Beltaine 1st May- 19th JunE
In this article we will explore the meaning of the Celtic Festival of Beltaine.
For a more detailed exploration of British traditions and Celtic Spirituality you may which to explore the Woodland Bard Course and support valuable Conservation work.
It is the hawthorn tree ( pictured above) which is the traditional marker of May, a guardian tree associated with the Sidhe/faerie folk and the fertility of the land. Beltaine is a time of great celebration, our ancestors who lived so much of their lives outdoors would have taken great delight in this time.
At one time all fires would be allowed to go out and one central fire would be lit in the spiritual centre of the land ( Tara in Ireland for instance) then all other fires would be lit from it, the soul of the land awakening across the tribes. The main fire would become two and the cattle would be driven between them for purification. The great celebration would begin in earnest, the maypole erected as a phallic symbol of the fertility of the land. May Queens would weave garlands decorated with hawthorn blossom expecting to be courted by the men.
Large fires, parades, dancing and singing would celebrate Beltaine which is the beginning of the summer and the fruition of the green world. This was the natural time for couples to be hand-fasted ( the marriage of two souls bound together by 5 cords of love representing the 5 elements, the essence of all life).
This would be further consecrated as the two newlyweds would go into the woods and share their love. The idea of there being a special time for love-making which the green world supported and rejoiced in, meant an excitement filled the air and couples could let go. This almost allowed it to have an air of innocence, a youthfulness unfolding of the twinning of souls as the High King of the green world symbolically mated with the sovereignty of the land. This union of souls never need be restricted by gender as men join with men and women with women expressing their male and female aspects in ways that feels right for the individual.
Beltaine Fire Ritual.
Taine means fire and Bel is either the name of a great Celtic God or a name meaning shining or brilliant. The core of its meaning therefore is a fire for the Otherworld, the bright realms and this is a time where you can enter heightened states of knowledge of the inner worlds.
An altar of flowers, herbs, leaves and barks can be a focal point. Light the fire or candle and invite the joy of summer to enter your life, the adventurous teenager exploring their new awakenings of soul. If practical you can jump over the fire or candle individually or as a couple for purification and good intentions. An alternative is to jump over a broom stick laid on the ground or held low by two people. As the person or couple jumps they can feel a sense of going through an exciting threshold in their life and invite new growth to transform them. Whilst jumping the rest of the group can chant:
“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the broomstick”
Although you can celebrate Beltaine at home and on your own as you can with all the other festivals, it is a good time to be with others and out in the countryside around you.
Celebrate, be merry and enjoy this threshold of the year, though remember the door to the Bright Realms is wide open at this time just as it is in Samhain, so do not allow your merriment to run too far away with you. Surround yourself with good caring people and warm friendly souls.
Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.