The festival of Beltane is more commonly known as May Day. It is still
very popular with many people, especially children. However most of
the original meaning is lost to them. Dancing around the May Pole is
about all that is left. Nevertheless, it is lovely to think that people
still enjoy ancient traditions.
The May Pole is a of course a phallic symbol. I can see no better way
of enjoying this fertility festival than to dance around the pole in
a state of ecstasy! Indeed, it is a good time to rediscover your own
sensuality. It is also a good time to be thinking about your sexuality
if this has been troubling you recently. Now is the time for renewed
hopes, dreams and inspiration.
The Meaning of it all
Beltane means 'fire of Bel' or some say 'bright fire'. Bel is the ancient
Celtic God of light. He is often referred to as the bright and shining
one. The bel-fires are traditionally lit at sundown on April 30th. This
is because the ancient Celts days began at sundown.
The Beltane celebrations
would consist of sky-clad Witches jumping through the fires to protect
them throughout the year. They also believed that the fires had healing
properties. The Celts would also drive their cattle between the fires
to protect them. The fires themselves represent the returning light.
Beltane is the traditional time for the Pagan form of wedding - Handfasting.
Traditionally, the Handfasting vows are made for a trial period of a
year and a day. After living together for this time, the couple will
then either choose to make renew their vows or part company.
The trial version occurs because Pagans realise that you cannot truly
know someone until you have lived with them. Therefore, there is no
shame if you decide that you do not get on with your chosen partner
when you co-habit.
Handfasting traditionally occurs at this time because, according to
the ancient story of the God and Goddess, they were Handfasted at this
A Lonely Time?
In the words of Janet and Stewart Farrar, Beltane is a time of 'unashamed
human sexuality and fertility'. With all this emphasis on sex and relationships,
it's easy to see how this festival can be a lonely and upsetting time
for many Witches.
The same can apply to couples who cannot have children through whatever
reason. Therefore, it is important to remember our sisters at this time
and spare a thought for those of us who might find celebrating this
For those of you who feel that you cannot enjoy this festival, why not
take a bottle of wine to your friend's house and get a take-away? You
might not be able to join in with the sexual activity but friendship
is so important. It is a really good night to rekindle a dwindling friendship.
To celebrate a Goddess today, we might choose Diana. It celebrates the
first blood of Diana. She is honored as she becomes a woman. It is a
very special time. Celebrating this festival involves looking at your
Are your periods painful? Have they always been so? Do you feel upset
or happy when they arrive? Does your blood disgust or elate you? Do
they make you feel powerful or would you rather curl up in bed until
they finish? Honoring this Sabbat involves thinking about your periods
and creating a ritual around them.
Blood could be collected when you have a period to use in ritual (or
substitute some other red liquid, such as wine). The altar should be
covered with red material and decorated with red adornments. The ritual
consists of honoring your blood and reclaiming it as a special, peaceful
and pain-free time instead of a disgusting savage and painful time.
Our periods must be honored once again for without them none of us would
be here today.