Beltane - May Day Lore
Beltane is celebrated around April 30 for the Northern Hemisphere; November 1 for the Southern Hemisphere.
Beltane (most commonly pronounced "BELL-tayn", but also can be "BEEL-teen", "BEEL-tawn-uh", or "BYAL-tinn") is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on May 1st, but can be on the night of April 30th, depending on your tradition or - if you are solitary - simply your personal choice.
In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on May 1st or the first Full Moon in Taurus. The Scottish tradition of PectiWita celebrate their Sabbat on May 15th.
Other names used for this Sabbat are Bealtaine (Irish Wittan), Whitsun or Old Bhealltainn (Scottish PectiWita), Bealtinne (Caledonii or the Druids), Samhradh and La Baal Tinne (Faery Wicca), Roodmas, Rudemas (Mexican Craft), Walburga (Teutonic), Walpurgisnacht (German), Walpurgis Eve, Celtic Summer, Giamonios, Tanas Day - La Giornata di Tana (Aridian Strega), Floralia, The Great Rite, May Day, and May Eve. It is also known as Cetshamain in Ireland, and is one of the few specifically Irish festivals.
This Sabbat is primarily a fertility festival, with Nature enchantments and offerings to wildlings and Elementals. The return of full-blown fertility is now very evident. The powers of elves and fairies are growing and will reach their height at Summer Solstice. Celebrants sometimes jump over broomsticks or dance around May Poles, both as symbols of fertility. Bonfire leaping and horn blowing are other forms of traditional celebration. Weaving and plaiting are traditional arts at this time of year, for the joining together of two substances to form a third is in keeping with the spirit of Beltane. This Sabbat represents the Union of the God and Goddess, the Sacred Marriage, all new life, and fertility for all living things.
Most Wiccans consider this Sabbat to be the start of the Light Half of the Year - the Summer - as opposed to the Dark Half of the Year - Winter - which begins on Samhain. Most Wiccans view this as the half of the year which is ruled by the Goddess, while the dark half is ruled by the God. As I stated above - this is a fertility Sabbat - and traditionally is considered to be the time that the God and Goddess are wed. It is also considered to be the time that He impregnates Her as they are "sexually connected" on this day. This is represented symbolically by the wrapping of the May Pole.
In the olden days, the May Pole was made from a communal pine tree which had been decorated at Yule, with most of its branches removed at this time. A few of the uppermost branches could remain if desired. Traditionally, the ribbons attached around the top of the May Pole are red and white... this is to represent either one of these: the red as the Sun God and the white as the Virgin Goddess, or the white for the Maiden and the red for the Mother.
Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Beltane with fresh flowers all around and the cauldron which is filled with flowers. All of the following flowers are symbolic of Beltane: roses, bluebells, marigolds, daisies, primroses and lilac.
Altar decorations may also include a small May pole and/or a phallic-shaped candle (to represent fertility), and a daisy chain. Plaiting and weaving straw, creating things with wicker, making baskets and fabrics are traditional arts for this turn in the Wheel of the Year. Mirrors are also appropriate at this time.
Other symbols used to represent Beltane are the May Pole (the traditional full-size one is about 10 feet tall), May baskets, crossroads, eggs, butterchurns, and chalices.participants dance around the May Pole carrying the ribbons - the males holding the red and the females holding the white. As they dance, they weave and intertwine the ribbons to form a symbolic birth canal wrapped around the phallic pole, representing the union of the Goddess and God. Many Wiccans choose this time to perform their own Handfastings or Weddings. Another great choice would be the next Sabbat at the Summer Solstice.
Traditional activities include the already mentioned wrapping of the May Pole, the Great Rite, jumping the balefire, blowing horns, and gathering flowers. Solitary Practitioners might consider the weaving together of ribbons as an alternative to creating and dancing around the May Pole. It is considered taboo to give away fire or food on this day.
Appropriate Deities for Beltane include all Virgin-Mother Goddesses, all Young Father Gods, all Gods and Goddesses of the Hunt, of Love, and of Fertility.
Some Beltane Goddesses to mention by name here include Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Venus, Diana, Ariel, Var, Skadi, Shiela-na-gig, Cybele, Xochiquetzal, Freya, and Rhiannon. Beltane Gods include Apollo, Bacchus Bel/Belanos, Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, Faunus, Cupid/Eros, Odin, Orion, Frey, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and The Great Horned God.
One key action to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year is to take action on the activities and projects you had planned and started on Ostara.
Spellwork to consider include those for fertility, love, spiritual communion/closeness with deity, safety, prosperity, and conservation. This being a time of great magick, is a good time for divinations of all types, and for establishing a woodland or garden shrine. The household guardians should be honored at this time.
The most common colors associated with Beltane are white, pink and dark green, but also appropriate are all the colors of the rainbow spectrum itself.
Stones to use during the Beltane celebration include sapphires, bloodstones, emeralds, orange carnelians, and rose quartz.
Animals associated with Beltane are goats, rabbits, and honey bees.
Mythical beasts associated with Beltane include faeries, pegesus, satyrs, and giants.
Plants and herbs associated with Beltane are primrose, yellow cowslip, hawthorn, roses, birch trees, rosemary, and lilac. Also included are almond, angelica, ash trees, bluebells, cinquefoil, daisies, frankincense, ivy, marigolds, satyrion root, and woodruff.
For Beltane incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one... frankincense, lilac, passion flower, rose, or vanilla.
Foods in tune with this day (linking your meals with the seasons is a fine way of attuning with Nature) traditionally come from the dairy, and dishes such as marigold custard and vanilla ice cream are fine. Sweets of all kinds, honey, and oats are fine fare for Beltane. Additional foods to include are all red fruits such cherries and strawberries, green herbal salads, and red or pink wine punch. Oatmeal or barley cakes, sometimes known as "Beltane Cakes", are also appropriate.
May the Lord and Lady bless you all with abundance and success!
-Researched and Compiled by StormWing, ©1996 – 2023