By LaVonne (LaVonne) on April 30, 2011

Beltane marks the 6th turn of the Wheel of the Year and is a Major Sabbat. It is generally observed on May 1st, festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history. It's the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.


April's showers are giving way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st, festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history. Depending on your tradition, there are a number of ways you can celebrate this Sabbat.

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It's the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.

Beltane means bright fire, and the bonfires lit for this festival represent the warmth of the Sun and its power to return life and fruitfulness to the soil.

This fire festival is celebrated on May 1st.  The Celts honored the fertility of the gods with gifts and offerings, sometimes including animal or human sacrifice. Cattle were driven through the smoke of the balefires, and blessed with health and fertility for the coming year. In Ireland, the fires of Tara were the first ones lit every year at Beltane, and all other fires were lit with a flame from Tara.

Roman Influences:

The Romans, always known for celebrating holidays in a big way, spent the first day of May paying tribute to their Lares, the gods of their household. They also celebrated the Floralia, or festival of flowers, which consisted of three days of unbridled sexual activity. Participants wore flowers in their hair (much like May Day celebrants later on), and there were plays, songs, and dances. At the end of the festivities, animals were set loose inside the Circus Maximus, and beans were scattered around to ensure fertility.

The Green Man Emerges:

 A number of pre-Christian figures are associated with the month of May, and subsequently Beltane. The entity known as the Green Man, strongly related to Cernunnos, is often found in the legends and lore of the British Isles, and is a masculine face covered in leaves and shrubbery. In some parts of England, a Green Man is carried through town in a wicker cage as the townsfolk welcome the beginning of summer. Impressions of the Green Man’s face can be found in the ornamentation of many of Europe’s older cathedrals, despite edicts from local bishops forbidding stonemasons from including such pagan imagery.

Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites:

Today's Pagans and Wiccans celebrate Beltane much like their ancestors did. A Beltane ritual usually involves lots of fertility symbols, including the obviously-phallic Maypole dance. The Maypole is a tall pole decorated with flowers and hanging ribbons, which are woven into intricate pattern by a group of dancers. Weaving in and out, the ribbons are eventually knotted together by the time the dancers reach the end.

In some Wiccan traditions, Beltane is a day in which the May Queen and the Queen of Winter battle one another for supremacy. In this rite, borrowed from practices on the Isle of Man, each queen has a band of supporters. On the morning of May 1, the two companies battle it out, ultimately trying to win victory for their queen. If the May Queen is captured by her enemies, she must be ransomed before her followers can get her back.

There are some who believe Beltane is a time for the faeries -- the appearance of flowers around this time of year heralds the beginning of summer and shows us that the fae are hard at work. In early folklore, to enter the realm of faeries is a dangerous step -- and yet the more helpful deeds of the fae should always be acknowledged and appreciated. If you believe in faeries, Beltane is a good time to leave out food and other treats for them in your garden or yard.

For many contemporary Pagans, Beltane is a time for planting and sowing of seeds -- again, the fertility theme appears. The buds and flowers of early May bring to mind the endless cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth that we see in the earth. Certain trees are associated with May Day, such as the Ash, Oak and Hawthorn. In Norse legend, the god Odin hung from an Ash tree for nine days, and it later became known as the World Tree, Yggdrasil.

If you've been wanting to bring abundance and fertility of any sort into your life -- whether you're looking to conceive a child, enjoy fruitfulness in your career or creative endeavors, or just see your garden bloom -- Beltane is the perfect time for magical workings related to any type of prosperity.

Beltane colors are bright red, white, and forest green. Bouquets of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, and sage are appropriate, as are red and white flowers. 

Some things you might do to celebrate Beltane where you are:

1.   Make a floral crown

2.  Make a Maypole center-piece for your altar

Traditional foods associated with Beltane include seasonal spring items, especially the first fresh vegetables

Sweets evoke the sweetness of love.  Fruit pastries and chocolates are popular.  Honey is especially relevant because bees are associated with some Beltane themes, and its golden color suggests the Sun and Fire.

Spicy foods correspond to the element of Fire.  Hot sauces, peppers, and curries raise the heat of passion too.  Candied ginger combines the aspects of sweet and hot.

Aphrodisiacs and other romantic foods suit Beltane celebrations that have a sensual theme.  Consider serving almonds, asparagus, bananas, figs, nutmeg, oysters, pineapple, strawberries, truffles, and vanilla.

Goats and cows are associated with Beltane, making good choices for the meat course.  Bring out your barbecue grill for beef ribs or steaks.  Goat meat, called chevon, works well in stews and curries.

Maybowl or May Wine is a flavored beverage customarily made for Beltane. Alcoholic versions use honey mead or white wine as the base; nonalcoholic versions use white grape juice, ginger ale, or other beverages.  The key ingredient is sweet woodruff, strawberries are very common, and other herbs and fruits may be added for flavor.

3.  Make your own incense: Beltane scents are wild and sensual.  Lilac, rose, and passion flower are popular floral fragrances.  Edible-smelling incenses such as cinnamon or vanilla are also good.  Earthy ones include oak moss and patchouli.

4.  Choose the Music: Beltane instruments include horns, drums, bells, and bagpipes. Morris dancing is a major part of many Beltane celebrations.   Some good albums include Beltane: Songs for the Green Time , From Imbolc to Beltane , and Make Merry In Step and Song: A Seasonal Treasury of Music, Mummer’s Plays & Celebrations in the English Folk Tradition .

Dear sisters and brothers, may the deities of Beltane bring you fertility in your gardens and joy within your families.  May the Fire of Beltane burn within you, raising energy and raise your spirits and  purify your home from the stale, darkness of winter.











Related articles:
6th turn of the Wheel, Beltain, Sabbat

About LaVonne
I am still learning who LaVonne/Dorothy is.

Statistically I am a 65 y/young mother of 3, grandmother of 9, and great-grandmother of 3. I am a High Priestess and founder of the College of the Boundless Truth, am an Ordained Minister and perform Handfastings, marriages during the Spring and Summer season. I am enjoying my Crone years.

« More articles

Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Beltain LaVonne May 1, 2011 8:58 AM 1

The Cottage in the Thicket

This is a place for pagans of all paths and anyone else who wants to join in. Everyone is welcome here. Share your ideas or just share what you did today. C'mon in make yourself at home!

» Home
» Forums
» Articles

Cubit owner: Woodwife

Admin team:

» Contact the admins