An Introduction to Beltaine

After Ostara, which we discussed Tuesday and a few weeks ago, we have Beltaine as the next Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year!

Beltaine, also spelled Beltane, is halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Historically it is a Gaelic Festival and was celebrated throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

This Holiday is celebrated Sunset to Sunset, and it represents to Peak of Spring and the Beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active at this time.

Beltaine honors Life!!

Also known as May Day, it is traditionally celebrated on the 1st day of May. On this day it is traditional to wear Green, the color of the Faeries.

Other names for Beltaine include Flora Day, Hare Day and Summer’s Beginning. The “Christianized” version is known as Roodmas.

Beltaine celebrates the sacred Marriage between the Red Man and Green Maid, two of the children born on Ostara. We honor this rite and celebration with the May Pole!

Much of the Rites and Celebrations of Beltaine surround a fire, a large gathering and party, with games to be played.

During this Sabbat we build a fire from the Nine Sacred Woods, then we leap over it to ensure the year ahead is filled with Luck, increased Fertility and that we are Protected from evil.

Floral wreaths may be worn as crowns, and “May Baskets” are left on the doorsteps of Loved Ones!

Since Beltaine is opposite of Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, the Veil between Worlds is especially thin on this night and day as well. In Classical Times this was considered the Festival of Hades, Lord of the Underworld.

As the Veil is thin we are visited by spirits, at Samhain it is the Spirits of the Dead, but at Beltane it is the Faeries who come and visit; hence why we honor them by wearing Green!

Wells are often visited during this Sabbat as well, and Beltane Dew is thought to bring about Beauty and maintain Youth. Since the Earth is poised for Life and Fertility, all that it offers is in accord with the Beauty, Youth and Life of the Earth itself!

The Goddess

The Maiden Goddess, whom we celebrate at Beltaine, has reached her fullness. It is in this Sabbat she celebrates the Great Rite with the Red Man and becomes pregnant.

She is the Manifestation of Growth and Renewal.

Any Maiden Goddess can be used in this ritual, but often it is Flora, Goddess of Spring, the May Queen and May Bride. That is why we make the wreath out of flowers!

The God

The Young Oak King, the Red Man, is the God of Beltaine.

He is also known as the Horned One. On this day he falls in love with the May Queen, who becomes his bride and the Celebrate the Great Union together.

Typically the Red Man is used as the God of Beltaine, but any Young God can be used in his stead.

Marriages in May, among Mortals, are considered ill-fated; as the May King is doomed, so too are the marriages of humans that happen in this time.
For this reason we Celebrate Hand-fasting Rituals instead!

The May Pole

A large pole of wood is gathered by the Men, representing the Phallus of the Red Man, and a floral wreath is prepared by the Women to represent the Womb of the Green Maid.

Ribbons of many bright colors are then attached to the top of the pole and the May Crown placed on top of it. As we dance around the pole and braid these ribbons the crown slides down the pole – signifying the Union of the Red Man and Green Maiden.

It is because of what this Sabbat represents that lends it to being a very sexual, sensual and passionate Holiday. It is all about celebrating Passion, Vitality, Joy and Conception!

On a less literal level it is about the conception of New Ideas, Hopes and Dreams.

May Eve

The evening before the Sabbat is known as May Eve.

On this evening we celebrated the begetting of Spring by Wodan and Freya, celebrated with a bonfire lit by flint and steel.

In ancient times these bonfires were lit on top of hills, so all could see their light, praying for an abundant Summer and an easy Spring season.

The Nine Sacred Woods

The Nine Sacred Woods, which we use to build the Beltane Baelfire, are

  • Alder – Clearing, Protection, Shielding
  • Apple – Immortality, Healing, Wholeness
  • Ash – Transformation, Prosperity, Health
  • Birch – Female Energy, Birth, Renewal, Herald of Courage
  • Cedar – Money, Protection, Cleansing
  • Hawthorn – Celtic Druid, Fertility, Happiness, Fairy and Nature Magic
  • Oak – Male Energy, Endurance, Confidence
  • Rowan – Life, Power, Success, Protection
  • White Willow – Intuition, Divination, Witchcraft, Mastery

~John William


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