What is Beltane?
The daylight is growing to its longest and nature is coming into its fullest expression, everything green and blooming. Beltane is a late spring celebration of love, life, pleasure, and living to the fullest. It is also called May Day because it takes place on the first day of May.
Whereas Imbolc was about the conception part of fertility, Beltane is about giving birth. Think of the fullness of nature like the fullness of a womb, ready to burst with life! The goals and plans you planted at Imbolc should be coming into full bloom! Beltane is a time to celebrate that. As you can imagine, then, flowers are a huge part of this sabbat.
Fire is also a huge part of Beltane, thinking of the phrase, “lighting a fire” under someone. This means to cause someone to be motivated and work more quickly. Fire is connected to passion, so this is a great time of year to light a fire under you and make progress on whatever you began at Imbolc!
How to Celebrate Beltane
Beltane is an overall lighthearted sabbat. It is a time to just be present with people you love and have fun. Below are seven ideas for things you can do to celebrate!
1. Go to a Maypole Dance
In many parts of the world, there will be a community maypole dance held annually on May 1st. If you are unfamiliar with maypoles, it is an ancient European pagan tradition to celebrate the halfway point between spring and summer in hopes of ensuring an abundant harvest.
The most common lore behind this tradition says it was to represent fertility, the pole — or tree — being a phallic symbol and the ribbons — or vines — to represent the sexual union of the god and goddess. Traditionally the women would dance around the pole and the men would climb the pole in a race to retrieve the wreath, which symbolized the vagina. Of course, you can imagine how, once this tradition came to the United States, the Puritans tried to squander it. Luckily, this tradition seemed to have stood the test of time and more modern versions can be found now in many places around the world.
Today, anyone of any gender is invited to dance. Since in some places it is still difficult to find a public maypole dance — or a historically accurate representation of one — an idea would be to host your own! You can invite eight friends to represent each sabbat, or as many as you like. Beltane is a “the more the merrier” kind of day!
2. Host a Bonfire
If you want something a little simpler than erecting your own maypole, you can invite friends and family over for a bonfire, or even the whole neighborhood if you’re looking for a great time! Beltane is one of the four Celtic fire festivals so incorporating your own fire into the day is a great way to celebrate. If you have musical friends, have them bring their instruments for a time of singing and dancing.
If you are “in the broom closet” — or practicing witchcraft privately — you can celebrate Beltane with fire by simply lighting a candle.
3. Make a Flower Crown or Wreath
Beltane represents the Mother face of the triple goddess who is often depicted wearing a flower crown. You can make your own flower crown or simply adorn your hair with leaves and flowers. Leaves represent the Father. Braided hair represents the unity between the Mother and the Father. You may choose it to represent the god and goddess, the earth and the sky, or just yourself and your lover, whatever fits into your own personal practice. The purpose is symbolizing two separate entities becoming one.
For this reason, handfasting is a popular ceremony to hold on this day. Traditionally, it is a pagan wedding, but you can do it for any committed relationship or as a way to renew your vows. The two people’s hands are tied together with a braided rope or ribbon to represent unity and the binding together of separate lives. When the hands are untied, this symbolizes the individual’s free will to remain committed to each other. If you’ve ever wondered what the term, “tying the knot” comes from, now you know!
4. Decorate Your Altar
This is the time to get creative and colorful with your altar decorations. All colors of the rainbow go for Beltane! You can decorate your altar happy and bright with things that make you think of celebrating the fullness of life.
Flowers represent life in full bloom so include an abundance of them! You can also add a cauldron as it represents the fertility of the goddess and holds fire. You might like to add corresponding incense inside it in any variety of floral scents.
Other things to decorate with are braided ribbons, like used in handfasting, and crystals such as Rose Quartz, Garnet, Carnelian, Fire Agate, Emerald, Turquoise, Red Jasper, Ruby Fuchsite, Sapphire, and Malachite. Phallic crystals would be a great addition for Beltane.
5. Cast a Spell
Beltane is one of the best times to cast spells, as the veil is thin and it is easy to call in your spirit guides and ancestors. On that same note, you’ll want to make sure you set up appropriate boundaries to protect against unfriendly or wandering spirits. Beltane is the cross-quarter sabbat to Samhain, and though one celebrates death and the other celebrates life, the veil is equally thin.
You can really cast any spell that feels appropriate, but some that go along with the theme of Beltane would be abundance, happiness, pleasure, love and self-love, stability, sensuality, commitment to your partner or yourself, motivation for projects, and passion in love and life.
If it is something you feel comfortable with, you can even try some sex magick. Beltane is about all things fiery and passionate, including love, sensuality, and pleasure. It is important that this type of magick is 100% consensual. If you are doing this with a partner, please get their consent before trying anything!
6. Have a Picnic with Family or Friends
The weather should be pleasant in most places around Beltane, which makes it a perfect time to take your food outside! It would be especially great to have a picnic with your children or friends who have young children. Beltane is all about celebrating young life and recognizing their fire and passion for life.
Foods for Beltane include salads, pastries, oatcakes, and in-season fruits like strawberries, apricots, and cherries. Making a cobbler would be a delicious way to incorporate oats and fruit! Another popular correspondence is dairy, but if you don’t consume dairy, oat milk would be a great replacement. A clever way to incorporate this would be ice cream on top of the cobbler, or yogurt with fresh fruit!
7. Make a Dandelion Seed Wish Jar
This simple but powerful craft is great for doing with your kids, or just for yourself! Dandelions are abundant this time of year and have begun to go to seed. If you live in a place where you don’t have to treat your yard (it’s much better for nature), you can collect the seeds and place them in a glass jar. As you pull the seeds from each dandelion, make a wish as you add it to the jar.
You can keep the seeds in the jar for as long as you feel your intentions need to simmer, and then release them at the next full moon by blowing them from your hand, symbolizing your life force energy releasing your wishes to the Universe.
These are just some of the many ways you can honor the sabbat of Beltane! How do you plan to celebrate May Day? Share in the comments below.
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