Celtic Beltane: Finding Jesus in all Cultures

Celtic Beltane: Finding Jesus in all Cultures May 1, 2022

In the ancient Celtic traditions, before Christianity, Beltane was a holiday that celebrated the beginning of summer,  and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect cattle, people and crops, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, whose flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast.

Should Culture Be Removed from Christianity?

Now many have stated to me that honoring these celebrations from a Celtic-Pagan past are inappropriate for Christians. I would have to disagree with them. You see, Beltane is as much a cultural holiday as it is a religious one. When we become new creations in Christ, God does not ask us to shed all the unique things he made us with, including our cultural pasts. This is the mistake that colonists made when they came to America. They used their faith as a way to destroy the native culture. Jesus says to the people in John 10 that “I am the door”. Not a culture or a religion. If we enter through Christ, we will be saved. It says nothing about entering through Jewish Culture that Jesus was a part of. He goes on to say that he wants us to life and have it more abundantly.

I am reminded of the many European Celtic, African, Native American and Asian cultures that Christianity, in tis western form has attempted to wipe out. Abundant life is not found in a dominant culture, it is found in Christ for Christians. God created our different cultures and we should honor that by having life to the full within those contexts. Rather we celebrate through Native Religions or Christian will depend on our faith choices, but our culture should never be separated from us because of our religion.

Questions we must Ask Ourselves

My challenge to anyone hearing this is “what parts of your culture can you bring back to yourself and celebrate them through the lens of your faith?” And then the deeper question that we as leaders must answer is this: In what ways have we as Christian leaders tried to separate people from who God made them to be in the name of Christianity? We then must ask ourselves “How can we facilitate bringing cultural lenses to celebrate Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd and He has laid down His life for all cultures. Wouldn’t Jesus want all cultures to celebrate that in the way that God created them? Let us enter the green pastures and be saved through Jesus Christ, not through a dominant culture.

St Brendan

There is a story of St Brendan voyaging to the Americas to bring Jesus Christ to the native population. Legend tells that once he got there, he realized that Jesus Christ was already there, in the beautiful cultures and people he encountered. Without any evangelization, he returned to Ireland in humility. This Beltane, let us return to our cultures in humility, understanding that Jesus Christ is already there in all cultures. For that is how he created them.

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