Beltane Approaches

May 1st is Beltane and in this witchy household it marks the beginning of the summer season as well as a huge excuse to feast!

This is our first Beltane with our new family member (my soon-to-be-sister-in-law) and I’m thrilled to add another witch to the family coven. When we can’t all be together (which fortunately this Beltane we will be) it is always good to have back-up.

Here is some interesting information on Beltane and then I will tell you how we will be celebrating:

Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. Beltane means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times.

In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods “A-Maying,” and then dance around the Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

Think of the May pole as a focal point of the old English village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. Women traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their bodies. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion. Ancient Pagan traditions say that Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared. Let Them guide you! Breads and cereals are popular. Try oatmeal cakes or cookies sweetened with a dab of honey. Dairy foods are again appropriate; just make a lovely wedding feast and you are sure to enjoy yourself! An early morning walk through a local park or forest could be fun for everyone. Gather up some plants or flowers to display in your home. Mom and daughter could braid their hair, and weave in a few tender blossoms.

How we will celebrate:

We’ll get together the day before to weave our chaplets (flower crowns) and create our May Day baskets. Traditionally we use the colors of red and white. I have a maypole staff that we use for the ritual that I have used for over 20 years. It has ribbons and flowers and bells hanging from it.

The May Day baskets are made with fresh flowers and traditionally we leave them on the doorsteps of our neighbors homes. This will be the first time I do this in this neighborhood, so I am excited to leave our springtime gifts.

The women in my family wear white and we have ankle ribbons with bells on them. We jingle like mad which creates an even more festive atmosphere. The men in my family (currently only my brother) usually participate only in the feast and merry-making. That’s actually better though, since when the women get together and start weaving flowers we can be pretty silly!

On Beltane we will light the fire pit at sundown and have our feast followed by the ritual.

Our feast this year will include homemade breads (I have been learning to bake bread and will make a cranberry raisin pecan bread and a sun-dried tomato herb bread), oatcakes with honey and almonds, a slightly non-traditional spring risotto with peas and prosciutto as well as fresh fruits and nuts for dessert. Ale and mead are always served of course.

Since ours is a family celebration it is rather tame. We just celebrate the season, enjoy the great weather and feast.