WELCOMING BELTANE

Myth, folklore & storytelling:
how to celebrate this ancient festival of May

Table of Contents

a field of daisies, very common at the festival of Beltane

All About Beltane

Have you felt a change in the air?

Have you seen the friendly faces of daisies: the lion manes of dandelions sprouting from the grass in collective carnival? Have you felt the sunshine on your face; the lighter evenings swallowing up the dark; a renewed sense of energy?

The Earth is at its most fertile right now. All around us, life is bursting at the seams. For our ancient ancestors, Beltane (1stMay) or May Eve (30th April) marked the turning point of the year. We did it! We made it through! An ancient Gaelic affair, it would have been a time of immense celebration and merriment. Imagine making it through the darkness of winter, to peep through the curtain into sunshine.

You don’t need to imagine.. that’s exactly what you’ve just done.

Beltane is all about joy. Celebrating all the love in your life. Having a really bloomin’ good time.

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF BELTANE?

a bluebell wood, a place where people may go to celebrate Beltane
Beltane is steeped in myth and legend.

Most tales centre on this being the threshold from winter into summer. Tempestuous crone Cailleach either becomes light goddess Brigid (who rules the summer months); or is defeated by Brigid and cast into stone until her return at Samhain (31st October). The Winter King regenerates into the Green Man (a popular symbolic figure of nature, faerie-folk, wilderness, the forests). For some, the Green Man marries the May Queen (more on her below!) My personal favourite; another important symbol of this time, is ‘wild man of the woods’ known by some as Woodwose, who has deep affinity/represents the spirit of nature and animals (Hagrid anyone?).

Beltane translates to ‘goodly fire’ or ‘fire of Bel’ (a god of the Sun).

It is a fire festival, and so fire was (and still is) very important to this celebration. A large fire would have been lit in the centre of villages, from which all the homes in the village would light their own fire. A wonderful representation of community and connectedness.

The fire represented fertility, cleansing and purification.

Indeed, ‘jumping’ the fire is popular at Beltane – where people would literally jump across the fire (please don’t try this at home!)

a bonfire - building a bonfire is a way to mark the fire festival of Beltane
pink blossom in springtime in the UK

You may have seen dancing around the maypole at this time of year.

This is supposedly an ancient fertility festival with links to The Middle Ages; (the pole is a somewhat phallic symbol, the wreath of flowers at the top representative of womanhood).

Adolescents who were not yet married would dance around the pole with ribbons and streamers at Beltane, forming a pattern around the pole.

You may have also heard of the May Queen who wears a floral wreath upon her head at this time. She is symbolic of the ‘defeat’ of winter; the maiden archetype (more about that here); a version of Flora the goddess of flowers (brought across to Britain from the Romans and their 5 day flower festival of Floralia). She is Guinevere in Arthurian legend; Maid Marion in Robin Hood. (And, of course, in Christian tradition the May Queen is celebrated at this time as the Virgin Mary).

LOVE & JOY AT BELTANE

Beltane is ruled by the planet Venus; the planet of love and pleasure.

This is what Beltane is all about – feeling as much joy as you can, celebrating life to the full, enjoying all of the things your soul can only enjoy through human experience. This could be tasting delicious foods, walking barefoot through the sand or the grass, listening to your favourite music. Life is in full bloom, so now is a time to reconnect with what it is that makes your heart happy.

the old green team chat and laugh over a cup of tea - with lots of handmade natural candles in the background

A time when the Earth is ripe with bloom and blossom; Beltane became symbolic of the power of sex to make wonderful new things. This doesn’t literally mean making a baby (although of course it could if you want it to!), more the act of sex bringing about happiness; joy; connection. It is seen as the most sexual festival in the wheel of the year – a time to really reconnect and embrace your own sensuality and pleasure.

It is important to move away from the traditional binary here; whilst Beltane is famous for its fertility symbolism and ‘union of opposites’ – this does not have to just mean a feminine/masculine union or biological fertility. Beltane is about bringing to life dreams, ideas, plans; the fertility of your goals; the alchemy of different things coming together to form something beautiful.

the fairy pools - beltane is a time when the veil between worlds is at the thinnest and people would try and spot a fairy or two!

Beltane, like it’s opposite fire festival Samhain, is also known as being a time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. Faerie-folk and nature spirits are said to be very close. To feel their proximity and their power, people used to sleep outdoors on May Eve in wild places.

HOW CAN I CELEBRATE BELTANE?

Modern Traditional

a blossom tree - you could use a fallen branch to 'bring in the may' for beltane

"Bringing in the May"

It was custom to bring May boughs and branches into the home to decorate – rowan, birch and blossom. Make a Beltane corner using seasonal flowers, seashells, colours green and yellow & whatever beautiful things make you happy

a beautiful little waterfall and pool in the mountains where you could swim on beltane

Water

Water is symbolic at Beltane (more below). Traditionally, people would wash their face in the dew of Beltane morning. You could also so go for a wild swim, take an offering of flowers to a special spring or body of water, take a walk along the beach and have a paddle

a handmade natural candle with pressed flowers, sitting upon books in Dorset

Flowers

Gather and make a seasonal posy, try flower-pressing (you could book onto one of our workshops!), create a flower crown or plant wildflower bombs or wildflower paper

Fun & Joy

handmade glassware, handmade candles, flowers and more make a beautiful picnic display. a picnic is a great way to celebrate beltane

Feast

Go on a picnic, host a garden party, have a romantic outdoor supper, infuse cooking with foraged finds for some kitchen magicking. (Apples are related to Aphrodite the goddess of love so are symbolic at Beltane – so how about making a love apple crumble!)

a campfire - a great way to mark beltane

Outdoor Fun

Go camping, build a bonfire with friends, sleep under the stars. On May Eve, retrace the steps of our ancestors and go wild camping to be near the ‘spirit world’ when the veil is said to be at its thinnest. A Few days after Beltane (on May 5th) is is this month’s full moon: Flower Moon. Step outside and say hello!

Date Night

As Beltane is all about love, go on a date night with a loved one or yourself. Really take time for some nourishing self-care; recognise the inner divinity inside you

The symbolism of water at Beltane

Water represents emotions, feelings, intuition, connection. In Tarot, the cups’ suit –which deals with matters of emotion – has the corresponding element water. It therefore makes sense for water to be an important emblem at a festival all about love, joy, and pleasure.

Water is both gentle yet powerful; able to trickle calmy down streams, lap mischievously at shores or conjure raging storms. It represents the inner power we all have; our ability to flow.

the beach

Love & Magick

woman dances whilst looking out to sea

Dancing

Attend a traditional May Day celebration and dance around the May Pole! Alternatively, have a good dance in the kitchen, by yourself, with friends – whatever makes you happy!

a journal, pink flower and green mug of tea.

Journal

The earth is in full manifestation mode right now; it’s time to embrace this fruitful energy. Journal prompts could include: what do you want to manifest in your own life? How can you make a commitment to joy? How can you rediscover, or tune into, what makes you truly happy? What makes you feel loved? How can I show love to others? How can I reconnect with my sensuality?

a pile of old books outside a beautiful cottage. asking people their loved stories is a lovely thing to do at beltane

Love Stories

Ask loved ones their own love stories. Who was their first love? How did they meet their current partner (if they have one)? How did they first date? You could even write your own love story down – whether that’s a love story with another person or with yourself.

 

a magical stream surrounded by old trees. beltane is known to be a time when the veil between this world and the faerie world is at its thinnest, so many people spend time in woods to feel close to the fairies!

Faeries

Hang wish ribbons from a special tree – make sure to return and take them down, or use something biodegradable. Leave an offering to the fairies of bread, jam and/or plant mylk in a nook or cranny in your house (I did this as a child!)

hawthorn tree blossom - a symbol of Beltane

The Hawthorn Tree at Beltane

The Hawthorn is thought to be a magickal tree; a tree that guards the division between this world and the faerie or spirit world. As Beltane is a time when the edges between worlds is thought to be very thin; people would gather at the Hawthorn tree to see if they could spot a faerie or two! The Hawhtorn is also blooming beautifully at this time – known by many as the ‘May Tree’ and is a pagan symbol of fertility.  For me, I am reminded of white-pink tinged flowers of the Hawthorn tree in the Brambly Hedge children’s books (some of my favourites), where the mice Lily and Flax Weaver lived.

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Candle magick

As Beltane is a fire festival, mark the occasion by lighting a candle to mark the turning of the year from darkness to light. You could also set an intention for the next few months as you strike the match, meditating on the life you would like to create for yourself as the wheel of the year turns. Browse our sustainable, soulful candle collection here

old green founder stands amongst handmade glassware, natural candles and flowers in dorset

The full emergence of summer won’t be celebrated until the Summer Solstice, on June 21st. However, Beltane is the early stirrings of summer; the pivotal turn in the year when tempestuous Cailleach hands over her reign to goddess Brigid. Our ancient ancestors would have felt immense elation at this time. Pre artificial lighting the darkness of winter would probably have been felt even more keenly; the return of the sun welcomed even more openly.

But even with our artificial lighting, our screens and our distractions, winter can be difficult for us all. Autumn and Winter are my favourite months – but even I am thrilled to see growing sunshine, fields of daisies and blue puddles of sky! The beautiful thing about seasons, and The Wheel of The Year, is the acceptance of change; of fluidity; nothing will ever be exactly the same and that is okay. With each new day, bout of weather, seasonal shift; we can welcome, embrace and be really present knowing that soon the wheel will be turning again.

So this Beltane: do something that makes you really happy, throw open your arms to joy and step into the lighter half of the year ready for all the wonderful things to come.

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

SPRING

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

SUMMER

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

AUTUMN

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

WINTER

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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