Ah Beltane . . . . flowers, maypoles, dalliances in the dark . . . . few sabbats feel more PAGAN than Beltane. Some of that is because the trappings of Beltane haven’t been adopted by the over culture (especially in the United States), and some of it’s probably because of the all the tree and flower sex going on right outside of our windows.
Here are eight quick ideas for your Beltane rituals and festivities. However you celebrate, I hope it’s great!
We decorate our household altars with flowers nearly all year long, but there’s something special about flowers at Beltane. For one thing they actually exist in May, not so true at Yule, and there’s something special about seeing something that grew in your front yard on the ritual altar.
But flowers are more than altar decorations, you can do things with them in ritual. They are wonderful tokens to pass out (and unlike plastic junk simply decompose by Lammas), but they can also be used magickally. Put a flower in your hands and let the power flow through you and everyone else in the circle! Though “seeds” are technically “flowers in waiting” they are also great for magickal work. Flowers are also great hair accessories!
April showers bring May flowers, and the rain from April showers can be gathered up and used to cleanse those in your circle. Put a clean bucket outside before the next rain storm and then use that water to symbolize the element on your altar. It’s also good to splash people with when cleansing at start of ritual.
Speaking of cleansing, “Spring cleaning” is a real thing and a little fresh rainwater can be used to prepare everyone for the Summer to come. “I bless and cleanse you to prepare you for the Summer we shall celebrate together as a coven,” seems to be about all the words you’d need there. And if you think that sounds too much like Ostara, trust me it doesn’t if you live in Midwest/Northeast. Our Beltane rituals in Michigan were our annual return to the world outside our homes, it was just too cold (most years) from Yule to Ostara.
The Maypole is probably the object most associated with Beltane, and for good reason. People have been gathering around Maypoles on the first of May for centuries now, and it’s such a cool custom that it sometimes shows up in more mundane spaces. Maypoles can be used for just good fun, but they can also be used to raise energy and celebrate the fertility rising out of the Earth.
Maypoles can require a bit of work, but they don’t necessarily have to. I’ve danced around a Maypole-coatrack before and it was a heck of a lot of fun. If you’ve got a lamppost in your front yard that makes another great alternative Maypole. Most Maypoles are made out of wood, but PVC pipe is easy to acquire and set up as a Maypole too, and it can be be saved and used again again from year to year.
THE COURTSHIP OF THE GODDESS AND GOD & MORE
For many years most of my Beltane rituals revolved around the idea of the young Goatboy (he wasn’t quite the Horned God yet) trying to somehow convince the beautiful, young, alluring, Goddess of Spring to consummate their relationship. Often times the Goddess as Crone would show up to attempt to dissuade the Maiden, and make a few jokes at the expense of the Goatboy (who was generally played by me).
But Beltane isn’t just about hookups between the Goddess and God, it’s about hookups between the Goddess & Goddess, and God & God, and everything in between. It’s about celebrating the union of two different forces and how those unions create new things. And most definitely “God and Hand” is a union of two things, though I probably wouldn’t build a ritual around it.
If your coven or circle plays Mayday games crowning a royal couple to oversee those games can be lots of fun. It also serves as a great ice breaker when new people visit your circle for the first time. Instead of electing the “old hats” as royalty, take a flyer on a newbie and make them feel like a vital part of the celebration.
Word of warning, some people choose May Royalty in random ways, through perhaps throwing garters or flowers. This is cool when everyone knows each other but if your celebration features a few people you aren’t familiar with (or children are present) you might want to let your ritual leaders pick the queens and kings. No one needs to see a 33 year old May King sitting next to a 12 year old May Queen (and I’ve seen this happen).
BELTANE WAS ORIGINALLY A FIRE FESTIVAL
We don’t often associate Beltane with fire today, but it was originally a fire festival, and fire was a large part of the rites associated with the earliest recorded Beltane celebrations. Cattle were once prodded to jump over small fires in order to purify them and keep them disease free for the rest of the year, and protect them from the fey. While most of us probably don’t have any cattle that need protection we can do what the cows did, and jump over a small cauldron to keep ourselves safe from harm.
Unlike our ancestors, the fey probably aren’t (hopefully) aren’t out to get us, but it often feels like at least some of society is; jump over a small fire as a magickal act to help preserve your civil liberties, and the liberties of other Pagans and religious minorities. While jumping I like to think of society jumping over prejudices and ignorances, which is a magickal energy we can certainly stir up in ritual. “We leave behind intolerance!” and then we jump and then we say “So mote it be!”
VISIT A MORRIS DANCER OR TWO AT SUNRISE
Everywhere I’ve lived in the United States there have always been at least a few Morris sides within a one or two hour drive of my house. Granted getting up at the crack of dawn and driving out to see some dancing is not going to be for everybody, but I suggest doing it at least once in your life. Morris may or may not be an ancient pagan survival, but it most certainly feels like a timeless tradition, and there’s something extremely magickal about mixing up one’s usual daily schedule and doing something entirely different.
Visiting an early morning Morris performance isn’t a ritual, but there’s no reason Morris (or most likely something similar) can’t be added to your later or earlier ritual. Put some bells on and get to dancing to welcome in the High Spring!
This is perhaps even easier than the Maypole suggestion (providing you have a willing partner), but for Beltane you could always spice it up. Turn your love making into an actual great rite, or perhaps do it directly after ritual when the spiritual juices are running the hottest (and hardest-sorry!).
If you’ve got some privacy sex outside is amazing, especially under the full moon with the night sky wide open before you. Some of my favorite Beltane memories involve doing just this with the woman I love. Even if the big ritual turned out to be a stinker, our private rituals were always a success!