When the lilac buds thickened, the girl knew that soon it would be the time for the maypole dancing. The men would take to the woods and cut a straight ash pole and plant it firmly in the earth on the village green. Then they would take ribbons, red and white, blood and energy to symbolise the union
of the Goddess and the God, so that the earth would be blessed and the land would bear fruit in due season.
Every year the girl saw the maypole being cut and watched the young men and women dancing the whirling dances on the green. She knew that when the sun faded, the dancers would go off to the wood, the boys with flushed faces from too much ale and the girls giggling and apprehensive and the men and
women would follow them, for everyone wished to honour the union of the God and goddess with their own great rite and no-one minded when the children came, for Beltane children were blessed. They would see light at Imbolc, Brigit's festival, when the world was still dark and quiet, but the sun was born again. These children would be called Robinson, for they were the
offspring of Robin Goodfellow and many were the maids who thought to share the Great Rite with a faery lover that night.
But the girl grew and it worried her that she should soon be joining her fellows around the maypole. Who would take her into the woods when the day grew cold? Who would keep her warm and light the fire in her belly? She could not know and the thought turned her stomach cold and what of the Sidhe? It was said that those who loved the faery folk wasted away from
their desires. What could she do to escape from such a fate?
The years rolled on and the girl grew thin, she had heard that if she did not eat, she could delay the time of her womanhood. But the wise woman saw
what she was about and came to her one day when she toiled in the fields. She asked the girl to tell her her fears, but the girl refused. But the wise woman saw what she did and was not alarmed. She gave the girl's mother herbs to put in her milk and soon the girl found that she was hungry again and she ate as a normal child would and she grew and blossomed and the day came when she saw her first blood and knew that her time at the maypole would not be long.
But the wise woman also saw what she did and what she was and she spoke with the village elders and the girl was not chosen for the maypole dance, not
that year, nor the next, or the next, until the girl thought it strange that all her companions had danced the ribbon dance and had gone laughing into
the wood and returned with a new light in their eyes and a softness to their look and she wondered what it would be like to lie under the stars and feel
the God enter her.
At last she went to the wise woman and asked why she could not join the ribbon dance and the wise woman told her to go to the blacksmith and ask him. So the girl went to the blacksmith at his forge and asked if she could join the ribbon dance that year. The room was filled with the heat of the fire and the steam from the water where the blacksmith cooled his irons. The blacksmith looked at the girl and asked her to pick up his smallest anvil and she tugged and she pulled but she could not lift it.
Go away, he told her and come back when you are stronger and then perhaps you may dance the ribbon dance.
The girl was very angry that she should be asked to perform such a task and she went to the wise woman and complained. But the wise woman smiled and
gave her strange herbs to eat and told her to swim every day in the village pond once the sun had gone down.
So every night when the sun had set and the light had gone from the land, the girl went down to the pond and took off all her clothes and swam in the
pond as the wise woman had told her. Now the pond was next to the smithy and the blacksmith was always late at his work, for not only did he shoe the horses and cast the ploughs and the people's tools, but he also made the magickal tools, for the blacksmith was
beloved of Herne and cared for his people.
So as he hammered and shaped the iron, he saw the girl swimming in the water and he smiled. All through the summer, the girl swam in the pond and when
the winter came, still she swam even though the ice covered the water and the blacksmith used to break it for her before she came down to swim.
Then came the Spring and the flowers bloomed and the hedgerows grew green again. The girl returned to the blacksmith's forge and asked to try lifting
the anvil again. The blacksmith pointed to the corner of the forge and the girl went and tugged and pulled but still she could not lift it. Then the blacksmith came behind her, silently, for though he was a big man, still he could move like a cat in the night and he put his arms under her arms and around the anvil and lifted it clear from the ground.
The girl was astonished, but the blacksmith merely smiled and nodded and from his apron pocket he pulled a red ribbon. Tie that on the maypole this
year, he said , and you shall dance the ribbon dance.
On 1st May they hoisted the ash pole and bedecked it with the red and white ribbons. The girls were dressed in their finest clothes and their hair was
crowned in wreathes of green and flowers like the May Queens that they were. Round and about and in and out they weaved the ribbons with the men and boys until there were no ribbon lengths left to weave, then they turned and danced the other way. Again and again they danced until all were tired and thirsty and thankful to sit down to the feast in honour of the marriage of
the Lord and Lady.
Long did they feast and drink until the sun went down and one by one the couples began to wander together into the wood. No-one had asked the girl to
go with them and she was left, sitting at the tables, feeling old and foolish and wishing she had never worried about the ribbon dances.
As she stared at the table , a shadow crossed the wood. She looked up into the face of the blacksmith. He held out his hand and looked towards the wood and she knew the time had come to set aside her girlhood and become a woman.
It was cool amongst the trees and all around her the girl could hear whispers and giggles from behind the bramble patches and fallen logs. The
blacksmith led her deep into the wood, through the beech trees and the sycamore trees until they reached a place where a yew tree grew. Underneath the green and orange branches was a patch of moss and a bank to lie on and that is where the blacksmith led her.
This is the tree of passage, the blacksmith said, from this life into the next. Tonight you will set aside your girlhood, which you have held on to
for many years and join the womenfolk and if the Goddess wills, in time you will become a mother as she does this night.
The girl looked at him and her fear must have shown on her face, for he took her tenderly and held her gently and whispered many sweet words as he laid
her down and prepared her for what must be. This was his role, the blacksmith, to give the great rite to those whose time had come and skilled he was too and pleasure he brought with him and the girl hardly noticed the pain as he lit the fire within her and made her what she must become..a woman.
Afterwards, she lay in his arms and smiled and her eyes grew soft as he pushed the tendrils of her face from off her face and kissed her.
As the days passed, the sun grew hot and the land was fertile and the people gathered in the harvest. The girl knew that she had indeed been blessed, but she said nothing, but went to the wise woman, who kept her secret.
As the leaves fell and the winter came, so did the woman's belly grow with new life and often she would come and sit by the blacksmith's forge and
watch him as he worked and he saw how she quickened and he smiled. When she slept at night he built a wooden cradle out of the wood of the yew tree where they had both been blessed and when Imbolc came, so too was the child born and the blacksmith took him and showed him to the village and acknowledged his son and his wife.
And the woman lay and suckled her babe and knew that her time of fear was ended and a new beginning had been given her.
Written by Sarah Head, April 2000
Here is some information from many different sources; I invite you to draw your own conclusions.
Beltane is the Celtic Fire Festival, when all fires are extinguished and the home fires then rekindled from one public sacrificial bonfire. It helps promote unity in a community. It is also the return of full blown fertility.
Patron of sheep and cattle, Bel's festival is Beltane, one of two main Celtic Fire festivals. The Celtic God of Light and Healing, "Bel" means "shining one" or in Irish Gaelic, the name "Bile" translates to "sacred tree." It is thought that the water of Danu, the Irish All-Mother goddess, fed the oak and produced their son, the Dagda. Beltane celebrates the return of life and fertility to the world-marking the beginning of Summer and the growing season. Taking place on April 30th, Beltane also is sometimes referred to as "Cetsamhain" which means "opposite Samhain." The word "Beltaine" literally means "bright" or "brilliant fire," and refers to the bonfire lit by the presiding Druid in honor of Bile.
From Lisa Spindler
Beltane is May 1st or the first full moon in Taurus. Other names for it are May Day or Lady Day. It is primarily a fertility festival with nature enchantments and offerings to wildlings and Elementals. The powers of elves and faeries are growing and will reach their height at Summer Solstice. A time of great Magic, it is good for all divinations and for establishing a woodland or garden shrine. The house guardians should be honored at this time. Time of the Horned God and The Lady of Greenwood; honor of the house guardian.
From Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway
It is also a Wiccan Festival: Celebrated on April 30th or May 1st (traditions vary). Beltane is also known as May Eve, Roodmas, Walpurgis Nights and Cethsamhaim. Beltane celebrates the symbolic union, mating or marriage of the Goddess and God and links in with the approaching summer months.
From Scott Cunningham
I have made a page with one version of a Beltane Ritual. If you wish to see it, click below.