The air and Earth begin to warm, Spring has arrived in full force and is making way for Summer. The leaves and grass have greened and the flowers are in full bloom (as are the allergies for some!) Man and woman begin to start their lives together, new loves are born, new lives are created.
The word "Beltane" in modern Irish means May. Beltane comes from the meaning "fire of Bel", in which Bel is the "bright or shining one". In his honor, the Ancient Celts set two large fires made up of nine of the sacred woods:
- Rowan: Powerful wood of the Sidhe (shee); used for divination, wands and protection
- Alder: The tree of Bran, representing strength - used at one time for dye
- Willow: Originally used to make wands and besomes; also represents love and beauty
- Ash: Used in staffs; Increased psychic strength, protection and healing. The Celts would never cut down this sacred tree
- Hawthorn: During Beltane, a Hawthorn tree would be brought into the house, inviting the Fae, which inhabit the tree, into the house; represents the arts, and should never be destroyed or burned
- Oak: Oak trees are held sacred and powerful, a perfect place for magickal activity; Merlin's tree, power, magick and strength
- Holly: Fertility, protection, aids in hardships, strength. Also represents the Sun King
- Hazel: Increases the senses: power in the arts
- Apple: Sacred tree of Avalon. If you cut an apple across the middle, the inside forms the Witch's Pentacle; represents healing, aids in sleep
- Grapevine: representing the Underworld; the giver of life and the triple Goddess
- Ivy: Female counterpart to Holly; symbol of strength, endurance and psychic power
- Water Reed: Connects this world with the underwater realm of existence
- Blackthorn: Banishes negative energy; protection
- Elder: Dagda; represents the many arts, increases adeptness - the berries were once used for dyeing the skin
- Fir: Tree of life and death; held sacred, knowledge
- Furze: Faithfulness; its thorny branches represent protection and chastity
- Heather: Increase wealth, protection, luck and knowledge; can be used for making crowns
During this time, the herds of cattle were driven through these fires to clean off the ticks and mites and also as a symbol of purification to protect them. They were left to graze in the pastures until the new year and winter.
Witches' celebrate the fruitfulness of Mother Earth in the union between Her and the young Horned God. This coupling symbolizes the new fertility of the Earth, the beginnings of Spring going into Summer.
May or Beltane, has traditionally represented the sensuality and revitalization of love-making in all living things. This is why many couples traditionally marry around this time of year. In ancient Celtic days, couples would live together for a year and a day, after which they may decide to get married or part ways. The Celts did believe in the idea of marriage, but understood people and nature grow, change and sometimes move apart. This is not to say they did not believe in the family as a unit and staying together as a family.
The May pole traditionally represented a fertility symbol - specifically a phallic symbol - dancing around it in celebration was a ritual of thanks for the time of season which all life begins the cycle.
Preparing for a Beltane ritual:
Your altar should be decorated with the traditional color for Beltane; green
Adorn the altar with many varieties of fresh flowers and herbs: