Spring Fever: Beltaine Celebrates The Lust For Life ~
Beltaine is one of eight solar Sabbats. The observation in this time often incorporates traditions from the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, and bears relation as well to the Nordic/Teutonic/Germanic Walpurgis and Saxon May Day festivals, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as May pole dancing). Some celebrate this holiday on May 1 or May Day, whiles others begin their observations the eve before or April 30th.
Beltaine has long been observed with varied feasts and rituals and is one festival among many worldwide which recognizes this time of year. The name itself is thought to mean “Fire of Bel”. As spring turns into summer and the plant and animal world blossom and reproduce - a hopeful feeling emerged among the ancients. It is surmised that in old Celtic traditions, this was a time of what today could be called ‘unbridled’ sexual freedom. Handfastings of a year and a day could be undertaken at this time. Given knowledge of Celtic sexuality it is speculated by some that expression at Beltaine may also have included liaisons of various natures not exclusively ‘heterosexual’ in definition.
Belenos (Bel, Belenus, Belinos) is one of the most ancient and widely worshipped of the Celtic deities and generally was associated with pastoralism, virilism & fertility. He is celebrated at this time where his coronation is observed. He heralds the beginning of warmer weather, the blossoming of flora, birth of fauna, love & erotic expression and brought on an exuberant,-even lustful- mood among celebrants.
Beltaine was one festival involving fire and its associated puritive qualities seen in many aspects and elements of the observation often leading people of later times to identify Bel as a solar deity. In the past, young people would spend the entire night in the woods “A-Maying,” and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Later on, older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magical time for wild water - dew (from Hawthorn trees particularly), flowing streams and springs) may be collected and used to bathe in for beauty or to drink for health. The May pole was a focal point of the old village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. People traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their potentially scantily clad bodies.
Beltaine marks the return of vitality, virility, fertility and passion and in many ways is a time representative of the male aspect - the God. Pagan traditions say that Beltaine recognizes the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms - and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God and to celebrate, a wedding feast was prepared. Modern interpretations may see it as a time for both the male and female aspect within each person to be celebrated and held in unity…