Last time I wrote a blog on a brief look at the Wheel of the Year and this blog I'm going to focus on one of the Sabbats celebrated in it. This blog is about Beltane.
As I hail from the Southern Hemisphere, I not long ago celebrated Beltane (which means bright fire). Beltane is one of eight solar holidays usually celebrated Oct 31 - Nov 1 for we Wiccans in the Southern Hemisphere, which differs quite dramatically from those of you in the Northern Hemisphere's May 1. It is one of the cross quarter days of the Wheel of the Year and as such it falls halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This is the reason that Beltane is celebrated at this time across these two hemispheres.
Both Beltane and Halloween/Samhain were liminal or threshold days, considered to be outside of normal time. These sacred, mystic days were more important than the solstices in the Celtic world view.
Beltane is at the opposite end of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, and we see the two holidays as complementary—one celebrates life, the other death. hubpages.com
The Wiccan celebration of Beltane has originated mostly from Celtic celebrations that marked the start of the summer season so it is a festival that welcomes in the summer after a long cold winter, the detachment between the light and the dark halves of the year. Each Sabbat is celebrated beginning and ending each sunset.
Another focus of this Sabbat is fertility and this is exemplified through the sacred union of the God and the Goddess. Celebrations include braiding of one's hair (to honour the union of man and woman and Goddess and God), circling the Maypole for fertility and jumping the Beltane fire for luck. Weaving is a common practice at Beltane as it is symbolic of when separate things are brought together to create a new and more balanced whole.
Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. The Beltane Bonfires have long been thought to bring fertility to crops, homes and livestock. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. Dance deosil (clockwise) around or between the fires for good luck and protection from sickness. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.Maypole
Historians believe the first maypole dance originated as part of Germanic pagan fertility rituals. Originally, the dancers danced around a living tree. To dance about the Maypole, dancers perform circle dances around a tall, garland-festooned pole. Dancers may also then move in a circle, each holding a colored ribbon attached to a much smaller pole. As they move around the pole, the dancers intertwine their ribbons either in a web around the pole or to plait it to the pole, itself. To unravel the ribbons, the dancers retrace their steps.
The Maypole is symbolic to fertility for its phallic status and the symbolism of all the young maidens dancing about the pole
Creiddylad, Welsh Goddess of Flowers and Love, is celebrated at this time. (Her name is pronounced cree-THIL-ahd)
It is said that at Beltane Gwyn ap Nudd, the King of the faeries of Glastonbury Tor, and god of the underworld, known as the Winter King, battles Gwythr ap Greidawl, the Summer King, over the hand of the maiden goddess Creiddylad. It is recorded that this was decreed by Arthur, but the tale of Gwyn and Gwythr predates Arthur by centuries, and it is one of many versions of the sacred and ritualised struggle between winter and summer. danuforest.co.uk
Creiddylad has been compared to the Greek springtime goddess Persephone, who is similarly abducted by an admirer (the underworld god Hades), rescued by an intervening character (Zeus), and reunited with her family (her mother Demeter), then cursed to repeat the experience every year. Here, the warrior duo's ritual battle for possession of Creiddylad may be understood as a version of the "Holly King" myth, possibly personifying the dynamic power struggle between summer and winter.
This is the point on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year when sexual energy is at its peak. The last, and ultimate, festival of spring, Beltane's Great Rite signals the climax of the intermingling God and Goddess (who may also be referred to as the May Queen and the Forest King). This culminates in the full rebirth of the Earth in summer's abundant blessings. wicca-spirituality.com
Beltane celebration is not complete without a proper feast. The best foods you can celebrate with are the ones honoring earth’s fertility. One might also take this chance to decorate their altar specifically with spring fruits, spring flowers, spring colours, red and white, fertility symbols, and fire - candles etc. To participate in weaving activities, floral crowns are a wonderful craft for this festival.