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
While in the Southern Hemisphere, our brothers and sisters observe Samhain today, in the northern lands, we celebrate Beltane, Beltainne (pronounced Bel-tinna), Cetsamhain (‘opposite Samhain’), and Walpurgis (German).
Hail to Thalia, Grace of Flowering and Mirth!
Hail to blessed Flora, and to Maia Majestas!
We bow in gladness to The Lord and The Lady!
We merrily welcome the King and Queen of Faery!
The medieval Church tried to rename this celebration Roodmas in an attempt to shift the common people’s allegiance from the Maypole (an obvious phallus and symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross – symbol of their God’s death and resurrection).
Similarly in more modern times, in countries that have attempted to completely eradicate all folk traditions and spirituality, such as North Korea and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), May Day was changed to a day for military and workforce demonstrations.
In all instances, when those in power are not forcing the people to obey, these appropriations have not been as popular.
Dancing with the Flame
Beltane is a reference to ‘Bel-fire’, the fire of the Celtic God of light (Bel, Beli or Belinos). He, in turn, may be traced to the Middle Eastern God Baal.
Whatever you choose to call it, this is a Fire Festival celebrating the beginning of Summer, when the breezes are scented and the evenings are getting warm.
Today we celebrate Life’s creative ecstasy. The veil is thin as we dance the mysteries of fertility, beauty, and Nature’s flowering.
This is our festival of love, lust, and fecundity. This sabbat encourages hearty fun, feasting, and joy.
On Beltane, our ancestors herded their livestock to the lush higher pastures, guiding them between hilltop bonfires that warded away ill fortune.
Now the young Oak King has won the hand of the Maiden Goddess and with their union, She becomes pregnant.
We honor and emulate the divine union of the Lord and Lady. Celebrations include the obvious pleasures of sexual coupling, like most all of Nature is doing everywhere right now! All acts of love and pleasure ensure the ongoing fertility of the land, and therefore the well-being of the community.
Thus we observe this magical time by weaving a web of life around the Maypole and leaping the Beltane fires for luck.
Of course you may know we named our home Laurel Hill in honor of the towering mountain laurels that surround our little cottage in the woods. This is the time every year when they show off their gorgeous blooms.
And lilacs, roses, lily-of-the-valley, and other blossoms may be brought inside on this day to represent the fertility of the sweet Earth. I especially adore May wine – made with white wine infused with (pesticide-free!) sweet woodruff blossoms.
However – beware. The hawthorn’s flowers, most sacred to the Lordly Ones, should never be cut and must remain outdoors, else grave misfortune befall you. Also, think twice about bringing honeysuckle into the house unless you want a wedding soon!
For many generations in my family, cut flowers have been bred and tended as gifts of love, hospitality, and grace. However, thanks to my years of Faery Tradition training, I am learning to think twice about cutting blossoms. That’s because living blooms are Earth’s laughter (as Emerson noted), but a cut flower is but a smile.
Still though, when I ask permission to snip a few of my own blossoms for special occasions, which one should unfailingly do, it is sometimes granted to me. Respect and honor are essential when communing with any of our Green kindred, and particularly when you are removing some of their potential for regeneration.
This is a time of focusing on our own fertile possibilities! You might make a wish today and plant the seeds of your own desires, quite appropriate for this time of a very potent New Moon (yesterday).
And I certainly hope you remembered to wash your face in the dew first thing this morning, ensuring youth and beauty forever. And also, of course, you said “Rabbit! Rabbit!” didn’t you? For this is the first day of the month.
Wiccan handfastings are common at Beltane, however the wise grandmothers knew very well that most lusty trysts formed in the merry month of May were not likely to last, so actual marriages were avoided and sometimes even considered bad luck during this month.
Instead, the smitten couples were encouraged to enjoy their pleasures, but wait at least one lunation before the serious business of marriage.
That’s why June is considered a much more favorable time for a lasting union and to this day is the most popular wedding month.
And if a pregnancy resulted after the Beltane revelries, well, so what? The mother was considered blessed and the child was sure to be magical. Both were supported and welcomed by the whole village, and all was well.
Don’t you just love this wise way to work with our sexy nature, rather than to condemn it, and forbid it to take its course?
The Fair Ones
At Beltane, we remember the arrival of the Tuatha de Danann in Ireland, and we honor on this day the Great Mother-Goddess Danu (or Danann). The Tuatha de Danann (meaning, “the people of Danann”) were the fourth invading culture to arrive in Ireland, many centuries before the Christian era.
They were quite beautiful and astonishingly advanced, being highly skilled in science and metalworking. They came to be understood as a race apart from humans.
They inhabited Ireland for about two hundred years, until the fifth and last invaders, the Milesians (Gaels), conquered them. When the Tuatha de Danann had been finally defeated, they withdrew to the hollow hills, where they reside to this day.
Also known as the Sidhe (pronounced “shee”), they are the source of much of our lore about the Celtic Gods, Goddesses, and our communion with the Faery races.
So this is an important time to give offerings to the our Cousins and co-walkers. The activities of the People of Peace are now growing and will reach their height at Summer Solstice.
Now then, my dears — enough talk! Get yourself outside!
Light the Bel-fires, sing to the trees, dance with the Wild Ones, surrender to this most ancient enchantment.
Revel in the sensuous delights of life and love.
May your magickal rites be most gladly savored!