Beltane – The Gaelic May Day Festival

As we feel this season transition, the natural world around us has begun to bloom in many ways. We find ourselves upon a holiday older than written word. Remaining as one of the four cross­-quarter festivals that turn the Celtic wheel, Beltane comes to us as a day of fire and life. Generally celebrated around the first of May, this brings our attention to our awakened surroundings, allowing them to bless us with abundance, fertility, and new prospects.

Existing as a day out of time, we can feel Earth energy peaking while Father Sun stretches his rays to shake off the discord of winter. Beltane, or in the Manx language? Laa Boaltinn/Shenn da Boaldyn, is typically celebrated with the rise of the moon on the eve of May, to mark the rise of Summer.

It is heralded as a solar fire festival. bonfireThe word Beltane translates to ‘bright fire’. Bel being one of the first Father Gods of the Gaelic Celts of Ireland. Traditionally, bonfires are lit to honor the sun but also as a way to persuade Bels support for the oncoming season. During this time, a communal fire is created, often dubbed The Need Fire. The fire would be jumped by members of the community in hopes of purification.

Often times, livestock would be driven through the smoke for blessings as well. These consecrated fires can be seen, even still, through modern day celebrations, where fire artistry and acrobatics are displayed for the pleasure of both god and man.

The festive celebration during this sacred day varies throughout parts of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, central Europe, and the western world.Many similarities can be found, such as the May poles we scurry around, or the offering of milk onto personal effigies.

During Beltane, it is custom to celebrate the potential and existence of life­ in every form. Many find celebration through dance and song, as well as candied fruit and sweet milk. In the home front, it is customary to extinguish the home hearth, ever so welcoming the summer in.

maypole2

The holiday is also typically marked by handfastings, with the marriages set to honor the May Queen and King. On this day, the newlyweds also jump over the Need-fire in hopes to instill divine grace upon their union. Cakes and candies fruit are shared amongst family and friends while mead is swilled down, offering up joy as the ultimate sacrament.

This sacred day of solar fire is a time for us to honor the divine connection we have with the world around us. It is an opportunity to celebrate the unleashing of Father Sun from the bindings of winter’s darkness, as well as our own constraints.

In this moment we feel the divinity of natural transition­ here provides a chance to breathe in the raw eternal charge provided. At this period, earth energies are her strongest. We are able to bask in this boundless bliss while also finding a reminder of potential and prospect. Celebrate life and give love to our solar unity, blessed be!

The holiday is also typically marked by handfastings, with the marriages set to honor the May Queen and King. On this day, the newlyweds also jump over the Need-fire in hopes to instill divine grace upon their union. Cakes and candies fruit are shared amongst family and friends while mead is swilled down, offering up joy as the ultimate sacrament.

This sacred day of solar fire is a time for us to honor the divine connection we have with the world around us. It is an opportunity to celebrate the unleashing of Father Sun from the bindings of winter’s darkness, as well as our own constraints. In this moment we feel the divinity of natural transition­ providing a chance to breathe in the raw eternal charge given.

At this period, earth energies are her strongest. We are able to bask in this boundless bliss while also finding a reminder of potential and prospect. Celebrate life and give love to our solar unity, blessed be!

 Happy Beltane!

Written by Faye Monk, Asheville NC