Beltane is the Gaelic May Day festival observed on May 1st (this sabbat happens on October 31 – November in the Southern Hemisphere). In the Northern Hemisphere, events usually kick off the last night of April.
Traditions in Ireland view Beltane as the first day of spring. In Rome, the Festival of Floralia, the Roman goddess of flowers, appeared in pre-Christian times. Germanic countries still celebrate Walpurgis Night to this day. Since the Christianization of Europe, a more secular version of the festival has continued in parts of Europe and North America. Typical activities involve maypole dancing and crowning the Queen of May. Beltane incorporates traditions from Gaelic ‘Bealataine’ – bonfire – but more closely resembles the Germanic May Day festival. In many parts of the world, May 1st coincides with Labour Day, a time for reckoning with capitalist structure, and many activist witches combine the two.
The name ‘Beltane’ means ‘fire of Bel’; Belinos being “one named for the Sun God.” Western European pagan traditions view this as a time of welcoming, abundance and fertility. This holiday celebrates the return of full-blown fertility, as well as marking the return of vitality and passion. As the warmer months begin, temperatures increase, the sun shines more and the plant world blossoms. An exuberant mood prevails. It’s a time of unabashed sexuality.
If the idea of making Beltane all about sex times isn’t your jam (it’s kind of not mine, though if you’re feeling the power of the kick-off of official Horny Season you get it!), don’t worry. There is no rule that says you cannot benefit from channeling the energy of the sabbat all the same.
Just taking joy in the fact that tons of adorable baby goats and kittens are parkouring all over the damn place can be a very attractive alternative.
Sit down and do some basic meditation, centering yourself in the changes of the earth. Focus on themes surrounding fertility. Fertility does not only have to do with the literal sense, but can be applied to beyond the physical landscape. Beltane doesn’t have to literally be about fertility in the sexual sense.
Consider what is plentiful in your life at the moment: ideas, relationships, tending to the land and any other personal project.
Ideas of what is tenable come to the forefront. Planting seeds both literally or figuratively now are quickly received by the soil. How must you care for what you wish to cultivate? Recognize what is abundant in your life as well as what you feel is lacking. Consider how to care for that barren space and how it can best be tended to.
What energies do you want to welcome in to your orbit? Going back to examining what is tenable and what is not, what energies do you no longer want in your space?
Weaving ribbons together as a solitary practitioner is a fun Beltane activity that parrots the maypole on a smaller scale. Now that I think about it, the idea of a tiny Sylvanian Families-sized maypole is adorable. Extra pukey cute points if you have the toys to go with it. Crafting magical jewelry with round beads (bead crafts, y’all!) is also a great seasonal activity.
If you’ve got a coven going on, doing a Maypole ceremony is also great. Some partake in bonfire leaping that symbolically breaks anything weighing you down, binding you from them while making a wish (probably not a good idea if you’ve been imbibing).
Food commonly consumed during Beltane are breads and cereals, oatmeal cakes and cookies sweetened with honey, dairy foods, a symbolic wedding feast, seasonal spring items especially the first fresh vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, avocado, celeriac, fennel, fiddlehead ferns, mustard greens, radishes, Vidalia onions, watercress), sweets, fruit pastries, chocolates, honey, hot sauces, peppers, curries, almonds, bananas, figs, nutmeg, oysters, pineapple, strawberries, truffles, vanilla, and honey mead.
Simply finding time to connect with nature in some way also suffices. Sometimes you won’t have time to get organized with a big ritual. Just making something meaningful to yourself that keeps in mind how many spoons you have available is enough. There is often a lot of pressure on holidays like Beltane to take part in a big ritual gathering as it’s one of the big sabbats of the year. Remember, the most powerful rituals are the most simple and meaningful to yourself.
Beltane is a magical time for wild water, dew, flowing streams and springs. If you can access a body of natural flowing water for some connecting time, definitely try to do so. Gather up some flowers and branches to decorate your living space. Find some wild flowers to make flower crowns or braid them through your hair. Taking an early morning walk through a local park or forest to observe the seasonal shift connects you to the energy of this sabbat. Quietly connecting with yourself, the energy of the earth, and the musings of nature can be some of the most meaningful ways of celebrating Spring.
Have A Blessed Beltane!