Six weeks following the Spring Equinox at Ostara, we arrive at Beltane, the halfway point in the Wheel of the Year. It’s halfway ’round from Samhain, which is when the veil between spirit world and this world are very thin as we honor the dead.
Beltane, on the other hand, is a time of veil thinning as we celebrate life and commune with the spirits of nature. Instead of ghouls and goblins, it’s fairies and sprites!
The name Beltane comes from Belinos, one of the old names for the Sun God, and means “the fire of Bel.” In the old ways, Beltane is the traditional beginning of summer.
It is celebrated on May 1, but as with many of the sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, people often begin their celebrations at sundown on the previous night, in this case April 30.
In the Southern Hemisphere it’s celebrated November 1.
This is a time to celebrate the entire living world: plants, animals, and us humans as well. The Goddess is represented by the Fairy Queen, the May Queen. She is in full bloom as lover. The God aspect is the Green Man, spirit of nature, now in his full power.
Since the focus is on fertility, it follows this this is a time for honoring and celebrating sexuality. Of course, this is understood in a respectful, celebratory, mature, and holistic context. True witches and wizards know the immense power of sexual energy and engage with it wisely.
In that light, this is a time to enjoy our bodies as extensions of the earth, and the particular sensations that are attendant with being human. Beltane is a time in the Wheel of the Year to let the life force run rampant, and as such, a certain degree of chaos and out-of-controllness is welcome…but in a constructive, not destructive way.
Many covens perform a symbolic ritual of the Great Rite (sacred union of male and female) that involves putting a knife in a chalice. If you find yourself in a position where another wishes to do something more literal, remember, mutual consent is always the name of the game. If you feel pressured into something you’re uncomfortable with, you’re around the wrong person or in the wrong coven.
Beltane celebrations manifest in many other ways. For example, since this point in the Wheel of the Year is so focused on the element of fire, this is a huge time for night bonfires. People dance around them celebrating life, throwing off their cares and rejuvenating their spirits.
Some like to celebrate by jumping over fires. This symbolizes good luck, and fertility for women who jump over. Already-pregnant women may jump over the fire to call upon health and protection for the rest of their term and the safe arrival of their child.
Beltane brings community together. In the day, children may play games, and celebrate their growing bodies by performing physical tasks they could not do the year before. Of course, this is where the Maypole dance comes from, as children weave brightly colored banners and dance around the tall pole that juts from the Earth.
Beltane is a time for merrymaking. It’s very robust and physical, so dance, play drums, blow noisemakers, sing, roll around on the earth, hug a tree, and do whatever else comes to mind! Also, utilize the energies of fetility, growth, and abundance to focus your energies on new endeavors bringing bounty and prosperity.
Stones: Carnelian, Sapphire, Rose quartz, Emerald.
Colors: should be bright and deep. Think of rich purples to signify wine, and life-filled greens to correspond with the plant world coming into full bloom. And of course, the gold of the sun.
Incense: Jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, musk, vanilla and peach.
Herbs: Hawthorn, red clover, angelica, calendula, daisy, frankincense, bluebell, honeysuckle, ash, primrose, rose, rowan, St. John’s wort, cinquefoil, strawberry, lilac, woodruff, any flowers.
This concludes our Wheel of the Year article on Beltane.
The next sabbat is Midsummer.
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