Beltane is celebrated on the night of April 30th. The ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane (Bealtaine, with an extra a and an i, means May in Irish Gaelic), was the beginning of the season of light and heat. The festival was celebrated in ancient times by the druids, the ”ancient priests of nature” of the Celtic populations.
Some druid traditions still survive today, especially in the Wicca religion and in the Pagan cults, such as the purifying ritual of jumping or passing through fire.
A bit about Beltane
More generally, Beltane is the time of the year in which light and life expand at their best and in which the energies of life show themselves in a totally new way. Beltane means “the fires of Bel”, or the bonfires lit in honor of Bel, the god of Light and Fire. It is the festival of the regeneration of life, the phase in which the return of summer and fertility is celebrated.
Thoughts turn to the outside, to the realization of projects, it is a sort of seasonal extroversion in which we are completely involved in giving the best of ourselves for our lives and for that of others. The origin of Beltane, which means “bright fire”, coincides with May Day. According to the Celts, this is the time when the blessing of land, crops, and cattle should be done.
Beltane refers to the bonfires that were lit by druids in honor of the god Bel. This holiday represents the union between God and the Goddess.
This festival marks the beginning of summer and therefore is time to celebrate and rejoice. It is a time to look forward and a time for love and marriage.
The dance around the May pole is probably the most iconic of the Beltane traditions. The wrapping of ribbon around a pole represents the union between male and female forces.
The bonfire was also part of the ritual. The fires inside people’s houses were put out and then relit with the sacred fire of the ritual. The fields and houses were blessed with burning leaves.
When the bonfire was going out, the cattle went through the ashes to be blessed. Another tradition was to blow out the flames for good luck. Couples sanctioned their promise of a union by jumping over the fire together.
For neo-pagans, Beltane is a time of union and pleasure, the celebration of the return of the heat of the sun and the reinvigoration of the earth. It is the reconciliation of opposites through love. This is the time to give love to others and to put our purposes into action. Beltane is also a time of deep self-knowledge, union, and development of one’s potential.
Honoring and celebrating Beltane with red and yellow
Red and yellow are the main colors to honor and celebrate Beltane as they represent fire and the fresh new energy coming from life and nature.
A practical use of these colors
Food, gifts, and décor to honor the god
The foods to celebrate Beltane with are honey, oatmeal buns, and cheeses. These foods relate to symbols that can be found on a Beltane altar; the cow and the bee are the images of the Goddess and create the miracle of milk and honey. This holiday can be celebrated in many ways.
Following the origin of Beltane, you can plant a maypole in a meadow and dance.
More colorful decorations
Adorn the trees with garlands of flowers. Another way to celebrate Beltane is to hang red ribbons, the color of passion, from hawthorn bushes to attract love, healing, or luck. It is propitiatory to light two small fires and pass through them.
In order to purify oneself by trying to feel the energy that fills our bodies and our spirit.
Ritual with fires to welcome all the nuances of red and yellow
A recommended ritual is to light a small fire outdoors on the eve of May 1st. Or, if you cannot access any safe outdoor space, light a red candle and say the following:
“Lord of the Wood bring your gifts of fecundity so that the earth awakens from its sleep”.
Then light a second fire, or a green candle, to the left of the first and say:
“Beautiful Lady of the Earth, rejoice. The Big Deer comes to look for his bride because summer has arrived”. Then you pass between the two fires three times, greeting the summer that has arrived by shouting “Bel!”.
If you don’t like this ritual you can simply choose a fire ritual of your own and go for it! Otherwise, a candle and a prayer are definitely good enough to start honoring and celebrating Beltane.