Beltane is May 1st!
Happy Beltane Wise Women!
The wheel turns and here in the Northern Hemisphere we find ourselves halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Beltane is a fire festival with a focus on fertility. It is a celebration of the coming together of masculine and feminine energies and that which is birthed from the union.
It is also a liminal time when the veil between the worlds is thin. Samhain, which sits opposite this festival on the wheel of the year mirrors this thinning veil. During Samhain we connect with our ancestors and beloved dead through this veil. It is the autumn, a time of dying away and this is when we celebrate those that have come before.
At Beltane we celebrate life. During this time it is not unusual for that thinning veil to make way for the Fae folk to be seen in our world. The May queen often found in May day celebrations is a representation of the Fairy Queen and her presence during this time.
This festival is also a celebration of the Green Man and his growing energy. He can be seen in the growing plant life all around!
This fire festival was also a time of cleansing. In days long ago, cattle were driven between two bonfires to cleanse them of pests and disease before they were sent out to pasture. Today we see this tradition manifesting in rituals as humans leaping over the fire to purify oneself.
I’m curious Wise Women, what images do the words May Day evoke for you? As a child did you celebrate with paper cone creations loaded with flowers and left as offerings? Did you make daisy chains, or flower crowns? Or was Beltane/May Day an unknown in the world you traversed as a child?
In my own childhood, I created flower baskets and hung them on my neighbors doorknobs. I did not know the reason for this, only that May Day was the day to leave baskets of flowers for folks.
This was a practice that apparently was quite common in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Often baskets were made of paper (I fancied a cone made of construction paper) and filled with flowers and treats then left on doors for neighbors and townsfolk. This tradition also held a romantic twist for some. When a basket was left, the receiver was to chase after the giver of the gift and bestow on them a kiss!
It is no wonder this tradition was associated with this day. Beltane is, as I mentioned, a celebration of fertility. It is a celebration of the sacred union of the God and Goddess and has been celebrated ritually through sex (in some traditions this was between a High Priestess and High Priest). It is not unusual to hear of folks coupling off at Beltane and making their way off to have some “alone” time. Just as many animals and the earth begin their reproductive rites in spring, honoring this can take the same form for humans.
Beltane is also a lovely time for a wedding or handfasting ceremony as it is the time of joining.
Most of us are familiar with the Maypole. The ultimate phallic symbol, this pole is driven into the earth to represent the masculine energy force or the God. It is often adorned with a wreath of flowers and foliage at the top to represent the female energies or the Goddess. The weaving of ribbons about the pole represents the joining of the two energies.
The dancing of the maypole is such a playful and joyous experience, an embodiment of this time of year. The cheerful and youthful energy that often accompanies spring abounds as the dancers move in and out weaving a spell of fertility and abundance onto the pole with ribbons.
In my circle we often host a Beltane ritual for our community. We have a pole with years of ribbons woven upon one another, and the energy it holds is powerful and lively, loaded with color, and alternating beautiful woven patterns with messy chaotic ones. It is a lovey symbol of life itself, colorful, perfect and imperfect all wrapped into one!
With our current Pandemic, there will probably be fewer Maypoles and no public rituals, but there are many ways you can celebrate Beltane at home.
If you live with people (especially kids) you can still make a maypole. (My sister and I did this with our tetherball pole as kids). If you have a pole or large staff you can put this in the ground and tie ribbons to the top to weave . You can also use a tree trunk (You will want to remove the ribbons at the end of your festivities as trees usually don’t like to stay bound for long). There are a variety of different maypole dances (I only know one). This is a resource that offers some options though http://maypoledance.com/maypoledance.html
You can also dance the maypole without ribbons. According to the above source, ribbonless Maypoles were adorned with plants and flowers and people would dance around them. The symbols are still present.
This leads to dance as ritual or celebration. Why not step outside and find the dance that lives inside of you? Feel your feet on the earth. Beat a drum or shake a rattle and allow your body to discover the rhythm it wants to bring forth.
Perhaps you would like to create a spell this Beltane. What about making a spell jar? You might use the intention of bringing prosperity, or health, or abundant crops (if you are a gardener). Using the energy of this time of fertility choose your intention for your spell and write it on a piece of paper. Put this into your spell jar along with other items that feel connected to your intention. Maybe there is a crystal or stone that resonates for you and is in alignment with your intention, perhaps a plant or herb calls to you, include these items in your jar. Seeds, soil, feathers,ash, and incense are just a few of the things you might include. The possibilities are endless really. There are many books and websites that can give you a step by step process for creating such a jar, but I tend to believe that the best spells are the ones you create from your heart. I like to speak to each item as I add it saying what it represents or what I want it to call in. When I feel I’ve added all my items, I close the jar and charge it up either by singing, chanting, toning or dancing to or around the jar. You may choose to leave the jar on your altar for a period of time and then empty the contents and bury them in the earth or you may choose to bury the jar itself. Protection spells are often buried at the threshold to your home.
Make a fire. You can do this in several ways. Perhaps you light candles or if you are crafty, perhaps you make candles and infuse them with this fertile abundance of Beltane. Or if you have a fire pit, create a fire. This Beltane I will be burning a fire of dried herbs from my trimmed lavender and rosemary bushes. Because of the thinning veils this is an amazing time to do some fire scrying. Soften your gaze and stare in the flame. Notice what images and thoughts come to you and make a note. There is wisdom in the flames!
You might also create altars and/or offerings for the Fae folk. Using natural found items, craft an altar outdoors and leave some milk (or cream) and cake (or bread) for the Fae. You might even spend some time meditating at this altar and asking for wisdom or guidance from these beings. Beware of any fairy folk luring you away into green space. The veils are thin and we can cross into their world as easily as they cross into ours. ;-)
Make Bannocks or Beltane cakes. Create dishes that celebrate spring. Think asparagus, sprouts and greens. The recipes for such things are boundless. Follow your tastebuds and celebrate with a feast (outdoor picnic style if possible)!
And during this time of social distancing and stay at home orders, why not resurrect the may basket. Create cones from colored paper (or decorate computer paper). Staple a strip of paper to the top of the cone creating a “basket”, add flowers and/or treats and leave these on the doors or porches of neighbors and loved ones.
Another option to share this playful time of year with those around you, might be to create some chalk art on your sidewalk. Using colorful chalk draw pictures and write well wishes to those that might literally cross your path. This is a beautiful way to bestow May Day blessings even though we can’t physically connect.
For a few more ideas you can check out my blog on Beltane from last year.
Whatever you decide to do Wise Women, I wish you a blessed and joyful holiday. Enjoy the earth, the union of the God and Goddess, the heat of the fire which promises summer is just around the corner, and the mystery and playful (trickster) energy the Fae folk bring.
With Love and Bright Beltane Blessings,
Emily Morrison MA, MFT