Beltane Ritual 2015

Beltane Ritual 2015 April 21, 2015

It's Beltane with the Mankeys.
It’s Beltane with the Mankeys.
At its heart Beltane is a fire festival. That’s easy to overlook when the majority of the images and rituals associated with the holiday are built around maypoles, flower gardens, and flirtations in the woods; but that doesn’t make it any less true. Instead of focusing on the “expected” Beltane tropes, this ritual takes Beltane back to its roots. I’ve written plenty of flirty rituals and last year my coven performed this earth-centered rite (inspired by the movie The Wicker Man), but this is ritual is something else entirely. Even with a different focus I’ve written the quarter calls and much of the connective tissue in a way that links the holiday to our modern “Spring into Summer” celebrations, but the heart of this ritual can be found in the traditions of the Irish-Celts who first celebrated the holiday. Happy Beltane!

Note: Since I generally lead ritual with my wife I tend to write rituals with notations for “High Priestess” and “High Priest.” I certainly do not believe that every ritual has to be led by a male/female pair. My coven usually rotates the individuals calling the elements and casting the circle, so there are no instructions on who does these things in the ritual.

The Butterfly by John Collier from Wikipedia Commons
The Butterfly by John Collier from Wikipedia Commons

Purification
Everyone prepares for ritual differently. In my circle we perform a ceremonial hand-washing. Some groups prefer to use incense, smudge, salted water, etc etc. I’ve been a part of some lovely Beltane ritual where everyone participating in the ritual is “smudged and smeared” or sprinkled with water and anointed with oil by two greeters before entering the ritual circle. Whatever you do, it should make sense and not offend the sinuses of those you are circling with.

Opening Meditation/Chant
It’s important to get yourself in the right head space for ritual. Some groups like to use a guided meditation “your feet are the like the roots of a tree . . .” others chant and sing. Sometimes simply taking a few deep cleansing breaths will prepare everyone for ritual.

Statement of Intent
High Priestess: “Of all the sabbats, Beltane is the most joy-filled. The last lingering traces of Winter are now past, and what stands before us is the beauty and wonder of Spring as we prepare to for the Summertime. Tonight we give thanks for the blessings given to us this time of year and ask the Lord and Lady to continue to look over us and bless this coven. So mote it be!”

Casting the Circle
“In perfect love and perfect trust I conjure thee o circle of power! Let only truth and joy remain in this space as we cast out all wickedness and evil. Thou art a shield against the forces that would disrupt our rite and an entry way to the world between the worlds-where both gods and mortals tread! I bless and consecrate this space in the names of the Lord and the Lady. The circle is cast, so mote it be!”

(In my coven we generally cast the circle with a sword, but an athame, wand, or even a finger works just fine. I tend to prefer to cast the circle in triplicate, going round with the circle three times, but that’s not necessary.)

Flora by Alexander Roslin, from Wikipedia Commons.
Flora by Alexander Roslin, from Wikipedia Commons.
Calling the Quarters

East: “I call to the Spirits of the East to attend this circle and harken to our call. Powers of Air be present in our ritual and bless us with your gifts of creativity and inspiration this Beltane rite. Hail and welcome.” (Coven repeats “Hail and welcome.”)

South: “I call to the Spirits of the South to attend this circle and harken to our call. Powers of Fire be present in our ritual and bless us with your gifts of energy and passion this Beltane rite. Hail and welcome.” (Coven repeats “Hail and welcome.”)

West: “I call to the Spirits of the West to attend this circle and harken to our call. Powers of Water be present in our ritual and bless us with your gifts of emotion and compassion this Beltane rite. Hail and welcome.” (Coven repeats “Hail and welcome.”)

North: “I call to the Spirits of the North to attend this circle and harken to our call. Powers of Earth be present in our ritual and bless us with your gifts of stability and understanding this Beltane rite. Hail and welcome.” (Coven repeats “Hail and welcome.”)

(In my coven we usually throw in an invoking pentagram at the end of each quarter call. I no longer really light quarter candles, I simply don’t have the space on my altar and when I’m outside keeping them lit is too much of a challenge, but if that’s something you do, by all means add it in here.)

Call to the God
High Priest: “We call to the Great God to join us in our Beltane Rite. Horned One bring us your power and energy as we welcome the Summer in and celebrate Spring in all its glory and abundance. Come to us as the Horned One who runs wild and free upon the land, and come to us as the Lord of the Sun whose gift brings forth live. Hail and welcome!”

Call to the Goddess
High Priestess: “We call to the Great Lady to join us in our Beltane Rite. Gracious Goddess brings us your gifts of love and joy as we conjure the Summer in. In the Spring you walk as the Maiden, bringing forth life and abundance with every step, but we also honor you as the Mistress of the Moon who shines down upon our rites and the Mother who is the cradle of all life. Touch our circle as you do our lives. Hail and welcome!”

Flora and Zephyr by Jan Brueghel from Wikipedia Commons.
Flora and Zephyr by Jan Brueghel from Wikipedia Commons.
Preserve Us O Gods! This I Give To Thee
High Priest: “In days of old Beltane was both a celebration and a time of worry. In our world of near over-abundance it’s easy to forget just how fragile the lives of the pagans who came long before us were. An ill-timed wind from the north could bring ruin to the crops, as could too much rain, or not enough. Dangers were everywhere. Fire was the heart of a civilization and could also well be the end of it. Predators were never far from any door . . . .”

High Priestess: “At its heart Beltane has always been a fire festival, and so tonight we celebrate it that way as well. Tonight, in the fire we make offerings to the gods, and ask that they continue to watch over all us and this coven. And just as we give to the gods, they have also given to us.”

High Priest: “Tonight we petition the gods. We ask them to watch over our coven and those we care about. We take a moment to give them a gift before asking for a boon. To each of you will be given an oat-cake* and when your time comes break off a small piece of that cake and throw it upon the flames. After you do so, address the gods in this manner: “This I give to thee O Lady (or O Lord), preserve my will” or whatever you wish to strengthen in the nearing summer.”

(Each person in the coven is given a cookie and all stand around the fire or brazier. If you are outside and have a fire going it’s customary to fling the food offering over the shoulder before saying the “This I give to thee . .” part. Traditionally each person performing this ritual could say whatever they wished. In the original version of the rite no deity was mentioned and the chronicler wrote down the spoken offering simply as: “This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve though my sheep and son.” I’ve changed it a bit and have included a few things to get the ball rolling. It’s possible that you could write out a request for every member of the coven, but I think it’s best to probably let everyone ask for their own blessing. I’ve also added a “so mote it be” at the end because that’s just how I mote it.)

Dawn by William Adolphe Bouguereau from Wikipedia Commons.
Dawn by William Adolphe Bouguereau from Wikipedia Commons.
High Priestess: “We begin this rite though as a group. We shall each break off a small part of our cakes, offer them to the Lady and the fire and ask Her to watch over us. Make your offering and now repeat after me: ‘This I give to thee O Lady, preserve this coven. So mote it be!'”

High Priest: “And now we do the same with the Horned One, asking Him to strengthen our bonds: ‘This I give to thee O Horned One, strengthen this coven. So mote it be.'”

High Priest: “Now we each shall individually petition the gods, Lord or Lady, Lady and Lord, do as you wish. We shall each offer a bit of our cake and then speak the traditional words. My Priestess, shall you go first?”

High Priestess: “Yes my love. ‘This I give to thee O Lady, light my path as I begin a new chapter in my work. So mote it be. And now you my love?”

High Priest: “This I give to thee O gods, continue to guide me as I continue my work in honor of you. So mote it be.”

(Once every one has gotten a chance to throw something in the fire, the second part of the rite begins.)

High Priestess: “The ancient world was dark, with terrifying powers always near. At Beltane the people used to give offerings to those powers to keep them away. Tonight we shall do the same. Beloved, will you start us off?”

High Priest: “This I give to thee, O Cancer! Spare my loves and their lives! So mote it be! And now you my Lady?”

High Priestess: “This I give to thee, O Want! May all have enough to eat and a soft place to rest their heads. So mote it be!”

(Everyone now goes around the circle giving to that which they hope to keep away. When all have participated the Priestess and Priest continue.)

High Priestess: “We have given to the gods. We have brought things into our lives and pushed others away from us and those we love. We now bring what’s left our cookie into our mouths, for all should eat a treat the night of Beltane! So mote it be!”

Beltane Fun & Games
(Even after a somewhat serious ritual, Beltane should still be a celebration. After the offerings I suggest some fun and games. This might be an appropriate time for a maypole dance or similar activity. My coven generally plays a few silly games my wife and I have come up with over the years. Whatever you do here, have fun with it, but don’t have so much fun that the ritual spirals out of control and everyone wanders off.)

The Great Rite
High Priest: “Life is more than a gift, it is a promise. All that dies shall be reborn.”

High Priestess: “We now celebrate the most ancient of magicks, the magick of joining.”

High Priest: “The athame is to the Lord.”

High Priestess: “As the cup is the Lady.”

Both: “United in life and abundance. Blessed Be!”

(Athame is plunged into the chalice.)

Blessing the Cakes & Ale

High Priest: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this bread.”

(Touches athame to either the bread or the plate it is being served upon.)

High Priestess: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this drink.”

(Touches athame to the top of the cup. The drink is then passed around first with the bread following. In my coven we often preface the passing of the drink with “may you never thirst” and the bread with “may you never hunger.” Also traditional are phrases such as: “may all your thirsts be quenched” and “may all your hungers be satisfied.”)

10269368_10152326543573232_2262503032464737257_nGoodbyes to the Lady and Lord
High Priestess: “We thank the Great Lady for being with us in these rites. Great Mother, continue to watch over us and this coven in the months ahead. May we ever continue to see your beauty in the world around us. Hail and farewell!”

High Priest: “We thank the Great God for being with us in these rites. O Horned One, continue to walk with us and be a part of our journey through this life. May we ever feel your power in the world around us. Hail and farewell.”

Dismissing the Quarters
North: “Spirits of the North you have attended our circle and blessed us with your gifts. Powers of Earth we thank you for being present in our rites. Hail and farewell. (Coveners repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

West: “Spirits of the West you have attended our circle and blessed us with your gifts. Powers of Water we thank you for being present in our rites. Hail and farewell. (Coveners repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

South: “Spirits of the South you have attended our circle and blessed us with your gifts. Powers of Fire we thank you for being present in our rites. Hail and farewell.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

Air: “Spirits of the East you have attended our circle and blessed us with your gifts. Powers of Air we thank you for being present in our rites. Hail and farewell.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

(In my coven we draw banishing pentagrams as we dismiss each quarter, you might blow out a quarter candle or something else.)

Taking Down the Circle
“I cast this circle of power in perfect love and perfect trust, creating an entry way to the world between the worlds-the land where both gods and mortals tread. You have served us well o circle and have protected our rite. I now take down that power and all will be as it once was, and what was once here has been dismissed in the names of the Lord and the Lady. So mote it be!”

Closing Statement
High Priestess: “We now go from this place with love and hope in our hearts and with the blessings of the Lord and Lady. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again, and may the Gods preserve the Craft!”

*This ritual was originally Scottish, and oat-cakes were mentioned by name, along with alcoholic beverages. I’m going to be using a simple cake when my coven does this ritual, something along these lines. Instead of butter it’s traditional to use an animal fat, apparently bacon is quite good, but I don’t eat bacon.

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