Beltane is a pagan Springtime festival traditionally celebrated on 1st May, however many Beltane celebrations take place from sunset on 30th April until sunset on 1st May, to honour and mark the point midway through the Spring season and the continuing lengthening of the days and the presence of the sun becoming ever brighter and higher in the sky above us. The stability of the light and warmth gifted to us by our mother earth at this special time see flowers bloom brighter, crops grow abundantly and young animals start to take a few step further from their mothers looking for their own journeys and adventures.
The wheel of the year has spun through the frosts and chills to bring us to this fiery celebration of Beltane when we rejoice in this fertility of the earth being at its peak and feel the reach of the sun’s rays warm on our skin from its lofty throne.
At this time we tells stories of and think about the May Queen who has reached womanhood and whose fertility is ripe and waiting to bring new life. The Green Man has grown fully into his own and triumphs over the Holly King who resides in our lands over the hard cold months, to marry the May Queen so that together they may bring life and abundance to the earth from their union.
Celebrations of this fire festival are about feelings of joy, sensuality, sexuality, abundance and manifestation, with many long standing traditional customs. Probably the most commonly known is dancing around the May-Pole. Enjoyed by young and old alike, dancing around the May-Pole, weaving beautifully coloured ribbons and fabrics was once something to watch or take part in every year on village greens and town commons. The pole is generally made from a birch branch and secured into the ground to symbolise the strength and virility of the Green Man. The crown of flowers atop the May-Pole represents the beautiful May Queen, smiling down with all of her blooming radiance at her new consort, The Green Man. Weaving and entwining the vibrant chords around the birch pole bring the two together amidst song, dance and laughter, wishes and hopes for plentiful crops falling onto their revered spirits.
Naturally many couples chose to have their hand-fasting ceremonies during these celebrations as the air is filled with love, hope and the chants and incantations of new beginnings, of success and of bright days to come. Flowers and perfumes adorn houses, communal spaces and those taking part in these mid-spring frivolities. Flower crowns are worn sending the heady fragrances of spring and the coming summer through an air already bursting with fire and glee.
A hand-fasting is a promise of love between two people; hands are loosely tied with red ribbon the seamless shape of a figure eight representing the endless flow of love between the couple and the unwavering course their souls will journey as they continually bind together. Once upon a time the pledge of the couple was to spend a year and a day together; however now couples choose their own commitments, usually having a hand-fasting as their spiritual wedding ceremony after arranging legal formalities elsewhere. At the end of the ceremony the red ribbon untied, showing the couples choice to remain together without any material ties; the couple are bound together through their pledges to one another in the presence of their own Gods and Goddesses. Once a hand fasting ceremony completed a couple jump over a decorated broomstick, one side, their old lives, their old selves, the other, the new life they are jumping into together.
Following nicely from hand-fasting ceremonies, the least known traditional Beltane Cerebration is to go A-Maying, which is most definitely an adults only part of the merriment. On this most firey of evenings couples retreat into the forests and fields to spend the night frolicking and love making under the stars, collecting blossoms to decorate their homes with as the wheel spins towards summer and giving thanks for the bounties provided by our beautiful Mother Earth.
Many pagans like to mark each of the eight stops on the wheel of the year with a dedicated alter to that particular sabbat.
How a Pagan decorates their alter for Beltane is completely personal and I would say only to use the symbolism, effigies and representations of Beltane as a guide and then decorate your alter based on your own feelings, what your intuition tells you, what you find yourself drawn to, and items that you like. Don’t ever let another tell you that your alter is wrong. It is not. It is your representation of your thanks, your interpretation and your spirituality. It is your mind and soul and your vision of the gods and/or goddesses you work with.
Traditional flowers used for Beltane are bright; think yellows and oranges, whites and greens. Daisies and dandelions are very popular and making hair crowns from daisy chains is simple, free and ever so pretty. I used chrysanthemums and carnations because they are special to me as flowers my grandmother always had in her home, the choice of flower is yours.
Herbs are also a popular choice, grown and gifted to us by the earth they are a perfect representation of the goodness and magic provided to us by our eternal mother. This year I used Rosemary to invite protection into my new home and mint to cleanse the house we are making into our new space to create into a safe family home.
Much like the mysterious moon when she is new and hidden from our sights, Beltane is tbh e perfect time of year to start new projects, clear clutter from your life, home, mind and broom closet, and do think about what you want the next turns of the wheel to bring to you; be empowered at this time of the year and ask the gods / goddesses / elementals / fairies or whatever else you work with, for what you want. Remember your offerings and thanks though, especially when you’re working with the Fae.
If you don’t have a deity you work with closely on a regular basis, this is a good time tome to work with Aphrodite, Venus and Dianna, goddesses of love and sexuality. Crystals to bring into your celebrations either as jewellery, on your alter or placed around your home are Emeralds, Sapphires, Malachite, Blood Stone and Rose Quartz.
To finish, some of the most common themes of Beltane are: brightly coloured ribbons, brooms, flowers, butterflies, fairies, fire, a maypole, herbs, newly planted seeds and bulbs coming into their own, fertility and seeds. Eat cakes and breads laced with herbs and seeds, spices and fruits.
Stay Wild, Howl Loud & Blessed Be