Often spelled as Beltaine, Beltane is the ancient Celtic festival of the end of spring. I've written about Beltane on this blog in past years but here's a rehash of the essence of Beltane.
Beltane, the end of spring festival, is celebrated roughly half way between the Vernal equinox and the Summer Solstice. The festival traditionally marked the arrival of the summer, Beltane being one of the larger and more important Celtic festivals. Watch for the group of stars named The Pleiades when it rises just before dawn (sunrise) at Beltane.
Beltane heralds the world coming into the ‘Light part’- summer. Since our winter has been very lacking in snow and hard frosts (unusual in north-east Scotland) it’s hard to believe we’ve had that dark part of the year, except with regard to the dreariness of dull days of mist and rain and lots of high winds - of which we’ve had more than plenty. Warmer days post-Beltane will be most welcome. The idea of the sun returning to rule over the land provides a great image. The tiredness of the spirit is energised with the thought of better, sunnier days and celebrating a festival usually has its own cheeriness. A summer renewal is what the spirit needs to revive energy levels. In lands where the sun doesn’t shine for long periods or where cloud cover prevails makes SAD/ lack of sunlight deficiency more likely but Beltane is a wonderful festival to celebrate rejuvenation and look towards the light.
Building of Beltane fire features in my novel The Beltane Choice, the Celts paying homage to Bel (sun god) to bless and protect the tribe. By lighting fires in strategic rows for their animals to be herded through, it was a plea for Bel to protect their animals over the coming season and for them to be fertile before the summer grazing period began. The fires also burn away the blackness of winter and the warmth from the flames emulates what is to come from the summer sunshine.
It’s claimed that household fires would be extinguished and relit from the Beltane bonfires- though how old that tradition is, is an interesting one as is the practicality of it. The eve of Beltane (April 30th into 1st May) is one of the times of ‘no time’, when the veils between the worlds of the living and the dead intermingle, the other similar time being at Samhain (Oct 31st into Nov 1st). The Celts do appear to have been very superstitious people and the belief was that spirits could travel between the worlds during the transition periods before midnight on Beltane and Samhain. Rowan was used at the threshold for protection from wandering spirits.
Beltane daytime celebrations, dancing around the maypole and other festive events were retained throughout the centuries- the flower garlands a sign of the blossoming plant life and a show that the earth was waking up from the long winter. A time of birth and rebirth.
#Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series -The Beltane Choice- includes some aspects of Beltane. If you haven't yet read it you can grab an e-copy for ONLY 99p/99c on Amazon.