Celta tradition 2

Beltaine:The celebration of fertility

BELTAINE: The celebration of fertility

Beltaine is a time on the Wheel of the Year when summer begins and the dark times of winter finally eludes us.

The word Beltaine itself means „Bright Fire” from the name of the Celtic God „Bel” which means „the bright one” and the Gaelic word „teine” meaning fire.

It is a time of fertility, when earth energies are at their highest peak, and all life is bursting with power. Flowers and trees are blooming, sprouts and seedlings are appearing, crops are sown, everything turns into green, and the forests are alive again. Mother Earth is fertile once again.

Beltaine was not only a celebration of nature’s renewal and fertility, but fertility as a whole. It was about love, fire, vitality and new life.

Everything began with a beautiful love story between the Goddess of Spring, May Queen, and the Green Man, May King and their union in marriage. As the story goes, they were separated all winter long, they craved each other greatly until they were ready to unite. This union, this night is about love, sensuality, passion and joy.

Because of this earthly union of May Queen and May King, Beltaine is a very popular time for pagan weddings, or handfastings, a traditional betrothal for a year and a day after which the couple would either choose to stay together, or part with no remorse. These ceremonies were often unique, but included elements of current engagement services also, such as the exchange of rings and vows. Handfasting is the act of tying the knots around the groom and the bride’s hands in a figure of eight with a red ribbon and later unbinding. This act symbolises the unison of the two people and the untying means the free will of deciding their future commitment to each other.

Since Beltaine is a celebration of fertility, a Maypole dance was one of the main events of this festival. Maypole is a phallic pole that was often made from birch, and it was usually set at the next morning of the Bonfires. Men and women came to dance around the pole, the women wrapping colorful ribbons around the pole, which symbolized female energies wrapping themselves around the male form, while the men were going around the pole in the opposite direction. All men and women were holding the end of a ribbon. This weaving dance symbolized the union of the Goddess and God, and the Earth and the Sky.

The most important element of this tradition though was the Bonfire that was held on the night of May 1st honoring the sun’s light to nurture the emerging harvest and protect the community, the crops and the cattle. Special fires were lit that were deemed sacred, and the cattle were driven between two fires or around it, or made to leap over it for protection and fertility. People, especially couples were also jumping over the fire together to pledge themselves to each other, and to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility into their lives. Since they thought that the fire had protective powers, people also used the ashes to protect themselves and their homes by keeping a small amount in the house.

Besides the main elements there were protective rituals for both the natural and the supernatural, rituals for growth and rituals where they communicated with the spirit world, especially nature spirits as it was a time when the veils between dimensions were really thin. People were celebrating, drinking and making special foods and flower wreaths for the day, everything was dressed in colorful ribbons, and at dawn women would roll naked in the dew or wash their face with it. The dew was thought to increase sexual appeals and keep them young.

Beltaine is a very popular tradition celebrated even today. Brings people together and celebrates all renewal!


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