Also see: performing the Traditional Ritual
Beltane or Bealtaine Sabbat May 1st “May Day”
Beltane is one of the four major Sabbats: Calendar May 3rd-4th
Traditionally, this Sabbat is celebrated on May 1st:
Beltane, the fertility rites, is considered one of the most important of the four great festival celebrations of the Pagan Celtic Calendar. Beltane is opposite on the wheel of the year from Samhain, which is usually considered the most important festival date. These two dates separate the year in halves and are the beginning and the end of the fertile seasons. May Day, the celebration of Beltane, begins the fifth month of the modern calendar month of May. This month is named in honor of the goddess Maia, originally known as a Greek mountain nymph, also considered the most beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. Maia is the mother of Hermes, the god of magic. Maia’s parents were Atlas and the sea nymph Pleione.
The ancient Celtic name for May Day is Beltane, which is derived from the Irish Gaelic “’Bealtaine” or the Scottish Gaelic “Bealtuinn” which means “Bel-fire”. This is the fire of the Celtic god of light, known variously as Bil, Bel, Beli or Belinus.
Other names for May Day include Cetsamhain (the opposite of Samhain), Walpurgisnacht, and Roodmas. The name Roodmas was conceived by Church Fathers who were hoping to alter the common people’s faith from the pagan symbol of life, the Maypole. The fathers wanted allegiance to the Holy Rood, the Roman instrument of death, so Roodmas was introduced to suppress the pagan celebrations.
Beltane history includes “greenwood marriages” of young men and women who enjoyed the entire night in the forest, staying out to greet the May sunrise, and carrying boughs of flowers and garlands to decorate the village May Day morning. Strict rules of fidelity were relaxed for Mayday celebrations, even long after Christian marriage and sexual monogamy were instituted. It was a time of unashamed sexuality and fertility. Many maidens were no more for this practice, which incurred the anger of puritans and a banning of the “Maypole” celebration in 1644.
This Sabbat Holiday is traditionally celebrated outdoors with an open fire pit, or using a traditional cauldron when possible. If you can celebrate under a tree, your ritual is in tune with this Sabbat. Because this is a time of great magick, divination is very successful using any tools. A forest or garden shrine is appropriate and will flourish at this time. It is the best time to use your talents to make talismans and altar tools, also to consecrate your tools. If you need a staff or wand, create your own with willow or ash, use the full moon to obtain your materials, and Beltane to bless them into your use.
Guardian spirits of the home should be honored for Beltane. The Sabbat has origins as a fertility festival, with Nature enchantments and offerings to the Elemental spirits. Beltane represents a Union of God and Goddess, the Sacred Marriage, all new life, and fertility in all living things. Because this is a time of great magick, divination is very successful. Try Tarot Cards or a Black Mirror to foretell and reflect the future.
Deities known for Beltane will be all Virgin Mother Goddesses, Young virile Father Gods who are favored for the hunt, and all Gods and Goddesses of Love and Fertility. Some Beltane Goddesses include Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Ariel, Cybele, Diana, Freya, Gaia, Rhiannon, Shiela-na-gig, Skadi, Var, Venus, and Xochiquetzal. Beltane Gods include Apollo, Bacchus, Bel or Belanos, Cernunnos, Cupid/Eros, Faunus, Frey, Herne, Pan, the Green Man, Odin, Orion, Puck, Robin Goodfellow, also The Great Horned God.
The sacred fire for igniting the fire-offering to Bil or Bel, as the God of the Sun, was generated by the Early Aryans and Phœnicians by the intense friction of two tinder sticks or fire drill, the oldest method of fire-production. This generation of the sacred fire by friction of two tinder sticks was also the method employed in Britain until the Middle Ages, for preparing the “Perpetual Fire” in shrines, and for the special “Need-Fires” in cases of dire need from plague, pestilence, drought or invasion, most notably for lighting their Bel-Fires. The repositories for these sacred “Perpetual Fires” still exist in Britain in some churches in Cornwall, Dorset and York. These “Perpetual Fires” are located in the so-called “Cresset-stones,” some of which are placed in lamp niches furnished with flues. The Church was converted into the sacred depository of the Perpetual Fire because “Need-Fires” lit in Bel-Fire fashion by the friction of the two tinder sticks were pagan. Bel-Fire lighting was expressly forbidden by the Church in the eighth century. At that time the Church “New-Fire” was transferred to Easter Day for a re-arrangement of Christian dates, and was then obtained by striking flint and steel. “But the people in their adversity went back to their old time-honored way of preparing their sacred fire by wood friction in the pagan (Bel) fashion.”
Other May Day customs include: walking the circuit of one’s property (beating the bounds), repairing fences and boundary markers, processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.