Here we come a’ piping,
In Springtime and in May;
Green fruit a’ ripening,
And Winter fled away.
The Queen she sits upon the strand,
Fair as lily, white as wand;
Seven billows on the sea,
Horses riding fast and free,
And bells beyond the sand.
~ Witchcraft for Tomorrow, by Doreen Valiente
Phoenix Publishing 1985
Today is May Eve, Walpurgisnacht, or Beltane Eve!
One of the most magical nights of the year, in Germany, Walpurgisnacht begins at sunrise on this date and ends at sunrise tomorrow, the first day of May.
At this time, we particularly honor the Horned God of the Celtic and Teutonic peoples. He embodies the vitality of animal life, in the ways that the Green Man embodies the vitality of all plant life.
The name Beltane means bright fire, bale fire, or Fire of Bel, referring to the Sun God, Bel or Belinos.
At Beltane, the young God is in the fullness of His manhood, and in love, gives Himself to the Goddess.
Traditional bonfires and torches of rosemary and juniper are lit, bringing sweet purification and protection to all. Birch boughs are also placed on all doors and windows to protect the home from evil spirits and sorcery.
In days of old, when sexuality was joyful and without shame, the young people went out “a-Maying” into the woods and fields on May Eve, celebrating their pleasures with each other throughout the night. They would return home in the morning, laden with flowers and green branches.
Not only were these trysts tolerated, they were blessed, for they were rites of sympathetic magick that ensured fertility in the growing season.
Children born from the Maying were often called Jack, Jackson, Hodson, or Robinson since they were the children of the Jack in the Green, Hod (a woodland sprite) or Robin Goodfellow (or Robin Hood, another form of the Green Man).
While you might or might not wish to actually make love to someone out in the woods, fields, or back yard tonight, you can still bring the May into your life by bringing home green branches, flowers, and branches of flowering trees. (Be sure to ask their permission first).
Better yet, avoid cutting living plants, and plant your garden so that over time, you will transform your house into a garden bower. Make a wreath to hang on the door or to crown your Goddess images.
The Veil is Thin
Like the more somber Samhain, which our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are now preparing to celebrate, this is a time when the veils between the worlds are most thin and we may truly experience the quantum wave of other realities.
Pay attention, and you may find that other realms bleed through into ours, making divination and encounters with non-ordinary beings more likely.
Traditionally, Samhain-tide is the season we can expect visitations with the Ancestors. But they might also come calling on this night as well, especially the ones with whom you have the most light-hearted relationships.
It’s more likely, however, that at this time of the year, the Otherworlds that open are those of the Good Folk, who are now very active and close to us.
It is said that on this night, the Queen of the Sidhe rides out on her snow-white horse, at the head of the Seelie Court, possibly looking for mortals to lure away to Faeryland for seven years.
Folklore says that if you sit beneath a tree on this night, you will see Her or hear the tinkling of Her horse’s bells as She rides by. If you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you.
Please keep in mind that as attractive as this may sound, the lands of the Shining Folk are not the wee, quaint places depicted by Disney or the Victorians.
Yes, the Faery lands are intensely beautiful, but they are not human places and can be quite perilous for those who are not respectful or learned in the ways of the Sidhe.
Beltane Eve Offerings
This is a traditional time for giving gifts — for the Gentry, of course, but also for human loved ones. Leaving anonymous May baskets on friends’ doorsteps is a sweet old tradition.
Gather flowers with special messages for friends and relatives. Make up your own explanation of the meaning of each flower and tuck it into your bouquet. For friends at a distance, send pressed flowers or May Day cards or packets of flower seeds.
As the final day of the month, of course, this day is also sacred to the great Goddess of Witches, Hecate. We often think of Her as the Crone, but our ancestors knew Her as the Sacred Three — Maiden, Mother and Old One.
Offerings to Her younger aspect, such as flowers, sweets, and other delicate, beautiful gifts, would be especially appropriate tonight.
Even if you don’t stay up all night a-Maying, at least remember to get up early tomorrow, and wash in the magical dew of Beltane morn:
The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
Other sources suggest using the dew found under oaks or on ivy leaves. My teacher, the famed author and Celtic tradition expert RJ Stewart, suggests that this centuries-old tradition is the basis of modern-day Flower Remedy healing.
Similarly, you might make a special wish as you wash your face in the gathered dewdrops, or as you drink from a well before sunrise.
All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are My Rituals
The actual cross-quarter day (that is precisely halfway between Equinox and Solstice) is Tuesday, May 5.
Of course our ancestors did not limit their Beltane festivities to only one day, nor were they reckoned by the number on a calendar. They celebrated based on observation of the heavenly bodies, and a feel in the air. So you need not curtail your celebrations only to May Eve, or May Day, by the modern calendar.
Beltane’s energy, to those who are open to it, is warm, magical, sexy, and inspiring.
The doorways between our mundane, human realm and the real, primal worlds are open. Answer the call to explore the hidden paths of enchantment that our ancestors knew.
Let us take deep pleasure in this beautiful time of year. And tonight especially, go out and allow the beauty of this lusty time to make your blood dance. Include an intimate loved one in your rites, if you are blessed with such a person.
Most of all, enjoy the lovely finery that our beloved Gaia has cloaked Herself in, and let yourself be seduced by Her.