Sunset to Sunset.
Beltane honors Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme.
The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand.
The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries.
For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action.
Traditions of Beltane
Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word 'Beltane' originates from the Celtic God 'Bel', meaning 'the bright one' and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire. Together they make 'Bright Fire', or 'Goodly Fire' and traditionally bonfires were lit to honor the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun's light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community.
Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane. "This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility.
Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew." (From Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred) Green Man - Beltane
As Beltane is the Great Wedding of the Goddess and the God, it is a popular time for pagan weddings or Handfastings, a traditional betrothal for 'a year and a day' after which the couple would either choose to stay together or part without recrimination.
Today, the length of commitment is a matter of choice for the couple, and can often be for life. Handfasting ceremonies are often unique to the couple, but include common elements, most importantly the exchange of vows and rings (or a token of their choice).
The act of handfasting always involves tying the hands Handfasting('tying the knot') of the two people involved, in a figure of eight, at some point in the ceremony and later unbinding. This is done with a red cord or ribbon. Tying the hands together symbolizes that the two people have come together and the untying means that they remain together of their own free will.
Another common element is 'jumping the broomstick' - this goes back to a time when two people who could not afford a church ceremony, or want one, would be accepted in the community as a married couple if they literally jumped over a broom laid on the floor. The broom marked a 'threshold', moving from an old life to a new one.
Mead and cakes are often shared in communion as part of the ceremony. Mead is known as the Brew of the Divine, made from honey which is appropriate for a love ceremony (and is the oldest alcoholic drink known to humankind).
Handfasting or not, both young and old went A-Maying... Couples spent the night in the woods and fields, made love and brought back armfuls of the first May or haw thorn blossoms to decorate their homes and barns. Hawthorn was never brought into the home except at Beltane - at other times it was considered unlucky.
Young women gathered the dew to wash their faces, made Flower Crowns and May B askets to give as gifts. Everyone was free to enact the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God, and there was an accepted tradition of Beltane babies arriving nine months later!
The Maypole is a popular and familiar image of May Day and Beltane. A phallic pole, often made from birch, was inserted into the Earth representing the potency of the God. The ring of flowers at the top of the Maypole represents the fertile Goddess. Its many colored ribbons and the ensuing weaving dance symbolize the spiral of Life and the union of the Goddess and God, the union between Earth and Sky.
Trees of Beltane
Hawthorn is a deeply magical tree and is one of the three trees at the heart of the Celtic Tree Alphabet, the Faery Triad, 'by Oak, Ash and Thorn'. Traditionally Beltane began when the Hawthorn, the May, blossomed. It is the tree of sexuality and fertility and is the classic flower to decorate a Maypole with. It was both worn and used to decorate the home at Beltane.
Birch is regarded as a feminine tree and Deities associated with Birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses. It is one of the first trees to show its leaf in Spring. Eostre/Ostara, the Celtic goddess of Spring was celebrated in festivities and dancing around and through the birch tree between the Spring Equinox and Beltane. Birch twigs were traditionally used to make besoms (a new broom sweeps clean). Maypoles were often made from birch and birch wreaths were given as lover's gifts.
A tree of protection and healing. Branches of Rowan were placed as protection over the doors of houses and barns at Beltane to protect from increased Fairy activity as they woke from their winter slumber. Sprigs were worn for protection also. Rowan berries have a tiny five-pointed star on the bottom reminiscent of the pentagram.
Colors of Beltane
The colors of Beltane are green, red and white/silver. Green represents growth, abundance and fertility. Red represents strength, vitality, passion and vibrancy. White represents cleansing and clearing and the power to disperse negativity.
Nana Violet's Egg Charm For Beltane.
Think carefully what you wish for! The general rule of thumb is a brown egg for wishes involving animals and white for wishes involving people and plants, for example healing a sick animal, person or plant. Eggs with white shells are difficult to come by now as chickens are generally given feed which produces the desired brown shell, but in recent years some of the supermarkets are making white eggs available at this time of year so they are worth looking out for.
- Blow the egg. Using a fat needle, pierce a hole in both ends of the egg, making one hole larger than the other. Using the needle pierce the egg yolk gently and swirl it around to break up the yolk. Place a small drinking straw in one end and gently blow through the other hole to help gravity do its work.
- Paint Your Egg Talisman. When your egg has thoroughly dried out place it on top of a little mound of blue tack to hold it in place and you are ready to go! Choose a symbol to represent your wish - a heart for love, coin for prosperity, a candle for wisdom, whatever is meaningful for you. Or you can paint the whole egg in a corresponding color - red for love, green for prosperity, purple for wisdom and so on. Another way to do it is to stick rose petals on for love, or feathers for fertility - again it is what is meaningful to you that is important.
- When it is ready find a suitable place for it and prepare for it for hanging by threading a thin thread (embroidery thread, thin wool) through the two holes and secure it with a large knot, a bead, or even a matchstick at the bottom to hold it steady.
- Clear your mind and focus on your desire for abundance/fruitfulness and its place in your life:
'Little charm made of shell as I hang you here may all be well. May all things grow. May all things flow. Blessings for the turning of the Wheel."
Use these words or any others that you are comfortable with - remember this is all about your intention.
Egg charm donated by our Counter Enchantress from her own family traditions.
Making a Wish Box Charm
Beltane is a good time for bringing hopes, dreams and aspirations to life, and here is a truly beautiful charm to help you bring these into manifestation.
You will need:
- A small shallow cardboard box. Shoe boxes are good.
- Rose petals
- Sunflower seeds and/or poppy seeds
- A piece of willow bark or piece of willow, an acorn or oak leaf
- Something that represents your wish (see below)
Take a piece of paper and write your wish on it while visualizing your wish coming to life and growing. You can do this alone, with friends, or as a family. If you want to, decorate the lid of the box, with a triple moon, pentacle, heart, or any symbol of your choice. Poke a few holes in the lid - this will help your wish/plants, to grow. Take your box and sprinkle some earth into it. Put in your paper wishes, wish symbol (see below), and seeds/bark/acorn. Cover with another layer of earth. Mix the rose petals with the seeds and scatter them on top. Cover with a final layer of earth and place the lid on top, leaving enough of the rose petal/seed mixture to scatter on top of the box when you are planting it.
Planting Your Wish Box
The best time for planting your Wish Box is just after a fresh cleansing rainfall as this gives you a bright new start, but if the season is dry just give the earth a good watering the night before. Dig a hole two inches deeper than your wish box and lower it into the earth carefully while concentrating on your chosen wish, visualizing it coming to fruition. Imagine your wish growing with the flowers reaching skyward. As you cover the box with earth say:
"Dream that lies within the earth awaken now. Hope that sleeps awaken now. The stars await as so do I. Grow true, grow strong, toward the sky."
If you don't have a garden you can make a mini wish pot that can live on a window ledge and it works just as well. Just replace the box with a terracotta pot - one wish and one symbol per pot following exactly the same instructions as above. Remember that wishes are only to be used for positive motives.
Suggested Symbols For Your Wish Box:
- Love & Marriage - gingerbread
- New Job - copper coin
- Abundance - silver coin
- Difficult Task - glove
- Hearth & Home - thimble
- Seeking the Truth - sprig of rosemary
- Health, Healing, Renewed Strength - blue & green ribbon entwined
- Happiness, Good Luck - cinnamon stick
- Seeking Knowledge - apple
- To Find A Lost Item - feather
- Protection - key (an old iron key is best if you have one)
Things To Do
Whatever you do, remember this is the Great Wedding! Dress in your best, especially in green, and wear a flower crown.
Stay out all night, gathering the green, watch the sunrise and make love. Wash your face in the morning dew.
Conceive a new project, grasp that idea, and get on with it.
Dress your home and/or altar with greenery - especially with hawthorn, rowan and birch branches. Ask permission from the tree before you take anything.
Dress a tree. This is the perfect time to go out and celebrate a tree. Especially a hawthorn, rowan or birch - but the tree spirit will welcome your attention whichever kind of tree it is. Sit with it, talk to it, dance around it (maypole), honor the tree and its fertility. Hang ribbons from its branches, each ribbon represents a wish or prayer.
Flowers, flowers and more flowers. This is the festival of Flora. Make a flower crown to wear - the daisy chain in the simplest of all. Make a traditional flower basket. fill it with Beltane greenery and all the flowers and herbs you can find. Think about, and honor, their magical and healing properties while you do so. Give it someone you love.
Make some Hawthorn Brandy. You will need a bottle of brandy and at least one cup of hawthorn flowers, plus a little sugar to taste. Mix the ingredients together and leave away from direct light, for at least two weeks. Shake occasionally. Strain, bottle and enjoy. Hawthorn is renowned as a tonic for the heart.