Beltane Day

Festivals

May 1st marks Beltane day, which was originally an ancient festival, celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, although similar festivals were held in Wales, Brittany and Cornwall. Beltane marks the beginning of the summer season a time when livestock was driven out for summer grazing.

May boughs

As a major part of the festival bonfires were light on hills. Early sources state that the druids lit a fire on the tops of hills during this festival and drove cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck. People would also pass between the two fires for the same reasons. Beltane was also celebrated by hanging May Boughs on the doors and windows of houses and the erection of May Bushes in farmyard these comprised a branch of rowan or May. Furze was also used for the May Boughs, May Bushes and as fuel for the bonfire.

Neopagans

Today, Beltane is observed by Neopagans in various ways. Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how the Ancient and Modern Celts have marked the festival. Other groups observe the holiday with rituals from diverse sources. Neopagan Reconstructionists usually celebrate Beltane when the local hawthorn trees are in bloom, or on the Full Moon that falls closest to this event.

Sabbat

Many observe the traditional bonfire rites: some decorate May Bushes and prepare traditional festival foods. Certain groups visit holy wells to leave offerings to the spirits or deities that dwell there. More creative folks may spend time making equal-armed rowan crosses which are then used in rituals performed for the blessing and protection of the household and land. Wiccans celebrate a different version of Beltane which they view as a Sabbat – a Solar holiday. Wiccans observing the holiday may follow the Celtic tradition of bonfires but they may also refer to other cultural pastimes such as maypole dancing.

Wherever you are may your Beltane fire burn brightly!

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Post Author: Patrick Arundell

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