The Festival of Bealtaine
Bealtaine is one of the most celebrated of all the ancient Celtic festivals, and is most commonly celebrated as May Day.
But in Ireland, and Scotland it is celebrated in the old style. The Bealtaine festival falls on the first day of May, and
is an agricultural, and pastoral celebration.
This celebrates the coming of summer, as the dark half is waned for another year. Bealtaine celebrates the flowers, trees,
and crops coming into full bloom, and the cows producing milk after coming out of their winter quarters.
One ancient Celtic custom of Bealtaine would have been to give arms to the young men of the clan, and the new weapons
would be named, and dedicated. Also oaths were sworn on weapons at this time.
The meaning of the word Bealtaine is somewhat diverse, however the Taine is undisputed by both the Irish, and the Scottish
as meaning fire. The first part of the word Beal is named after a God and is either Baals Fire or Bels Fire, another meaning
for this first part of the word was shining which comes from the Otherworld beings which shining in an old name for fairy
folk, and they were known as the shining ones. With this meaning for the first part of Bealtaine it would change the entire
meaning to Otherworld Fire or Brilliant Fire.
The High Kings Druid was responsible for lighting the Bealtaine Fire, and every other fire in Ireland would be lit from
this fire. This gives an indication that this was no ordinary bonfire, but rather it was one of the utmost importance. This
was not only true of the Druids but it was for the ordinary people as well.
The Bealtaine fire that was lit was split in two fires that were close together, and the beasts in the fields would get
driven between the fires to be purified before they were released into their summer pastures. Common people would leap over
the fires in an act of self-purification.
Bealtaine celebration is a very rejoicing one that is filled with merriment. It is the beginning of summer, and this is
the time for fruitfulness from the beasts, crops, rivers, and seas, along with the people. Bealtaine is also a time were the
High King is symbolically mated with the sovereignty of the land in order to ensure the fertility of everything. This is shown
today by the crowning of the May Queen.
Bealtaine has a very magical aspect, which can be seen through the descriptions of how the fire is lit. In Ireland all
the fires would be put out on the eve of the Bealtaine festival. Then on the day of the festival the fire would have to be
started by the use of fire, this was done by nine men using a fire drill, and they would keep it moving until enough heat
was created in order to start the fire. The drills were made up of nine different types of wood, which were collected from
nine trees, by nine men.
Another custom for Bealtaine is to wash the dew off on the May morning before the sun comes up. Young maidens who would
wash their faces with the glistening dew normally did this; this was for the aid in retaining their youthful beauty. In older
times the entire village would come out, sometimes naked so they could roll in the dew as an aid for health, and vigor. Dew
was also collected carefully and put into jars, and then the jars of dew would be placed in the sunlight for further purification.
This dew was considered to be an excellent remedy for just about every ailment.
Things associated with Bealtaine
The May Pole - This represents the male aspect in the Devine marriage between the Goddess, and the God. There is a wreath
of flowers at its point, which symbolizes the womb of the Goddess, and this lowers as the dancers braid the ribbons. The ribbons
are usually red, and white, this pattern represents the web of life, and the interweaving, and interdependence of each peace
with the whole represents the balance between masculine, and feminine Divine energy.
Hand fasting - This is the binding of a couple for a year, and a day. With modern times it can be the renewal of vows.
Sexual Energy - This is the reason for the season, and is sex, and sexuality. This is celebrating the joy of it. It is
also about fertility, and creativeness, and living a day just free of all inhibitions so that we can be true to our individual
Gods, and Goddesses;
The Goddess of maidens, love, fertility, song, dance, and the hunt. Aphrodite, Asherah, Belili, Bloddeuwedd, Bona Dea,
Brighid, Danu, Freya, Flora, Gwenhwyvar, Hina, Kwan Yin, Ishtar, Lada, Maia, Mary, Mawu, Oiwyn, Oshun, Ostara, Rauni, Sappha,
Spider Woman, Tonantzin, Vesta, and Xochiquetzal
The God of the hunt, fertility, love, and the young father Gods. Beltene, Cernunnous, Cupid, Manawyddan, and Pan
Asparagus, barley, butter, cheese, cherries, goat, honey, ice cream, wine, milk, oatmeal, rabbit, and strawberries
Bluebells, daisies, dogwood, daffodils, lilacs, marigolds, primrose, snapdragons, rose, and all yellow flowers
Apple, ash, birch, cedar, elder, grapevine, hawthorn, hemlock, holly, rowan, thorn, willow, and yew
Allheal, almond, thistle, broom, chamomile, coriander, curry, jasmine, marjoram, meadowsweet, mint, musk, paprika, peach,
rosemary, rue, tansy, vanilla, woodruff, yarrow, and ylang ylang
Beryl, bloodstones, copper, emerald, garnet, gold, malachite, rose quartz, saphire, and tourmaline
Angelica, benzoic, frankincense, geranium, lavender, lilac, myrrh, rose, vanilla
Cats, dove, goats, honeybees, leopards, lynx, Pegasus, rabbit, swallow, and swan
Green, red, yellow, and white