Beltain or Beltaine is the Anglicized spelling of the Goidelic name for either the month of May or the festival held on the first day of May. In Irish it is Bealtaine in Scotish Gaelic Bealltainn and in Manz Gaelic Boaltinn or Boaldyn.
Beltaine was an ancient Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It marked the beginning of summer and was linked to similar festivals held elsewhere in Europe, such as the Welsh Calan Mai and the Germanic Walpurgis Night. Beltaine and Samhain were the leading terminal dates of the civil year in medieval Ireland, though the latter festival was the more important. It is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun's progress between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The astronomical date for this midpoint is nearer to 5th May or 7th May, but this can vary from year to year.
Belaine regained popularity during the Celtic Revival and is still observed as a cultural festival by some in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and among their diasporas (Jews living outside Israel). Today Beltaine is also observed as a religious festival by Celtic neopagans. Wiccans adopted the name Beltaine for their May festival.
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The moon and all the other planets move across the night sky from right to left in the southern hemisphere and here in the northern hemisphere they move left to right. The seasons of the year are opposite whilst one hemisphere is having winter the other is experiencing summer. Therefore the dates of celebrations here in the northern hemisphere are opposite or six month apart from those in the southern hemisphere.
So we have Beltaine here in Australia today 31st October. In early Irish lore a number of significant events took place on Beltaine, which long remained the focus of folk traditions and tales in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Beltaine and Samhain were thought to be the critical periods when the bounds between the human and supernatural worlds were temporarily erased, witches and faeries roamed freely, and measures had to be taken against their enchantment.
Beltaine marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. It is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the light hearted bliss that only summer can bring.
Here in our backyard we are harvesting spinach, capsicum kale, parsley, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and celery. There is nothing like planting your own vegetable garden to get back in touch with nature and the seasons. The taste of the produce is so sweet and full compared to the supermarket products that are harvested too early to stop deterioration and then frozen for who knows how long before you purchase it and take it home to cook your meals.
|Our raised garden beds make gardening so much easier|
The maypole was popular in the more English influenced parts of the British Isles, especially Wales and Cornwall. On Beltaine Eve in Wales, country people of all ages headed for the woods singing songs and blowing loud horns. They felled a tall birch tree and hauled it back to the village on a wagon drawn by oxen. At sunrise, the young people decked their houses with the branches of May and the maypole was set up on the village green, bright with garlands of flowers and coloured bows, rosettes and ribbons. In Ireland, many households created a May bush to be their "Tree of Life" during this seasonal tide.
When we were in Europe in Marksburg Rheinstrabe Braubach Germany the village had a maypole standing proud in the centre square.
It is customary to bake a colourful fruit spiced bread for festivals in the Celtic lands, traditionally this festival bread is sweet dough made with sweetmeat and spices. In Scotland it is bannock a bread made the eve before Beltaine day, it is said that the bread should not be allowed to come into contact with steel during preparation as steel is harmful to the faery folk. Bannocks are actually uncut scones originally cooked on a griddle. Wheat does not grow in the highlands originally bannocks were made with oat and barley flour made into a dough with little water and no leavening. Traditionally a portion of the cake was burned or marked with ashes. The recipient of the burnt cake jumped over a small fire three times to purify and cleanse him or herself of any ill fortune. Offerings of bannock and drink are traditionally left on doorsteps and roadways for the Faeries as an offering, in hope of faery blessings.
Sensuality and sexuality is revitalised, the reawakening of the earth and her children. It is the time when we reawaken to the vivid colours, vibrant scents, tingling summer breezes, and the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter. It is a time of extraordinary expression of earth, animals, people a time of great enchantment and celebration.
Beltaine marks the handfasting (wedding) of the Goddess and the God, the reawakening of the earth's fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her Young Consort, this coupling bring new life on earth. It is on a spiritual level the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring forth the third consciousness. On the physical, it is the union of the Earth and Sun to bring about the fruitfulness of the growing season.
So in general Beltaine is a time of connection, of honouring the life, light and love in your life.