Tomorrow evening (April 30th) marks the beginning of Beltane. It is the Sabbat which celebrates fertility and the returning of the sun. Winter has passed and the warmth has returned. It is the beginning of the growing season. Cupboards that were dwindling from the winter past will slowly be restocked as seeds are planted and soon they bear fruit. It is a time when the pleasures or growth of the earth as well as the self becomes awakened. With such an awakening comes the hope of a bountiful harvest later as well as the carefree nature that only summer can bring.
Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire”. This refers further to Bel the Celtic Sun God. It is Bel who is the father, and also husband of the Mother Goddess. On April 30th or May Eve, two large fires referred to as Bel fires are built from the nine sacred woods. They are as follows:
Birch – representing the goddess or female energy
Oak - representing the god or male energy
Hazel – representing knowledge and wisdom
Rowan – representing life
Hawthorne – representing purity and faery magic
Willow – representing death
Fir – representing birth and rebirth
Apple – representing love and family
Vine – representing joy and happiness
Bel is then asked to bring his blessings and protection to those whom have come to pay him homage. The Bel fire is a sacred fire known for its healing and purifying powers. They represent the return of the sun as well as the coming of the growing season which will put an end to the coldness and barrenness of winter. Animals are led between the two fires as a means to purify, protect, as well as bring luck to them. Fires in the home are also quenched at this time and relit with the fresh fire from the Bel fires. When Beltane has completed and the fires are no more, their ashes are scattered across fields where the crops have been planted as well as other gardens wishing to benefit from them.
Other traditions for Beltane include the May pole: A pole usually made of birch, from which a number of brightly colored ribbons hang. Flowers and leaves likewise decorate it in a festive manner. Upon taking a ribbon in hand those participating, dance around the pole intertwining the ribbons as they do so. The participants traditionally are to be an equal number of young males and females. The dance symbolizes the union of the goddess and her consort. In the joining of the two they form a third. As the ribbons are woven it is thought that the pattern it creates will predict how bountiful the coming harvest will be.
The faeries are also very active during this time. With the return of the vibrant colors of spring flowers as well as their sweet scent it is a time one has the opportunity to have an encounter of the faery kind. They live in trees, plants and flowers and love to hang out in overgrown areas. The fae is a great reminder of our own child like ways whom we tend to hold back as we become older. Much like a child though, faeries love sweets. Be sure and leave a special treat set out for them during your celebration. I myself have already started to ready their area beneath my Elm. The flowers are blooming, a wind chime hangs, and a special area where their feast is placed has been cleared.
If you would like to call the fae, begin by ringing bells. The soft sound of bells is known as a wake up device for the fae and lets them know you would be delighted if they come out and play. Look for the slightest flicker of movement. Be sure also to acknowledge the trees. Often you can feel a presence, even if you do not see anything. Making friends with the faeries in your area is a wonderful thing. They in turn will lend their hands and magic to you. You will soon notice your mood lightened as well as your cares less.
Whatever your plans for Beltane, remember this: It is that childlike demeanor that best portrays the nature of Beltane. It is that unbridled energy which surges up from deep down within us and craves to be released. It is an expression of bliss and delight in the simplicity of running freely with no restraints. It is lying in the middle of a field of soft clover with the warmth of the sun on your face and the smell of the wildflowers around you. It is dancing without any inhibitions, expressing ourselves freely. Quite simply: It is the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities. Which in turn allows us to find pleasure, bliss, and peace in celebrating the gift of Beltane.