Beltane is almost upon us, May Day too. These celebrations are some of my favourite (I know, I say it about almost every one!), but this year things will be so different. There will be no gatherings, nor any May Day fetes. Won’t it feel strange? But then I suppose in this way, it fits in with the strange year we are having so far.
This isn’t going to be a rehashing of Beltane or May Day origins or associations for there are plenty of articles and essays that cover that subject but instead I hope to offer some suggestions that will help you celebrate and mark these days in your own way.
Beltane has it’s origins as a Celtic fire festival and so having a small fire is the perfect way of celebrating. If you have an outdoor space and a fire pit, happy days. Light a fire and have a beer or wine and make merry with your family. But if you don’t have somewhere you can safely have a fire, then candles are a must. Light candles and spread them around your room. Collect flowers and foliage (bring in the May) and decorate your area. Make some food, have some drinks and bring the party inside!
Here in the UK we are in lock down but we are allowed to take our exercise outside. Use this opportunity to go for a walk. If, as I do, you live in a rural town or the countryside then make the most of the land around you and lose yourself in nature, if only for a short while. If you have a local woods then perfect. For those who perhaps live in more urbanised areas then you can still go out. I always say nature abhors a vacuum so why not go out and rediscover those wild places where you live. Take notice of the trees, of flowers, of the beasts we share this world with. Build a relationship with nature, with the genius loci where you live.
At this time, the hawthorn trees are in blossom and their flowers are named after the month – May flower. On your walk gather a few blooms from these fairy trees and others beside and use them to decorate your altar, bringing in the May.
I love a good ritual and Beltane is a good time for workings for protection and for growth. Back in the day, farmers would drive their cattle between two fires to purify and protect them as they moved them out to pasture for the first time that year. Men would leap over the flames for luck, protection and prosperity while young women would do so in the hopes that they would have luck in love. Married women would leap the fire in the hope of increasing fertility and those already pregnant would circle the fire for protection in child birth and the hopes of a healthy baby. In this way then, spells and rituals for luck, prosperity, fertility and love are perfect to work at this time.
Candles are an easy way to incorporate fire into your working and not just as a nod to the elements. If you have a cauldron or fire proof bowl then making a small fire and burning herbs such as sage, rosemary and lavender is perfect. Create sacred space however your practice or tradition dictates and light the candles or the fire. On a piece of white paper, write your wishes, dreams and hopes for the future. Fold the paper and burn. When the fire has finished, go outside with the ashes and a food and drink offering. Sprinkle the ashes into the air and let the breeze carry them away. Leave your food offering and pour a libation to the land.
Another one of my favourites is to set up your ritual space. Take a pot of soil and seeds of your choice (choose hardy or fast growing seed that will last until the autumn. Nasturtium are a great choice). Write your wants or wishes on paper and bury it towards the very bottom of your pot. Then sow the seeds and utter some words such as:
”These seeds and my dreams I do sow
And with my care they shall grow.
Flowers bloom and my dreams do flower,
What I grow shall empower!”
Then simply take care of your plants and work towards making what you want a reality.
So there you go, just some of my thoughts on Beltane and May Day. However you celebrate the turning of the wheel and the cycle of the seasons, make merry and have a good time. I leave you with this traditional May Day Rhyme:
Thus the Robin and the Thrush
Musicke make in every bush
While they charm their prety notes
Young men hurle up maidens cotes.