In Paganism, Beltane is a festival celebrating the start of summer. Although, it actually falls at the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It is one of eight Pagan holidays, which are known as Sabbats. Beltane, which is also called May Day, is also a celebrated Wiccan holiday. Although, it initially began as a Celtic holiday celebrated by ancient Gaelic Celts. At Bell Brick & Candle, we enjoy helping our customers celebrate Beltane and other holidays by providing ingredients required for rituals. We also want to help new practitioners understand the origins of these beloved holidays. Here is how Beltane started and evolved into the festival we know and love in the present day.
Beltane as an ancient Celtic Holiday
Many cultures in human history have celebrated the changing of the seasons. Spring and summer are particularly celebrated, since they represent times of regrowth, new birth, and general renewal. Beltane is one of four ancient Gaelic Celtic Holidays. The others are:
The ancient Celts were primarily shepherds and farmers. As a result, Beltane focused mainly on rituals meant to bring in good crops or keep herds of livestock safe. It was common for them to create large ritualistic bonfires. Then they would have their livestock run through the smoke from the fires for luck. Often, festival attendees would also bring embers or ashes from larger bonfires home and place them in their own personal fires for luck in the coming season. Today, Pagan and Wiccan holiday traditions surrounding Beltane still revolve largely around bonfires all over the world.
Beltane as a Wiccan Holiday
Beltane is an extremely significant part of modern Wiccan culture. It is a Wiccan holiday not only associated with the closing of spring and start of summer, but also with passion and creativity. It is also associated with love and procreation. That is one reason why many Wiccan marriages, or handfasting ceremonies take place during Beltane.
Another important feature of Beltane in Wiccan culture is it is thought to bring balance within a person's psyche between the masculine and the feminine. That balance is believed to help creative thoughts and actions from the rest of the year manifest themselves around Beltane. In other words, it is often considered a time to take creative action or move in a new and exciting direction in one's life.
Beltane as a Modern Pagan Holiday
Paganism and its rituals have changed somewhat throughout the centuries. Today's modern Pagans celebrate May Day in different ways based on where they live in the world and what they have learned, but one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday for Pagans the world over is the maypole. A maypole is a tall wooden pole decorated with brightly colored ribbons. Dancers typically dance around the pole, wrapping the ribbons around it as they go. In some parts of the world, maypoles are left up year-round. In others, they are set up specifically for May Day/Beltane and taken down when the festivities are over. The exact symbolism of the maypole has been debated ever since it first appeared in Pagan Beltane celebrations. Theories range from it simply being a convenient item to hang festive garlands on to it being a phallic symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Symbols and Supplies for Beltane
The Celtic Tree of Life is an important symbol of Beltane. It is often featured on amulets and other ritualistic items used during the celebrations of May Day/Beltane. There are also several other symbols and ritualistic items associated with Beltane. Most symbolize or are thought to encourage fertility or growth (physical or spiritual). Among them are several plants and trees. They include:
Now that you know a bit more about Beltane, you can appreciate the many nuances of its ancient and modern customs a bit more. We hope you will choose Bell Brick & Candle when shopping for Beltane supplies in the future!
Written By: Jessica Kosinski – firstname.lastname@example.org