Beltane is the Pagan festival of fertility and union and takes place on May 1st. Known today as May day, it is seldom celebrated these days in mainstream culture where we live less connected to nature than our ancient ancestors. This feels a crying shame since some of my fondest childhood memories are of bounding merrily around the maypole and making flower crowns! My hope is that these ancient celebrations are somehow revived as humans increasingly realise the vital importance of our connection to nature. Here I share the deeper significance of Beltane and simply ways to celebrate alone or with loved ones.
Beltane is a fire festival, marking the threshold between Spring and Summer and honours the procreation and virility of the earth at this time. All around us mother nature bursts forth with new life as the sun consecrates the earth. We give thanks for the many gifts of nature from newborn animals, unfurling buds and blooming blossoms, reminding us of the Earths miraculous rebirth after winter.
In Pagan mythology this was personified as the union of the Maiden goddess, or May Queen as its also known, and the young Oak King. Their consummation represents the union of male and female energies, of father sky and mother earth, the Christos Sophia. Together these energies give birth to new life physically and metaphorically. Did you know the symbolism of the maypole epitomises the essence of this festival? The pole representing the masculine and the ribbons weaving in and out symbolise the dance of the feminine in the act of procreation.
The Energy of Beltane
Regardless of our connection to natures cycles, many of us feel this noticeable shift in energy at this time, we may notice our energy levels rise along with our productivity, creativity and desire to socialise. Our bodies respond naturally to the growing strength of the sun. And as such, Beltane also signals the start of the light half of the year so is a time to honour the light of the sun as well as our inner light within.
Positioned opposite to Samhain, the festival of death (halloween) on the wheel of the year, Beltane is the ultimate celebration of life in its full glory. It is a wonderfully optimistic time when gardens are planted, blossoms bloom beautifully and the cows come out to pasture. And just as the cows move from indoors to out, it signals the metaphorical moving from our inner, internal realms into a more active outer phase of conscious manifestation.
We can harness this fertile growth energy of Beltane to activate our own inner power to rise to our potential, to blossom into our full radiance, to manifest our desires and take action on creative projects. It’s also a good time to contemplate how we can seek to bring balance and harmony in our own lives, between our inner masculine and feminine energies, between DOing and BEing, inner and outer work. It’s also a time to exercise gratitude for all the blessings in our lives and celebrate our hearts desires with loved ones.
5 Ways to Celebrate Beltane
- Light a Fire
The name Beltane itself means “blazing fire and it is one of four fire festivals celebrated by the Celts for 1000’s of years. These include Samhain (Oct 31), Imbolc (Feb 1), Bealtane (May 1), and Lughnasadh (Aug 1). On May eve (April 30th) people would light bonfires to symbolically invoke the growing power of the sun. The fire was deemed to possess protective powers so fire rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage agricultural growth. People would dance around and leap over fires, and farmers even drove their cattle between bonfires. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire.
Some parts of the world still honour the ancient customs by holding community fire festivals, such as the monumental Beltane celebration held every year at Calton Hill, Edinburgh, see picture below right. The festival is a modern interpretation of ancient Beltane festivities, which are focused on all things fire. I would love to attend one year. But lighting your own fire, or candle is a sufficient way to invoke the life force energy and honour the suns sustenance. Since Beltane is believed to be a time of purification, we can write a list of things we wish to let go of in our life, such as emotions, patterns or behaviours that are holding us back in life. Burning this paper intentionally is a powerful way to harness the transformational power of fire and forge your way towards the manifestation of your hearts desire.
2. Make a Dandelion Flower Crown
Not only are they beautiful and fun to make, but flower crowns have been a pivitol part of Beltane celebrations throughout the ages. People would make these natural crowns adorned with flowers to honour statues of their Gods and Goddesses. On May Day, flowers ringed the heads of youthful maidens as the Romans celebrated Flora, the Goddess of flowers and fertility.
I chose dandelions to adorn my flower crown since they are a wonderfully joyful mirror image of the sun with their radiating golden petals. I made this sweet flower crown for my beautiful niece below, using sticky willy as a circular base, through which to thread the flowers. I also drank dandelion tea made from freshly picked flowers steeped in hot water. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that stimulates the heartbeat. They also help the kidney filter toxins more effectively and improve blood flow.
3. Create a Rose Mandala
Roses are the ultimate symbol of love, so a perfect choice to honour this festival of union. I made this mandala mindfully focusing on that which I’m grateful for and building the energy of my heart space. The radial symmetry of this mandala signifies the rippling out of love into the world, spreading joy and positivity far and wide. I used these beautifully heart shaped leaves from the Wood Sorrel plant, and without planning, they spontaneously formed this six pointed star, knows as the Star of David. This symbol is very fitting to this celebration since it represents balance and the union of heaven and earth, the divine masculine and divine feminine fertile forces responsible for birthing life.
4. Weave a circle
Weaving has long been a tradition for women across all cultures and traditions, dating back to neolithic times. A loom is symbolic of creation, particularly the weaving, or creation, of the universe. In its circular form it represents wholeness, unity and the eternal cyclical nature of reality and even God.
”God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’ ~ Hermes Trismegistusn.
I crafted this rather sweet albeit rustic loom from willow wood and yarn, finished off with hawthorn leaves for the hawthorn represents the heart spiritually and medicinally. As I wove, I envisaged weaving my wishes and hopes for myself and for the world into the tapestry of my dreams. I had the fortune to attend a beautiful Beltane gathering in an enchanted bluebell glade held by Maria Sophia Rose at Heart2Art here in Sussex UK. Here this weave was born along side some heavenly singing, dancing, drumming and prayer casting. I highly recommend Maria’s creative ceremonial circles, do check her out.
5. Create a Beltane Altar
Each seasonal celebration I relish the opportunity to adorn my mantle in a beautiful array of seasonal flowers, crystals and natural objects to represent the energy of the festivity as well as the four elements. To honour the essence of Beltane I chose to create a balance of both female and a masculine sides to my altar. I picked yellow flowers to adorn the masculine side, along with a citrine crystal and Jesus image. The feminine was represented by Mary Magdelene, roses, rose quartz crystals and a heavenly Beltane incense made by StarChild. Traditionally yellow flowers were picked at this time to symbolise the sun and left on neighbours doorstep as a good luck blessing, such a sweet idea.
However you choose to celebrate, may it be a blessed and beautiful one and may the fertile energy of the season help you manifest whatever you wish to birth into this world. And regardless of our belief system, connecting to natures cycles is a simple yet life enriching practice in many ways.
Love Emma. x