A Merry Beltane

A Merry Beltane April 30, 2012

Tonight and tomorrow (in the northern hemisphere*) are the traditional dates for many of the major spring/summer festivals in modern Paganism. Beltane, Bealtaine, May Day,FloraliaProtomayia, and Walpurgis Night, to name just a few. This fire festival heralds the coming of summer and is a high holiday, a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the otherworld were thin. In many traditions and cultures it is a time of divine union and fertility.

Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival. Photo by Paul R Seftel.

Here are some quotes for the holiday.

“Beltane is a rural pre-Christian prehistoric tradition which saw communities come together after long winters of isolation,” [anthropologist Pauline Bambry] says. “It marked their connection not just to nature but to each other. That need to belong to something or someone hasn’t changed. We can be just as isolated living in the city or in a town as the ancient Britons were in their round houses.”Victoria Lambert, The Telegraph

“The May Queen represents everything to me. She is the symbol of life, Mother Earth, goddess, maiden, fertility, and potential. Even now that I am the May Queen I talk about her as something removed from me. I just have to trust that the moment I walk on the hill, I am her. I wouldn’t say it’s an out-of-body experience but I won’t remember a large proportion of the night.” – Erin Chadwick, May Queen, The Scotsman

“Beltane is the start of summer in my half of the planet, and may it be a full, rich, fecund summer. May babies be strong and crops be abundant and happy couplings begin and ripen. May maypoles be wrapped with joyous wishes and may the dancers find what they desire. May what needs to begin, begin and grow stronger. May what needs to end, slip away with dignity. May the bonfires be bright, and life go on with all its vigor.” – Phaedra Bonewits, “Beltane Meditation.”

“…while Samhain began one kind of yearly cycle, Bealtaine began another, and both could be construed as a kind of “New Year”. In ancient Ireland the High King inaugurated the year on Samhain for his household (and, symbolically, for all the people of Ireland) with the famous ritual of Tara, but in nearby Uisneach, the sacred centre held by the druids in complementary opposition to Tara, it was on Bealtaine that the main ritual cycle was begun. In both cases sacred fires were extinguished and re-lit, though this happened at sunset on Samhain and at dawn on Bealtaine. Bealtaine was a time of opening and expansion, Samhain a time of gathering-in and shutting, and for herd-owners like the Celts this was expressed with particular vividness by the release of cattle into upland pastures on Bealtaine and their return to the safety of the byres on Samhain.” – Alexei Kondratiev, Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal

“Bealltainn, as it is known in Gaelic, is a Celtic ritual that marked the transition from spring to summer and was once celebrated widely across Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Linked closely to the agricultural calendar, traditional celebrations included driving herds of cattle between two fires, an action believed to protect and purify them, whilst ashes from the fires might be sprinkled over the soil to increase the earth’s fertility.”Julia Rampen, The Scotsman

“In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principally a time of “unashamed human sexuality and fertility”. Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobbyhorse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross …” retains such memories. And the next line, “to see a fine Lady on a white horse”, is a reference to the annual ride of Lady Godiva through Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a skyclad village maiden (elected “Queen of the May”) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.” – Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

May you all be especially blessed this evening and tomorrow.

*A very happy Samhain to those of you living in the Southern hemisphere!

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