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     Updated 29/04/2014

     Beltane (meaning “bright fire”) or May Day is one of eight festival days marked upon the ancient seasonal calendar known as The Wheel Of The Year.

     Beltane heralds the beginning of Summer as it lies halfway between The Spring Equinox (Ostara) and The Summer Solstice (Litha).  It is a time when daylight hours are long, trees blossom and herding animals are turned out to pasture.

     Beltane was originally observed by the Gaelic people of Ireland, Scotland and The Isle Of Man who performed protective rituals for their crops and livestock whilst The Celtic Tribes of Western Europe and Britain also celebrated mating rituals and male potency.

     Beltane is named for the Celtic Sun God, Bel (Belenos/Belenus) who is associated with West Cornwall, formerly Belerion.  The Romans dubbed him the “British Apollo” and – like many solar deities – he pulls the sun with his chariot and is associated with inspirational light and healing waters.

     Beltane also celebrates The Spirit Of The Greenwood in the guise of The Green Man; known variously as The Celtic Antlered-God Cernunnos, Herne The Hunter, Jack-In-The-Green and even Robin Hood.  Cernunnos consorts with The Mother Goddess at Beltane to assure the birth of the following Spring from the dead of Winter.

     Collecting May blossoms or “bringing in the May” is a euphemism for this time of sexual licence.  Beltane remains a popular time for marriage ceremonies and traditional handfastings.

     Jumping over a broomstick on May Day symbolises crossing the threshold from Spring to Summer and combines the masculine (handle) with the feminine (brush)… no sniggering at the back please 😉

     Dancing around Maypoles at Beltane is still practiced today throughout Europe, Scandinavia and The British Isles.  The origins of this tradition are lost but Folklorists believe the pole represents the ancient reverence for sacred trees or a phallic symbol!

     Pre-Roman tribes danced and walked themselves and their herds around or between protective Beltane fires.  These bonfire celebrations are enjoying a modern revival attracting fire-eaters and coal-walking.

The Beginner’s Guide To The Wheel Of The Year

Imbolc (birth of Spring)

Ostara (Spring Equinox)

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