May Day, Beltane,
Author's Note:Although Beltane is now usually celebrated from sundown April 30th to sundown on the first of May, it should be noted that in earlier times, before the calendar changes of 1752, all dates year-round would have come some days later -- precious extra days, in springtide especially, during which time the hawthorn ("mayflower") and many more trees and flowers would have begun blooming.
In creating this page, I wanted to suggest a soft, chilly late April twilight, a sense of heather and lavender, a between-the-worlds quality of expectation, a quietness before the full glory of summer yet ahead. Beltane's fires mark the bright half of the year, and although it lies in what we (in the northern hemisphere) consider the spring of the year, it actually marks the start of summer (whose middle point will be celebrated at "Midsummer" in June).........
[Added 28 April 2000]: From Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM, the erudite "Weather Doctor" (whose pages appear frequently on my site), comes this engrossing, lucidly written essay, complete with a chart, on May Day as the beginning of "solar summer" (which is why summer solstice is still called "midsummer" in many areas, just as winter solstice is "midwinter"). As always, Dr. Heidorn gives a wonderful sense of the science as well as the mystery of each season. (Here's his home page: http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/doctor.htm -- the site is well worth exploring in depth.)http://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/crossquartermay.html
[Added 11 April 2000]: The educational Clark Foundation in Utah offers this essay by Von Del Chamberlain on Beltane: he gives worldwide, cross-cultural (including Native American) solar/astronomical perspectives as well as folkloric ones. The data is excellent and written engagingly.ftp://ftp.lysator.liu.se/pub/religion/neopagan/Rituals/Holidays/Beltane/nichols_about
[Annotation expanded 28 April 2002]: This is a literate and fascinating essay, "A Celebration of May Day," by Mike Nichols. Like all his other well known writings on paganism, the work is rich, blunt, and filled with a lively sense of history. Here's an excerpt on other names for May Day:http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/mayday.html...Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain ('opposite Samhain'), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church's name). This last came from Church Fathers who were hoping to shift the common people's allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham - symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross - Roman instrument of death)....On the date itself:...This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Bull, one of the 'tetramorph' figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers....Written with flair and with great quotes from songs and poetry, Nichols shares with us the celebration's history (including the role of horrified Puritans who put a stop to Maypoles and skyclad May queens). He mentions an "old" date of around May 5, calculated astrologically (also see Herne's site below). There are many traditions around this high-spirited Beltane season and it's always a pleasure to learn more about them. This essay is a perfect starting point.(Updated 29 April 2010: Note: the site loads from an academic site in Sweden and sometimes takes awhile -- be patient -- it's worth it. Meanwhile, here's an alternate:
Children in the early 1900s dancing round a maypole on May Day
[Added 11 April 2000]:Waverly Fitzgerald's huge "School of the Seasons" is one my favorite sites -- her wonderfully thorough page on Beltane (with a great opening a-Maying illustration) will show you why: she covers everything, including ancient celebrations, Queen Gwynevere going a-Maying, Puritan attitudes, and present day ways of honoring the day (including a celebration for those who are celibate). She quotes from old texts on May Day, May Poles, May Queens, May Dew, and the like, and then adds her own insightful comments -- and she always provides a list of solid sources and references at the end of her pages. The lore and information are splendid. Here, for example, is what she shares about children born of May Day matings:...The children of May marriages were often called Jackson, Hodson or Robinson since they were the children of the Jack in the Green, Hod (a woodland sprite) or Robin Goodfellow (or Robin Hood, another form of the Green Man)....
[Added 27 April 2002]: This about.com page is called The Merrie May: The History of Beltane, May Day, and Everything in Between. It looks at May Day as a combination of ancient Roman sexual festivals as well as Celtic fertility festivals. Here's an excerpt:
http://www.celticspirit.org/beltaine.htm: [URL updated 1 May 2007]...With the Roman invasions of Western Europe and Britain, much of the symbolism and rites of the Floralia and Beltane became entwined -- eventually becoming the holiday we now call May Day or Walpurgis. The custom of going 'a-maying', collecting flowers, greenery and the maypole early on the morning of May 1, survives virtually intact to this day, as do the balefires in Britain, Germany and other countries of Europe. The sexual aspect of the holiday, however, has become almost extinct in many countries. The festivities were viewed as sinful by some Christian leaders, and in 1644 the celebration was banned by the Puritan-controlled Parliament in Britain....There are good hypertext links for those wishing to explore further.
[Added 29 April 2001]: From author Mara Freeman comes this handsome (but too brief!) site on Beltane:http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/beltane.htm...When the Druids and their successors raised the Beltane fires on hilltops throughout the British Isles on May Eve, they were performing a real act of magic, for the fires were lit in order to bring the sun’s light down to earth. In Scotland, every fire in the household was extinguished, and the great fires were lit from the need-fire which was kindled by 3 times 3 men using wood from the nine sacred trees. When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of the light over the dark half of the year.Freeman first looks at old traditions connected with the day and then offers a handful of interesting suggestions for celebrating Beltane today -- for example:
Then the whole hillside came alive as people thrust brands into the newly roaring flames and whirled them about their heads in imitation of the circling of the sun....When the sun rose that dawn, those who had stayed up to watch it might see it whirl three times upon the horizon before leaping up in all its summer glory.......Beltane is one of the three "spirit-nights" of the year when the faeries can be seen. At dusk, twist a rowan sprig into a ring and look through it, and you may see them....
[This link dates from the beginning of this page in 1999. Annotation revised, 27 April 2004, to reflect Herne's passing]: From the late Herne, who with his colleague, Akasha, wrote seasonal essays as well as rituals forThe Celtic Connection, comes this lively and graceful little essay on the history and traditions surrounding Beltane. He comments:http://www.mystical-www.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=176:...The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole -- namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar, this was celebrated as 'Roodmas'. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or 'Walpurgisnacht'. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens....Although Akasha also writes superb rituals for each pagan celebration, there isn't one yet for Beltane. If one becomes available, I'll add its link to this page.
[Added 12 April 2000]:This is a page from the Mystical World Wide Web on the meanings, lore, history, and deities connected with the month of May in general. Although no sources are given, the information is good.http://www.webofoz.org/heritage/Beltane.shtml
[Added 27-8 April 2004]: From Web of Oz comes "Heritage of Beltane" by Lark, a lyrical paean to the many goddesses and celebrations of May. She concludes with Iris:http://www.witchvox.com/holidays/beltaine/beltainehistory.html...After the rains of April, Iris brings the rainbow. Fleet-footed messenger of the gods, she exceeds Hermes in speed and grace. Daughter of Wonder, sister of the Harpies, mother of Love by the West Wind, she displays the colors of the seven planets. Iris is the Angelos, the messenger who speaks directly to the soul, the bright aspect of Hekate. She prepares Hera's bridal bed. She is the color of your eyes. She is Maya, the source of waters from on high. She is Kore and Shakti and Strength in the Tarot deck, binding the Nemean lion with her girdle of flowers. Swift as thought, she binds earth to sky with ribbons of light.
[Added 29 April 2001]:From the Witches' Voice (one of the best pagan sites out there) comes a wonderful, satisfyingly lengthy essay, "You Call it May Day, We Call it Beltane," by Peg Aloi. It begins with Aloi's own sweetly youthful memories of May Day and then leisurely explores far older customs. The style is light, the writing very well-researched (with references at the end). Here's one passage:http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20010412015633/http://www.fire-eye.org/12.html: [Updated 5/1/07 & 4/27/11]...Just before dawn, villagers would process with their animals up the hillsides to the highest point where fires would be kindled and relit for people to see for miles around. It was also traditional to build these fires out of nine of the sacred woods from Druidic folklore, including oak, ash, thorn, rowan, apple, birch, alder, maple, elm, gorse, holly, hawthorn, and others.Her concluding paragraph on Aphrodite is stunning and lyrical -- don't miss it.
The bonfires were lit so that a narrow passage existed between two fires, so that cattle and other livestock could be led between the fires, to purify them from disease or sterility for the coming year. Torches of dried sedge, gorse or heather were also lit and carried around remaining flocks or stables, to further purify the air....
From a Celtic site focused on herds and flocks: Beltane Blessing
"A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast."
[25 April 2002 & 25 March 2003: this site is still focused on 2001. Regardless, the world's attitude toward animals as "things" has changed little and these insights remain relevant. Thus, I'm keeping both the link and my annotation.]
[Added 29 April 2001]: This essay, again from Peg Aloi, touches upon one of the main themes of Beltane: protecting the herds by driving them between two great and sacred bonfires. This spring of 2001, because of foot and mouth disease, fire itself has been violated by its use in smoldering pyres consuming more than two million corpses of cattle, sheep, and pigs (it takes three days to burn each batch of bodies in the open air; no one knows what toxic dangers lurk in the billowing black smoke).Through the Sacred Fires: the Animals of Beltane
In Ireland, the Fire-Eye organization hopes to light Beltane bonfires on the ancient hills to invoke larger protection and healing for all the animals. They ask the rest of us, worldwide, to join in this vigil with candles:...*Light a Bealtine Candle. From April 27 through May 1, place a light in your window to signify your solidarity with the animals and those who tend them. The soft flame of a candle is a tiny echo of those ancient blazes (for safety reasons you may wish to use an electric light)....In case plans have to be cancelled in Ireland due to further danger of infection, the site wisely offers this suggestion (see http://web.archive.org/web/20030803111639/http://www.fire-eye.org/11.html):...In ancient times, the physical light passing from hillside to hillside was a great and potent symbol of a rebirth of hope and life each spring. We do not need the physical symbol to know that the light of spiritual consciousness throughout this world has been re-lit in our hearts. Every person who has been moved by the image of Ireland unified in a web of light has already participated in the Great Re-Lighting. We hope that the danger to the herds has passed and the physical re-lighting will take place. But if we cannot walk to the top of physical hills, we will celebrate the healing ceremonies in another form....[Note: for more on issues related to foot and mouth, see my Earth Day 2001 page as well as my Of Cows & Madness essay.]
[Added 30 April 2004]: This is a new and lengthy essay I've written that explores our treatment of animals in light of how they were once honored at Beltane. A special focus is on factory farms and practices that lead to Mad Cow Disease and create living deaths for dairy cattle confined in large barracks.http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usma&c=holidays&id=2765
The Pleiades at Beltane
[Click on this image at the above site and the gorgeous view will fill your screen.]
[Added 17 April 2008]: Again from Witches Voice (see above), comes another great essay, this time by the lyrical Christina Aubin, dating from 2000. Here are some excerpts from her lengthy work -- I especially love the Pleiades connection, which I haven't seen elsewhere:http://pagaian.org/essays/beltanesamhain-earthgaia... At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon, whereas winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise.[I am deleting a lengthy, fine mythic section, but here is the bottom-line, referring to how vulnerable this season is]:
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of "no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of "no time"....
... When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse's bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since....
... The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter's end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation....
... Beltane, however, is still a precarious time, the crops are still very young and tender, susceptible to frost and blight....... This myth illustrates the precariousness of the Beltane season, at the threshold of Summer, the earth awakening, winter can still reach its long arm in and snatch the Sun away (Gwri of the Golden hair). "Ne'er cast a clout 'til May be out" (clout: Old English for cloth/clothing). If indeed the return of summer is true than the trouble (winter) is certainly over, however one must be vigilant....[Here is a fine section on the role of the Maypole]:... The Maypole dance as an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to the earth. The pole itself is not only phallic in symbolism but also is the connector of the three worlds. Dancing the Maypole during Beltane is magical experience as it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when these gateways are more easily penetrable. As people gaily dance around and around the pole holding the brightly colored ribbons, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth's womb, bringing about Her full awakening and fruitfulness....[On May weddings]:... May, however, according to old folklore is not a favorable time for marriages in the legal and permanent sense. There is reference after reference in the old books of this belief, and according to my Irish grandmother, May is not the month to marry, woe is to had by those who do. I can understand the premise of this folklore, May is the Goddess and God's handfasting month, all honor would be Hers and His....[Her concluding comments]:... Beltane is rich in vibrant color, lighting the eyes and cheering the Spirit as we leave the dreariness of winter behind....May is the month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and Her Children. It is the time when we reawaken to the vivid colors, vibrant scents, tingling summer breezes, and the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter. It is a time of extraordinary expression of earth, animal, and person a time of great enchantment and celebration....It is the child's unrestrained expression of bliss and delight that is what Beltane is all about. It is the sheer joy of running through fields, picking flowers, rapturing in the sunlight, delighting in the fragrance of spring, dancing in the fresh dew covered grass. Our children guide us through the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities and show us how to take grand pleasure, warmth and bliss from the gift of Beltane.
The May Queen and the Green Man
by Julia Jeffrey
Also from: Songs from the Forest
[Added 30 April 2009]: I fell in love with this page when I recently read its first two paragraphs -- it is "Beltane/Samhain: The Sacred Reciprocity of EarthGaia," a beautiful, insightful, vivid essay from Australian scholar, Glenys Livingstone. (It should be noted that when the Northern Hemisphere celebrates Beltane, the Southern Hemisphere celebrates Samhain -- both, in other words, are being celebrated at the same time. I've long known this intellectually, but the author really deepens this awareness as she brings this extraordinary pairing to life.) Here are her first two paragraphs:
It is Beltane in the Southern Hemisphere, the season of celebrating sweet desire for being – the “glue” of the Cosmos, the primordial attractive activity that holds all form together and allows the dance of life, the composition. In the Northern Hemisphere it is Samhain, the season of celebrating the falling apart of all form – the de-composition, the magic of the space between the old and the new, the ferment seething with possibility that allows the transformation of death.Here are several additional excerpts:
Both Seasonal Moments are times when it is said that “the veil is thin that divides the worlds”. These particular cross-quarter Moments, High Spring and Deep Autumn, just prior to the fullness of light or dark at the Solstices, have traditionally been times of high revelry celebrating a wild fertile space – one a genetic fertility, the other a trans-genetic/imaginal fertility1. This deep excitement, a deep allurement, seems to characterize the “thinness of the veils”, which is a kind of intimacy with our place. Perhaps the sacred depths – the end – of Desire is a recognition that form and formlessness, the realms of manifest and manifesting, are actually continuous … there is no seam that separates the worlds. The seams that we sense are soft, all is constantly in flux. As Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky expressed it early last century:At each moment there are a hundred million million tons of living matter in the biosphere, always in a state of movement. The mass is decomposed, forms itself anew … Generations are thus born at intervals of time from ten minutes to hundreds of years …through death, birth, metabolism and growth … unceasingly2....... Where in fact, do we make the cut between self and other, animate and inanimate, human and habitat, earth and cosmos. Nothing seems to be exempt from the dynamic of relationship – which is essentially an energetic flow, a preternatural fundamental dynamic, of coming into being and passing away, of singularity and yet ever trans-forming. These dynamics are our constant companions – in an everyday way, and ultimately. And perhaps the Universe Herself as a whole entity is subject to the same dynamics. Some indigenous religious traditions have stories of the whole Cosmos coming into being and passing away, and regenerating. And recent Western scientific research supports this too: “an ageless and self-renewing Universe” whose stars – even ancient ones – are “like short-lived fireflies in the grand scheme of things11.” The flux of being appears to be re-iterated at all scales....
...Beltane is a celebration of the Event of Life – the flame ever dancing and changing form, and the Holy Desire that brings it into being: and yet is also a desire for immersion, for union. Samhain is a celebration of the Trans-form, the space that is a ferment mercifully breaking down the old, and the power to conceive the new – the deep desire for renewal, for creation, dreamed up in the imaginal and non-visible realms. The Sabbats mirror each other, feed each other. Both celebrate an Erotic relationship with our place, this Earth and Cosmos, a deep attraction to knowing that we are Her, and desire Her. ... From all eternity the Beloved unveiled Her beauty in the solitude of the unseen. She held up the mirror to Her own face. She displayed Her loveliness to Herself. … all was One. There was no duality, no pretence of “mine” or “thine15”....
http://www.ladywoods.org/beltane.htm...Samhain is an excellent Seasonal Moment for becoming conscious of participation in the evolution of consciousness, for fashioning a myth/story that will be of service to our time. It seems that our times call for the casting away of the old in a radical way. Samhain ritual processes may facilitate such possibility.As an added benefit, the author has a fine eye for quotes -- for example:
Beltane is an excellent Seasonal Moment for becoming conscious of what we most deeply desire, for becoming conscious of desire itself as a power of the universe19 – as a Holy Lust for birthing the new, a Holy Lust for ongoing Creativity. Beltane ritual processes may facilitate such integrity.
The magic of both Moments being celebrated at the same time on GaiaEarth is new in our time – Her whole body is the sacred site for these stories20 … what may we sing up?In a recent interview cosmologist Brian Swimme gave a short version of the whole story of evolution: he said: “You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes, and humans.”The essay is also carefully footnoted, something I always appreciate <smile>.
Beltane Rites: The Council of Cernunnos
[Added 17 April 2008]:From the coven of Our Lady of the Woods, a Wiccan group based in New Mexico, comes this strong, sensible, wise, footnoted essay by Merlyn. Here are excerpts:Beltane is the Sex Sabbat just as Samhain, held six months hence, is the Death Sabbat. All other Beltane (also called May Eve or Walpurgis Night) customs are minor compared with those that explicitly celebrate human sex and fertility. Up to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, marriage vows were conveniently forgotten at Beltane in many rural European villages. Newly formed 'couples' went into the plowed fields at night to lie down together and copulate in order to ensure the fertility of the coming year's crops. The Catholic Church could not stamp out this ancient pagan tradition. It took the dour Protestants who suppressed May Eve celebrations in England by passing and enforcing laws against public gatherings around Maypoles with their accompanying dances and fertility rites....
... It is worth asking if celebrating Beltane as the ancient Pagans and their Catholic descendants did over a span of several thousand years is an appropriate custom for modern Neo-Pagans. Other ancient pagan customs deemed too crude or at odds with our modern post-Christian Humanist values have been ignored by the Neo-Pagan movement. These include human sacrifice (universally illegal), animal sacrifice, and self-castration by the priests of certain ancient Goddess Cults including those of Attis and Cybele.
Three characteristics of the 1990s provide rational and non-moralistic arguments against having random sex, even for a brief time each year at Beltane. These are widespread personal alienation, the continuing spread of AIDS, and the world's ever increasing population (now doubling roughly once every 30 years)....
Demanding that a new partner either uses a condom or does not touch you requires tremendous resolve for people of all ages. Saying 'no' may mean the immediate end to the budding relationship that you avidly sought. Still the fear of AIDS and pregnancy could be dismissed if most people actually began to practice safe sex or abstained from having sex with recalcitrant partners.
The question of personal alienation raises a much larger objection to random sex at Beltane. Many people are deeply unhappy today, because they are alone. The reason they are alone is that they have systematically destroyed all potentially meaningful relationships with family, friends, and partners. If you use others only to satisfy your desires, i.e. treat them like a bottle of wine to be consumed and discarded, your lovers and friends will respond in kind toward you....
http://www.applewarrior.com/celticwell/ejournal/beltane/about_beltane.htmHowever, if at Beltane you find yourself in a place in life where you are free from all commitments and you are in a mood to explore, then having "safe sex" with interesting strangers may be appropriate.
In summary, remember to look before you leap at Beltane. Jumping prematurely into a sexual relationship can have lasting negative consequences just as bad as falling into the Beltane Fire. Make the Spring fertility rites of Beltane work for you. Plan to have sex with your partner as part of your own private Beltane celebration. Soft beds inside are just as good a place to celebrate as is the hard ground outside. One reason the European peasants coupled in the fields was because they lived in huts crowded with other family members. Today we each select those ancient rituals that have meaning for us. We, as individuals and not some religious elders, should decide how we will celebrate the Sabbats. To do otherwise would be to ignore the guidance provided by the Deep Self or immanent divinity residing within each of our Sacred Selves.
Artist: John Collier, 1900
[Added 17 April 2008]: From "Apple Warrior's" e-journal, Celtic Well, comes another excellent, lengthy, footnoted essay, rich in lore and scholarship, "Bealtaine: Time of Warmth and Growth," by Francine Nicholson. Several sections on the habits and needs of domesticated animals are valuable for the unique way in which they relate to year-long "Wheel of the Year" themes. Here are a few addtitional excerpts from this essay:http://www.applewarrior.com/celticworld/celticyear/bealtaine.html...Family Only Allowed
Avoidance of strangers and refusal of requests to share from neighbors were a hallmark of Bealtaine. Although the Celtic community ethic was usually one of generosity and hospitality, on Bealtaine to share was to risk having one’s share of prosperity stolen by an unscrupulous neighbor or Otherworld being. In general, Bealtaine was a time to guard one’s luck and belongings against magical theft.
Omens of the Quarter
In general, it was thought that the fortunes of May Eve and May Day were good indicators for the coming quarter. Generally, this was determined by simple observation, but taking omens for the coming quarter was a Bealtaine custom, too. Like the other feasts, Bealtaine was a border in the fabric of time, a place where the edges gave way and let powerful forces seep through. While it made Bealtaine a time to be careful about assault by Otherworldly powers or by a human attempting to wield them, it also made Bealtaine a good time to seek knowledge from the Otherworld....
...The Lusty Month of May
Much of ancient Celtic magic was sympathetic, meaning that actions were performed to simulate the desired result. May was the time to encourage the untamed forces of nature to expand their power and cause crops, animals, and people to grow and reproduce abundantly. Couplings among unmarried partners, often outdoors or in wooded areas, was one way to encourage this result, but it was considered unlucky to marry at this time of disorder....
Underlying the ancient Celtic worldview was an assumption that we moderns are only beginning to acknowledge: the ability of this world to sustain life is limited. Because the daily lives of the ancient and medieval Celts were more directly and obviously affected by natural cycles, they were more aware of a basic fact: it is necessary for some inhabitants of this world to die and return their energy to the source so that others will be able to survive on this world's limited resources.
Usually, Samhain is the time when modern Celtic pagans stop to evaluate our lives, discard what no longer works, and bring closure to the losses we have experienced. Bealtaine is usually when we focus on the new, the fresh, the energetic, the pleasurable. However, new crops grow best when the land is first cleared of the dead vegetation from previous seasons. Indeed, the essential imagery of Bealtaine and its place in the ancient Celtic calendar both acknowledge that winter must precede summer, dark comes before light, cold before warmth, night before day, death before growth. The hearth fires, the ever-burning heart and pulse of traditional Celtic homes, were uniformly extinguished before Bealtaine began at sundown. Time was taken to mark the passing of the old in place of which the new was about to begin, or, as one pop song puts it, "Every new beginning is some other beginning’s end."
Not everything or everyone survives the winter, and a fit way to prepare for the celebrations of Bealtaine may be to pause, evaluate our lives, identify the "dead wood" that keeps us from growing, and attempt to clear it. Then, in the darkness we can come together to kindle the fire, the light, the warmth that will energize and empower both the earth and us to grow under the gaze and protection of the Shining One....
[Added 27 April 2011]: This is another "Apple Warrior" link, more of an overview than its preceding link.http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=5344&pst=1280583
[Added 27 April 2011]: This site replicates some of the "Apple Warrior" data but also includes some great recipes for Beltane foods.http://www.virtualvienna.net/main/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=381:[Link updated 4/29/10]
[Added 28 April 2002]: This is "The Origins & Traditions of Mayday" by Eugene W. Plawiuk -- he looks at many earlier traditions from Europe but his special focus is on how the day became associated with workers and labor unions. Here's an excerpt:http://www.passiondiscs.co.uk/e_pages/balkan_e/fa-057-2.htm: [New link: 29 April 2010]...Our modern celebration of Mayday as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle for the eight hour day in 1886. May 1, 1886 saw national strikes in the United States and Canada for an eight hour day called by the Knights of Labour. In Chicago police attacked striking workers killing six....
I've found the above new link that goes only to “Tir na nOg” by Bran -- an album I originally found to be one of the best when I first played some of its online selections in 2004. I seem to be obsessed with trying to find these unusual seasonal music links. Soooo, I'll leave my comments and the links below as "breadcrumbs," just in case, because these sites do have an odd way of eventually reappearing. FYI: as of April 2012, my Links-Elf, Michaela, tells me no audio files are available at these links:
[Added 27-28 April 2004]: From Xeno Music, "Music without Borders," comes a good general survey of Beltane practices -- but what is unique to this site are a handful of links to springtime music from a number of ethnic sources.
and http://web.archive.org/web/20040604042113/http://www.xenomusic.com/mp3.phtml?CModule=Album&CIndex=10000094Update 17 April 2008: One of the best music links, Tir Na Nog, wouldn't load in one place but did load in another.
Update 30 April 2009: Note from my Links-Elf, Michaela: "It appears that Xeno music is gone; at least the NYC parent – Intermusic Publications – is. And as near as I can tell, all of the music linked is from the music that the company was promoting so won’t be available now. “Tir na nOg,” the album by Bran, is no longer produced but looks worthwhile if one could ever find a used CD.
Update 29 April 2010: From Michaela: NOTE: This one is gone and I couldn’t find a web archive replacement that’s worth the time it takes to load.
Facebook: Wisteria -- source unknown, but photo sent to me by my friend, Kathy Robles
MAY DAY RITUALS,
and MAY WINE
http://web.archive.org/web/20040206093414/http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/2803/rituals/ritual_beltane.htm:[Added 11 April 2000]: This page from Taliesin's Realm offers three well chosen Beltane rituals: the third one by Rae Beth, the other two by unknown authors. [Note: scroll past the obnoxious Yahoo ad and it'll vanish; then you can scroll back up to read what it was covering up.] The first ritual (author unknown), "Alternative MayPole Celebration For Solitaries," I found especially interesting because of its tree-focus:[4/27/04: original geocities.com link is now dead but I'm keeping my annotation -- fortunately, I have much of the Maypole/Ribbon ritual saved elsewhere and have posted a link to it at: BELTANE/MAY DAY RIBBON RITUAL. 5/1/07: Found!! Web Archive link located & I've added it here, as of 1 May 2007. So you can ignore this original entry except for the Ribbon Ritual link, which remains valid. 4/17/08: the Web Archive link can be really quirky -- sometimes loads, sometimes not. Please be patient! FYI: as a precaution, both Michaela and I have copied and pasted all the data into separate files. If you really need it, let me know you want the "Rae Beth et al" file. If enough ask for it, I'll upload a new page and link it here.]
http://www.ladybridget.com/r/mayi001.html...The idea here is that you (your body) symbolically becomes the Maypole/shamanistic tree--that you see yourself as the shaman on the tree (in your body), able to bring forth a variety of things from the Otherworld into manifestation here on Earth....The ritual involves braiding long ribbons (as long as the length of your own body) in colors chosen to represent what you wish to "bind" to yourself at this time in your life. I like both the tone and the details of this ritual and will add it to my own May Day celebrations.
[Added 27-28 April 2004]: This is Lady Bridget's "Beltane Introduction," a breezy, interesting explanation of a number of Beltane practices, especially those surrounding the Maypole. Here's an excerpt:http://www.widdershins.org/vol2iss1/b9604.htm...To start the dance, have all the people facing deosil raise their ribbons and the people going widdershins will go under them. Then the widdershins group will raise their ribbons and the deosil group will go under them. So it continues, over and under, over and under, as you progress around the pole. Very quickly a beautiful pattern will emerge, as these bright ribbons are woven together. Don't worry if people forget which way they were supposed to go, this often happens when you have first time dancers, or an uneven number of people, someone is bound to go under when they should have gone over, no matter. It is the enjoyment of the dance that matters most, not whether the weave comes out perfect, and no one can tell the difference anyway!....
[Added 27-28 April 2004]:This is "Raise High the Maypole," an essay by Maren M. Ulberg, that takes a leisurely look at Maypoles, wells, sacrifice, and many cross-cultural deities of the season. Here is one lovely look at Maypoles from near the end of this article:http://web.archive.org/web/20011222065922/http://pagans.org/~firerose/beltane1.htm:...As Beltaine falls, the second major dividing point of the Celtic year, opposite from Samhain, it is the other period when "the walls between the worlds are thinnest" and access to the other worlds is known to be easiest. When planted in the earth or sacrificed in wells, as done by the Druids, the Maypole becomes a shaman's path, the World Tree that connects the realms, by which we may travel. The Maypole or May Tree is a root of renewal; when we connect our bodies to it and whirl about, we form a sacred circle and cone of power; we literally become one with the tree and with each other. The Tree becomes our axis mundi, the center of the Great Wheel and time stopper, where other worlds meet....
[Link found on Web Archive and updated 1 May 2007. Ignore the following entry:25 March 2003: this page no longer exists but I'm keeping the annotation.]
[Added 27 April 2002]: From "Firerose" comes a lovely Beltane ritual. It is very, very brief and simple, yet eloquent. Here is how it opens:http://tuathadebrighid.com/Ritual/Good%20Folk%20Ritual%20Cycle/beltaine.htm:If possible, celebrate Beltane in a forest or near a living tree. If this is impossible, bring a small tree within the circle, preferably potted; it can be of any type.
Create a small token or charm in honour of the wedding of the Goddess and God to hang upon the tree. You can make several if you desire. These tokens can be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings, flower garlands - whatever your talents an imagination can conjure....
[Added 27-28 April 2004]:This is a tasteful, poetic, but definitely erotic ritual for two or more adults.ftp://ftp.lysator.liu.se/pub/religion/neopagan/Rituals/Holidays/Beltane/maywine
From the same Swedish collection as Nichols' essay (see above) come these simple and fast recipes for May Wine, without which no Beltane page would be complete.ftp://ftp.lysator.liu.se/pub/religion/neopagan/Rituals/Holidays/Beltane/oatcake_recipy
Also from this Swedish collection come recipes for traditional Beltane oat cakes.
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1999: 4 September 1999 (added music); 5-6 September 1999 (minor changes).
2000: 7 March 2000: checked all links & then linked this Beltane page to my new Spring 2000 page;
Nedstated on 3 April 2000; added 7 new links for 2000 between 11 & 12 April 2000;
28 April 2000; 12 May 2000.
2001: 29 April 2001 (checked all links -- only 1 was dead; added 3 new ones); 11 July 2001 (Ned3.0).
2002: 25 April 2002, 12:10am-1:30am (checked all links -- several dead -- still tracking them down);
27-28 April 2002: more reorganizing, updates & additions.
2003: 25 March 2003: links check; scuttled all about.com links as they've become too unreliable; added 6 ungrokked links.
2004: 27 April 2004: links check. Will try to get to last year's ungrokked links in a day or two;
2:20am, 28 April 2004 -- just finished adding those 5 ungrokked links from last year, so now I'm caught up at last! ----
1pm, well, no, not quite -- just made a special page for the vanished ribbon ritual link.
30 April 2004, 1:50am: added new link to my essay.
2007: 1 May 2007, 9pm EDT: thanks to my Links-Elf, Michaela, I've finally updated the 7 or 8 broken links
from earlier years (when I had no time to do this).
2008: 17 April 2008: deleted Nedstat counter after complaints from a devoted reader about more annoying pop-ups.
Thanks to my Links-Elf, Michaela, I also updated all broken or quirky links;
added 3 new links: Christina Aubin, Our Lady of the Woods, and Celtic Well pages.
2009: 30 April 2009, 10:35pm EDT: only one troublesome link this year -- the Xeno Music one;
I included Michaela's note about the company.
I also added one new link: Glenys Livingstone's lovely essay on Beltane/Samhain.
3 May 2009: I deleted the "Heather's Lullaby" music as it had developed a harsh glitch;
I then tried to insert Bjorn Lynne's lovely "The Faery Wood" but simply couldn't get it to work. So be it.
2010: 29 April 2010, 6:30pm-ish: did links update, thanks as always to Michaela.
2011: 27 April 2011, 3am: updated 1 link and added 2 more, tracked down by Michaela. All othes are fine.
Also slightly darkened the font color of all excerpts to make them easier to read.
2012: 30 April 2012. 9:10-10:25am EDT: updated 3 links for the page for this year.
Both Xeno "Music Without Borders" sites currently offer no audio access.
Much as I like the background for this page, it's always been difficult to find a dark enough color for excerpts.
So I finally increased the font size instead & also changed the color from maroon to purple.
Later, 4-8pm: selected 8 new images to join my opening Green Man image -- no idea why I never did this before!
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jenks7ATfrontierDOTcomIn Genesis, Noah was directed to rescue all species against a time of growing danger. We are again in such a time. I am suggesting that each of us is already a Noah's Ark filled with countless, unsuspected, interspecies lifetimes. This means we can be far more than sorrowing observers of animal exploitation and extinction. We can reconnect with our own secret wisdom, our own animal cunning, and join together to protect them -- and ourselves -- better....
. Explore Your Karmic Roots..
With memory, with the reflection of an echo,
a gate opens both ways. We can circle time....
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