Beltaine is the start of the light or samos half of the year. It starts now at dusk on the 30th of April and continues through May 1st. For the ancient Celts though, this was a holiday that depended on nature for it's beginning. Traditionally, it was celebrated when the Hawthorn trees began to bloom. This time would vary over the land and was not fixed to the calendar until fairly modern times.
Spelled variously, Beltaine, Belltaine, Beltain, Beltine, Beltane, Bealtaine, Bealteine, Boaldyn (Manx) or Bealtuinn (Scots Gaelic), it is also called May Eve or May Day. This festival was known by various other names in other Celtic countries: Cetshamain (from the Old Celtic - Kentu-saminos, 'first of summer') in Ireland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Mann, Calan Mai, Dydd Calen Mai or Cyntefrm in Wales, Calá Mé in Cornwall and Kala-Hañv in Brittany. . It isn't specifically mentioned in the Coligny Calendar, but there are references from the ninth century Irish commentator Cormac, talking about Belo-teniá, 'bon fire of Belos (the bright)'.
April 30th (eve.) through May 1st (day), May 5th if corrected to our modern calendar.
The Spring Crossquarter: Beltane, pronounced "BALCH in ah", approximately marked the halfway point between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice; the middle, or crown of Spring. Other names: May Day/May Eve; Walpurgis(nacht).
Much has been written of the apparent division of the Celtic year into two halves: a dark half from the great bonfire night of Samhain (All Hallows), through the winter and on to the fires of May Eve; and the bright half: from May Day on through the summer, along to Samhain again. The eves of these two thresholds of the year were said to be dreadful nights when the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thinnest, and consequently, over the centuries there has accumulated much lore of magical events and magical encounters transpiring on these nights.
As fearful of the Eve of May the people were, all the more eager they were for the revelry of the day to come... a descendant of the Roman feast of flowers, the Floralia: Maypole dancing, Morris Dancing, Mummers plays and May caroling are but a few of the persistent May Day traditions that the Puritans tried vainly to extinguish during the Reformation. These joyous celebrations of the Crown of Spring; the Threshold of Summer were too deeply entrenched in the lives and history of the people to be snuffed out by the Church's railing against their "heathen ways".
Floralia, the Roman feast of Flora, Goddess of the Flowers; Queen of Spring, may possibly be at the root of some of the popular British Mayday customs with which we are familiar. Still current in medieval times a thousand years later and cherished and protected by the common folk and gentry alike through the harshness of the Protestant Reformation right up to the current day-- the spirit behind these practices clearly reflects the European Ancestors' passionate love and reverence for Springtime and Her flowers.
Even today in America as well as in the Old Countries, children rise before the sun to gather and decorate baskets of May-morn' flowers and later, just as generations of their ancestors did, once more they'll dance 'round and 'round, braiding the gaily ribbon-bedecked Maypole, the ancient symbol of fertility and phallic potency (ironically, now more often at parochial schools!). Above them, sighing on the winds from across the sea and across the ages, you can almost hear the old maysong: "Summer is a cumin in!"
Key Words/Key Concepts:
May Day; May Eve; May Morn;
Maia; Flora; Floralia;
The Crown of Spring;
May-Queen; Morris Dancers;
May Baskets; dew; Midmorning; Flowers/ buds; Hawthorn;
bonfire night; The Fire of Bel(inus);
May Pole; Hobby-horse;
May Day Processional;
Purpose and Precedent
Slainte agus failte! Welcome to the offering rite of Bealtainne, the Hinge of Summer, the Day of Blessings. Now the earth grows green again in fact, warmed by the power of the Sun and the Waters' cool strength. Shoot has become bud and bud is flowering as all life burns with the kindling of love's fire. Now we rejoice in the heat of May, and look forward to the greater heat of summer.
In elder days the feast of Bealtainne was a day of power and duty, when every fire was extinguished and every clan held fast to its luck for the coming season. The folk left their work and went into the fields and the greenwood. They roved among the blossoms and made love to one another to celebrate the Power of Life. They went into the Groves and made their worship of the God/desses that sustained them.
As the ancients did before us, so we do now, and so our descendants may do in the future. We are come into the Grove to worship as they did, to offer to the Ancestors; to offer to the King and Queen of the Sidhe clans and all the Nature Spirits; and to offer to the beloved Shining Ones. Today we honor Aine, the Queen under the Mound, the erotic power of renewal. Today we honor the Mac Oc as Aengus the Harper, the enchanting life of the Earth. Today we kindle new flame in ourselves as we dance among the Bealtainne fires. And tonight, may we practice the Rites of Love in whatever way our spirit may guide us, to sustain the Power of Life. Ta go maith!
Honoring the Patron Powers
A cloaked woman emerges, stands to the north of the Hallows with head bowed and cloak closed. Druid speaks:
In elder days, Erin the goddess was the mother of clans, called Aine, queen of the noble ones. Aine the mighty mated with mighty men and from them she bore many peoples. As each of them grew old she would renew her youth and love again.
So for us is the living earth goddess, who grows old with the winter and renews her youth in this merry, magical time. With each of her renewings she brings the flowing of new life, the erotic blossoming of every kindred, not just for the continuing of clans, but for the delight and regeneration of all beings.
Aine the ancient
Calleach the mighty
Bones of the Earth
Answer your children
Mother to maiden
Winter to summer
Root into blossom
Answer us, changer
Flow now the waters
All hearts rejoicing
Laughter and loving
Bounty and blessing
Now in the hinge-time
Wise ones are caling
Show us your wonder
O maiden of May!
all: Aine, accept our sacrifice!
An offering of scented oil is made to the Fire. The woman removes her cloak to reveal a young maiden, erotically dressed. All cry: Hail the queen of the May!
The May Queen speaks, saying:
Let the goddess of Earth hear our call as I hear it! Blessings upon all who do honor to the shining ones. In this season of renewal we do honor to the goddess of the wells, for the sacred well is the eye of the earth, the giver and receiver, the gate of the Sidhe!
Maiden holds large bundle of cut flowers, says:
Now let the well be dressed, honoring our simple symbol of all the worlds' sacred wells.
Nine men come forward in turn to dress the Well, surrounding it with flowers. All sing 'Way to the Well'. When all are finished the Druid speaks:
Surely it is true that when the maid of May appears in any place or any heart the delight of love cannot be far behind. In Erin the power of love's joy was worshipped in Aengus Og, the son of Dagda and Baonn. He is the golden harper, whose music wakens longing and fulfillment in mortal hearts. He is the silver voice, calling all to come away from earthly care and join in the joy of May. Now let us welcome the young lord.
The young son Maponos
Aengus the harper
Son of the Dagda
Whose staff is the strongest
Born of enchantment
The son of the Mother
Sing, O enticer
Delighter of maidens
Sap in the branches
All making merry
Bee to the blossom
Hie to the Maying
Raise now the May-rod
Aengus we name you
Wonder child rising
Come to our calling
all: Aengus Og, accept our sacrifice!
An offering of scented oil is made to the Fire. The Bile, or other phallic rod is passed from woman to woman with much merry jesting, kissing of the pole, etc. ... The May Queen then places the pole in the Earth again, saying:
Awake, O King-To-Be! Enter now the maiden Earth and bring joy and blessing to us all! Beannachtai!
Offering to the Sidhe
The Faery Tree is brought out, or the Druid walks to the Tree (at the South?) Clouts of many colors, sparklies and amulets are available to hang on the Tree. Druid speaks:
In the elder days Aine the goddess was a queen of the Sidhe-folk, ruling form her mound in the south of Erin. Likewise Aengus was a king of the gentle people, making the faery music beneath the Brug Na Boyne. Now we call to them to open the way to the people of peace.
On the feast of Bealtainne the veils between the worlds are thin. Now we honor the nobel clans of the otherworld, the spirits of Earth to join our dance and receive due offering.
Come to the gates, gentle and lovely ones. Hear our call, we the children of Earth, who remember you. We offer you our worship, our reverence and our blessing.
You who rule in the wildwood, who give luck or bane, you who teach us the hidden ways and aid the wise, receive now these offerings made in your honor:
The druid will recite the various Powers of the Sidhe, and one of the folk will tie a ribbon or clout or whatever to the Tree for each. This should go on for ?9, ?27 things, such as:
To the queens under the hill -- Oonagh the Lovely, Cailleach the Ancient, Medb the Mighty and all...
To the kings under the hill -- Finvarra the Handsom, Bodb the Red, Eochaid the Stallion and all...
To all the Sidhe-folk of poetry and wisdom -- Inspirers and singers, you who grant sight and hearing...
To all the Sidhe-folk who are warriors, wardens and keepers, champions and hunters, wrathful protectors...
To all the Sidhe-folk of the makers, iron Sidhe and gold Sidhe, wood Sidhe and clay Sidhe and the folk in the loom...
To all the Sidhe-folk of the soil, tillers and reapers, cattle Sidhe and arbor Sidhe and folk of the hearth...
To all the Sidhe-folk of the Earth, stone and soil, stream and pool, bird and beast...
To all the Sidhe-folk of the sea, merrow and selkie, of sunlit shallows and the deeps...
To all the Sidhe-folk of the air, trooping sidhe and the voices on the wind...
To all o fyou we give these gifts and ornaments, asking you to bless us in the joy of the living...
all: Noble Sidhe, accept our sacrifice!
The company is instructed that if they do not have a praise offering they may come quietly to the Tree through the rest of the rite and make their offering. The Tree will be planted in the country after the rite.
Following the Hallowing and Drinking of the Waters the Druids work the Fire of Blessing. Druid Speaks:
Now as we stand filled with the power of our Goddess and God, let us work the spell of the Beltainne fires to drive away ill and bring us luck in the coming summer.
Two fire-vessels are brought out and prepared. Sacred woods are available as in the charm. One man and one Woman bring fire from the Fire. Fires conjured, saying:
We kindle these magic fires
In the presence of the mighty ones
In the power of the lovers
By Dagda the fire and by Brigid the fire
By oak -- grant strength
By rowan -- grant magic
By hazel -- grant wisdom
Spring from darkness into light
Rise as the warmth of summer's sun
This Beltainne day
Kindle within each of our hearts
A flame of love and wit and might
To friend and foe and all beings
Bring peace and beauty to the land
As life begins anew.
Ta Go Maith!
Now join hands all...
Step lightly in the dance and leave your winter cares behind
Receive the blessing of the shining ones
As you pass between the faery fires
Dance now, in the joy of May!
Music is struck up and a line dance led by one of the Druids, dancing between the two Fires, maybe doubling back for kisses. All finally spiral into clump with a roar/om. Druid deepens trance one last time, then speaks:
Bless, O great ones true and bountiful
Ourselves, our kind and our friends
Our work and our wealth.
May the Waters of Life sustain us
May the Fire of Passion enliven us
From day to day through every turning moon
From season to season
Through all the sacred year.
May the ancestors strengthen us
May the Sidhe-folk open our ways
May the goddesses and gods grant us wisdom.
Let the seeds of spring shoot and bud
And let our lives blossom with the May.
By our magic and gby the blessings of the old ways
Let all our blossoms come to fruit!
Ta Go Maith!