wheel of the Year is turning to more outwardly active time where celebrations can move more easily to outdoor spaces.
Other Names and Related Holidays
Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain), May Day, Fairy Day, Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch), Calan Mai (Welsh)
Consider watching the following videos for some differing perspectives:
From Lora O’brien, a native Irish draoi on Bealtaine in Ireland:
From Harmony Nice:
Other Resources:Embed from Getty Images
When decorating your altar or looking for deities to call upon to honor during Beltane, consider the following lists of correspondences. These lists are not exhaustive.
Deities of love and fertility are often called upon during the time of Beltane.
Aphrodite, Artemis, Bast, Diana, Pan, the Horned God, Venus, Maiden or Mother aspects of the Triple Goddess, Hathor, Cernunnos, Flora, Faunus, Maia, Venus
Deities of the Hunt, Flower Goddesses, Divine Couples
Green, soft pink, blue, yellow, red, brown
Swallow, dove, swan, cats, lynx, leopard, bees, cow, rabbit, frog
Maypole, flower crowns, ribbons, spring flowers, bonfires, cauldrons, baskets, broom
Dairy, bread, cereals, oatmeal cakes, strawberries, wine, green salads, honey, lemonade
Herbs and Crystals
Almond, ash, clover, cinquefoil, lily of the valley, meadowsweet, foxglove, honeysuckle, elder, ivy, lilac, rose, yarrow, bluebells, marigold, thyme, daisies, mint, mugword, frankincense, angelica, any flowering plant
Emerald, malachite, amber, carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz,
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Set Up an Altar
While it may seem obvious, I always like to recommend setting up an altar every holiday. Sometimes it gets overlooked as an easy way to honor the turning of the Wheel. Decorate with any number of the above symbols and correspondences, keeping things as simple or as complicated as you want.
Don’t forget to take some time in front of your altar to meditate on what the holiday means to you personally.
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash
Have a Bonfire and Dance
Whether you want to celebrate the holiday on your own, with friends, or in a coven setting, building a fire or bonfire is an excellent way to celebrate. Be sure to practice fire safety while you do.
If you can’t have a full fire, a few candles on your altar or in a cauldron would work as well.
While the fire is lit and burning brightly, dance by yourself or with your compatriots around it.
Play music on instruments or from your phone that gets you moving. You may find yourself moving in circles wildly or with purpose. Let the energy take you and have fun.
You can always take the dancing a step further and do a Maypole dance specifically as well.
During your dancing, you can focus on specific intentions you want to bring to your life. As you dance faster and faster, focus and send out into the universe to manifest. You can add into this dancing ritual a slip of paper with the intention written on it and toss it into the fire when ready to release it to the universe.
Jumping over a small fire in a cauldron or stepping between two bonfires is believed to bring fertility your way. This could be another ritual to try if you need more abundance in your life. Note: it doesn’t have to be fertility related to having children.
Or if you want something low-key, having a fire going while chilling out with your friends on Beltane night is another perfect way to celebrate.
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash
Honor the Fairies
Fairies tend to be very active around Beltane and throughout the summer that follows. Flowers, a favorite of the Fae, are in the beginnings of full blooms. Beltane is also a festival that has many associations to sex and sensuality, something that fairies very much enjoy as well.
Take some time to plant a fairy garden full of flowers. Consider leaving a patch in your garden a little less than tended, more wild, to have as a home for the fairies. Fairies tend to like the wild, untended spaces the most, and leaving them that space will be a good way to honor them.
Set up a fairy altar, either indoors or out, with fresh flower cuttings, acorns, shiny coins, sparkly crystals, glitter (though be sure if an outdoor shrine that it is biodegradable), etc. Leave offerings of honey, milk, sweet things, fresh fruit, beer, butter, etc.
Be aware, that once you begin to leave offerings to the Fair Folk, that you continue to leave offerings. Offerings to fairies is often a form of appeasement to avoid them causing mischief in your life and if you stop leaving offerings, that is a sure way to get that mischief played out.
Beltane is a traditional time to perform handfasting celebrations in Wiccan and some Pagan traditions. Handfasting, historically, is considered to be more of a “common law” marriage. A couple will perform a ceremony of either simply holding hands or wrapping cords around the hands to declare their commitment. Some interpretations see handfasting as an engagement period or trial marriage for a period of up to a year before an official wedding occurred. In modern settings, handfasting is often held as a full complete ritual or smaller rite in a marriage ceremony.
If inclined and with a willing partner, you may consider celebrating Beltane with a handfasting ritual to become engaged or married to your partner. If already married, you could perform a handfasting to renew vows to each other.
There are a number of ways to celebrate in ritual form for Beltane. Any of the items above can be part of or turned into a formal ritual.
If you are more affiliated with Wiccan traditions, you may choose to have a ritual that focuses on the union between the God and Goddess.
If you prefer something a little more in line with the Divine Feminine, a ritual like THIS ONE may be the way to go.
In a group or coven setting, you might want to celebrate with a bonfire like THIS RITUAL.
For solitary practitioners, you might find a SIMPLE RITUAL FOR PLANTING SEEDS may be the route to go.
As Beltane approaches, take some time to think of ways you want to celebrate this year. Maybe one of the above suggestions has caught your fancy, or maybe you have ideas of your own. If you can get outside and have a fire, do it!
Share with us on social media how you are planning on celebrating!
Beltane blessings to you!