beltane – Festival of Fertility
This week we celebrate Beltane, the Celtic festival of Fire, Fertility and Union.
Beltane marks the midway point between Spring Equinox (Ostara) and the Summer Solstice, and roughly translates as ‘bright fire’. It marks the peak energy of Spring, celebrating fertility in all its forms. It’s a celebration of the rising potency of Gaia, of Mother Nature. This is the beginning of the most active part of the year and the coming arrival of Summer. Nature is bursting with life : we see gorgeous baby lambs in the fields, leaf buds arriving on the trees, the birds are loud and vocal, busy building their nests, and sparkling growth is all around us. The Earth becomes green and verdant again, symbolised in the ancient traditions as the Green Man and the Green Goddess.
The beltane maypole
Beltane is also a celebration of both sexuality and fertility. Traditionally, it was a time of courtship and wooing! Matches would be made during this time, culminating in summer or autumn weddings.
One of the most common symbols of Beltane is the Maypole. The pole represents the masculine, and the decorations of flowers and ribbons represent the feminine. The Maypole Dance would involve the young men and women of the village holding the end of a ribbon, and while dancing, they would intertwine and weave themselves in and out until the ribbons were fully wrapped around the pole.
In modern times, the Maypole and its ritual dance has almost disappeared. In its place, local trees, even in your garden, can be decorated with beautiful coloured ribbons to symbolise the fertility dance of Beltane.
jumping the beltane fire
Beltane is also associated with fire, and bonfires would be lit at this time to purify and cleanse cattle and other pasture animals in the billowing smoke. In the evening celebrations, ‘jumping the beltane fire‘ would be a common practice. Newly forged couples would jump together to cement their union. Homes would douse their hearth fires and relight them to signify the cleansing and clearing energy of this period.
Yellow flowers and shrubs, such as Primrose, Hawthorn and Gorse would be used to decorate doors and windows, bringing the firey colours into their homes.
“Traditionally, this is a time for staying up all night, for sleeping out on the Earth, for jumping the Beltain Fire, for dancing around the maypole and for walking labyrinths. Beltain is a festival for celebrating our friends and lovers, and the potency of union of all kinds”.
Glennie Kindred, ‘Earth Wisdom’
Do you have any May Day traditions that you celebrate? We would love to hear about them 💜✨💜