Daily Archives: May 1, 2002

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Tra-la! ‘Tis the merry month of May! May Day, Beltaine, Walpurgisnacht (although that was technically last night)…

What the heck am I talking about? Here’s my very brief article introducing Beltaine that I wrote as part of a full set of modern Pagan celebrations and their histories. Now you can impress your friends with esoteric knowledge over lunch!

Beltaine

Also celebrated as May Day, this festival begins at sundown on April 30. Traditionally, couples stay out overnight �bringing in the May�, or gathering spring flowers and greenery with which to create garlands, crowns and bouquets. It is a time of joyous celebration of the fertility displayed by the land as it further opens to the touch of the sun: trees have put forth new leaves and are now flowering, the new grass is lush and thick; the days grow ever longer and the rains nourish the new crops as they are sown in the fields.

By extension, Beltaine is also a sexually licentious time. It is the beginning of the season favoured for marriages and handfastings, as well as for re-enactment of the Great Rite, the union between the God and the Goddess. Much poetry and folklore exists describing the abandonment with which dancing, singing and playing leads to lovemaking. Children conceived on this might are called �children of the Gods�, and are said to be blessed.

The Maypole is perhaps the most recognisable accessory to Mayday celebration. A dancing game in which men and women interweave ribbons attached to a high pole (passing one another with plenty of kisses!), this action is another form of the Great Rite, the pole representing the God and the ribbons which slowly enfold it representing the Goddess. Other familiar concepts at Beltaine include a bonfire through which people jump and/or drive livestock for purification and luck, and the Jack-of-the-Green, a man disguised in leaves who represents the Vegetation God or the Lord of the Forest. His elected consort is the May Queen, who will be presented with garlands and floral crowns.

This festival is opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and like that Sabbat is a night of divination as the veils grow thin. The Ancient Celts recognised only two seasons, summer and winter; as Samhain was the beginning of Winter, the dark half of the year, so Beltaine recognised the beginning of Summer, or the light half of the year.

Beltaine is also called Walpurgisnacht in Germany. Foods associated with Beltaine include anything dairy, as the livestock is now feeding on new grass which improves the quality of milk and cream; mead and other alcoholic beverages.