Beltane is the cross-quarter day that marks the mid-point in Spring. We are now half way between the Spring Equinox & the Summer Solstice.
In the middle of the season there is a clear difference in the energy compared to the beginning of the season. You can see evidence that the wheel has shifted. The days are noticeably longer – the sun sets much later than it did at the Spring Equinox. It’s grown considerably warmer outside. At the Spring Equinox new life was just beginning to emerge. But here, at the beginning of May, there is no denying that the Earth has been reborn.
Beltane comes from the Gaelic word meaning “bright fire”. But many Earth-based cultures had Spring festivals they celebrated at this time, which were called many different things. For the Gaelic Celts (the people who inhabited Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man), Beltane was a fire festival celebrating the beginning of Summer.
Many ancient Celts used these cross-quarter days to mark the change of the seasons, rather than the Solstices & the Equinoxes. Some only observed two distinct seasons: Summer & Winter, which began on Samhain (October 31).
The Gaelic Celts were primarily herdsmen, so their Beltane rituals were designed to protect their herds & encourage their growth. Special bonfires were built & were considered to have protective powers. The herdsmen would drive their animals through the smoke of the fire, and people would take the embers home to light the fires in the hearths in their homes. This was believed to protect them in the months ahead, and encourage growth in their animals & in their lives.
Like Samhain, which lies directly opposite from Beltane on the Wheel of the Year, this was seen as a time when the veil between worlds was at its thinnest. At Samhain the veil between the worlds of the living & the dead is thin enough that we can connect & convene with our beloved dead. Here at Beltane it’s the veil between the human world, and the world of faeries & nature spirits that has grown thin. These spirits & faeries are thought to be especially active at this time of year. Offerings would be left at the ancient faerie forts, the wells and in other sacred places in an effort to appease these nature spirits to ensure a successful growing season.
Most of all Beltane was a time for great gatherings, for celebrations & for feasting. In ancient times it was difficult for large groups of people to gather in the cold, wet Winter months. There simply weren’t any spaces big enough for large numbers of people to gather. Beltane was one of the first times when people could come together again.
It’s an incredibly joyful, festive time. It is a time for coming together, to celebrate life.
Most Beltane celebrations had largely died out throughout the Celtic regions until the mid-twentieth century when some of these traditions were revived by the emergence of the modern Wiccan movement.
Wicca was founded in the early twentieth century, it is a very new spiritual tradition. It uses as its framework a patchwork of beliefs & celebrations that are actually taken from a number of Earth-based cultures that existed throughout Europe. It uses the ancient Gaelic name “Beltane” for it’s mid-Spring celebration, but many of the beliefs of this modern Beltane celebration actually come from ancient German & Roman fertility festivals.
For modern Wiccans & neo-Pagans Beltane is a celebration honoring nature’s incredibly fertile energy at this time of year.
Nature has an amazing ability to reproduce itself, and in such a stunning & beautiful way. It’s important to honor this power that nature holds – a power that we, as humans, also hold. Right now, when the Earth is bursting with fertile energy, is a powerful time to acknowledge & celebrate the fertility inherent in all life.
Our modern culture has developed such a warped, twisted, very complicated view of sex. Instead of honoring sex, our culture views it as shameful, immoral – something to keep hidden away. It’s not something that’s commonly discussed, let alone celebrated in modern culture.
Beltane reminds us that sex is not only a crucial component of life, it is sacred.
This is a powerful time of year to reclaim, and to reconnect with your own sexual energy.
Not simply for the power sex has to create new life, but also for the pleasure it brings. Sex is an amazing, and sacred part of life. It’s an opportunity to experience deep, transcendent, overwhelming pleasure.
Beltane is a time to celebrate all the pleasures in being alive.
5 Self-Reflections for Beltane
Grab your journal & spend some time in self-reflection at this powerful seasonal time.
Here’s some wonderful questions to ask yourself at this time of year …
1. What is bringing you great joy right now?
2. What currently lights your spirit up? What do you feel inspired to devote your spring energy toward?
3. Do you feel connected with your sexual energy? Do you connect with that side of your self? How can you connect more deeply with that part of you?
4. What parts of yourself do you feel most confident about? Where do you need to boost your self-confidence?
5. What intentions do you want to plant for the coming weeks & months? What do you hope to grow in your life? What do you want to harvest in the fall?