Beltane, May Eve
by Schatten


Paganism Sabbats

 

 

 


    On the eve of 30 April to 1 May, one of the four major Sabbaths of traditional witchcraft is celebrated. Together with Samahin, it is the most important night of the year. For the Celts it marked the beginning of summer, just as Samhain marked the beginning of winter. May is named after the goddess Maia (Bona Dea), goddess of spring and dawn. It would later become the month of the Virgin Mary.

The ancient Celtic name for this festival is Beltane or Beltaine: derived from the Irish Gaelic 'Bealtaine' and the Scottish Gaelic 'Bealtuinn', meaning fire of Bel, the Celtic god of light and fire (Bel, Belenos, Beli Mawr or Belinus). He was a god associated with the sun chariot which at this time brings a considerable increase in the hours of daily sunlight.

The Sabbath begins at sunset on the 30th of April. The Celts counted the days from sunset as night was the primary source of light.

On the eve of the festival, all the fires in the community were extinguished so that this element would be totally absent from the earth. At dawn they would climb the sacred mountain to ritually light the fire. The bonfire was made up of nine sacred logs, from which they lit other small ones that they used to drive the cattle through the smoke as a symbol of purification. The fire was believed to have healing properties, and witches dressed in the sky would jump over it to ensure protection and purification. Some villages also made cattle pass over the embers or between two bonfires as a ritual of protection and good luck.

Generally, the arrival of good weather and the safe passage of livestock to other pastures was celebrated.

 

 

 

 


   On Floralia, the Roman festival that began on 27 April and lasted until 3 May, the goddess Flora, another manifestation of Mother Earth along with Maia, Fauna and Ops, was worshipped. Cities were decorated with flowers and people wore flower wreaths and bright dresses.
  
Beltane is the festival of fertility. In ancient times, couples used to pick flowers and enjoy their getaway to the countryside to indulge their sexuality under the stars. The famous maypole is the phallic symbol par excellence. The ribbons woven around it by the dancers represent the vulva embracing the phallus. The union of heaven and earth and fertilisation through the lightning that passes through the stick as a catalyst. Thus we have the representation of the two energies necessary for creation, the masculine and the feminine. It is the perfect moment to recreate ourselves in the love of the gods and attract that passion into our lives.

In many countries the king and queen of May are still elected. The chosen ones represent the new generation and the sacred union of God and Goddess.
  
Walpurgis is the name given to this magical night in Germany. Legend has it that an abbess of the 13th century had extraordinary powers against the forces of evil, which were strongest on this night. She is considered to be the opposite incarnation of the pagan goddess Waldburg, mother of all witches. It is said that on this night the witches gather on a hill to celebrate the Sabbath.
 
The Irish often decorate trees around this time and dance in the open air to celebrate spring. In Assyria, bows were tied to the Tree of Life.

The Canaanite goddess Asherah was worshipped in the form of a tree at the Winter Solstice and on May Eve. Gifts for the poor were placed at her feet as a way of honouring her.

For neo-pagans, this is the night when the gods in their youthful guise share sexual desire. The Goddess will celebrate her pregnancy in Litha.


 
Correspondences:
 
Gems: citrine, amber, tiger's eye, rose quartz, emerald.
Food: red berries, rose tea, cinnamon tea, red wine, strawberries and cream.
Incense: rose, amber, ylang-ylang.
Flowers: lily, broom.
Colors: red and white (for semen and blood), happy colors such as green and yellow.
Amulets: necklaces, bracelets and crowns.
Activities: sacred sex or abstinence, braiding, making flower wreaths, sewing, weaving, protection rituals, lighting small fires and jumping over them....
Planet: Pluto.
Symbols: pentagram, circle, triangle.
Gods: Maia, Bel, Waldburg, Mary.