Celebrating Beltane

by Tracey Couto

Beltane is one of the four Celtic fire festivals of the year. It celebrates the union of the young Goddess and Solar God, fertility, and the return of life after the long, cold and desolate winter season. The veil between the Earth and spirit world is thin, just as it is at Samhain, giving us easier access to the messages from those on the Other Side, making magic more potent and the fairy world more visible. Beltane was traditionally celebrated at the end of April as a herald to the coming of summer and the pastoral season and the promise of fullness. But many modern Wicca traditions celebrate it on May 1 or May 5 when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of the fixed earth sign of Taurus.

Beltane means bright fire, and the bonfires lit for this festival represent the warmth of the Sun and its power to return life and fruitfulness to the soil. The Beltane bonfires are also associated with many magical and healing virtues. In ancient times, celebrants feasted, sang, danced and played games around the bonfires, while herds of cattle and livestock were driven between them as an act of purification and protection, to bring good fortune and to ensure safety and fertility. The bonfires were also believed to protect the land from evil forces so the crops would grow and thrive without interference. A small smoldering piece of the fire was carried to each person’s home to ensure summer blessings. Ashes considered to possess power from the sacred Beltane bonfires were carried in charm bags and also scattered over the fields to ensure fertility of the crops.

Another tradition of Beltane is the dance around the Maypole, a tall pole garlanded with greenery or flowers symbolizing the binding inner connection between all things and adorned with red and white ribbons that are attached at the top. The Maypole dance involves an alternation of male and female dancers weaving the ribbons into complex circular and spiral patterns with the purpose of raising the energy for procreation.

You too can celebrate the return of summer and the promise of abundance by indulging in your own private Beltane ritual. The one that follows is adapted from Springtime, Rituals, Lore and Celebration: Beltane by Raven Grimassi and A Year of Ritual: Sabbats & Esbats for Solitaries & Covens by Sandra Kynes. The ritual can be done anytime between April 30 and May 7.

A Beltane Ritual

What you’ll need

A flat surface or table top to serve as your altar, small bowl of water containing three pinches of salt, incense (such as sandalwood), a black and a green cloth, two white, one green and one pink candle, flowers and other decorations associated with spring, chalice or cup of sweet juice (such as peach nectar), sunflower seeds, a method of divination of your choice, a cauldron or pot of water and a coin.

Setting up your altar

Spread the black cloth over your tabletop or flat surface to symbolize the darkness of procreation from which all things manifest. Then place the green altar cloth on top to symbolize May or spring. Next place a white candle representing the Goddess at the upper left section and the other to symbolize the God at the upper right. Place the green candle directly in the center and arrange the other items somewhere on the altar. Adorn your altar with flowers and the other spring decorations.

The Ritual

Begin by sprinkling the altar with the saltwater. Light the incense and let the smoke pass through the air over the altar. As you do, speak your intent for this ritual and dedicate it to the May season and to the May Queen and King. Light the green candle and say:

I acknowledge and align with the forces of this May season. I am in Nature and Nature is within me. As the season grows to fullness from this day forward, so too do all my endeavors grow into a rich harvest to come. Beautiful Goddess of this May season, majestic God of this May season, I ask for your blessings upon this sacred space that I establish in your honor. At this joyous time I welcome the return of the Goddess, the Queen of May. With her coming, flowers bloom and life is renewed upon the Earth.

Light the pink candle and say:

Star light, star bright
I call the faeries forth tonight
Come and celebrate with me
Dance and sing, so mote it be.

Light the white candle on the right and say:

Prince Sun, lord of the dance, winter-born king, bring
forth your sacred seed of life. Be with me.

Light the white candle on the left and say:

Sweet Maiden, lady of the lake, queen of heaven and earth, receive the sacred seed of life. Be with me.

Now raise your chalice of sweet juice and say:

This is Beltane, a time to celebrate life, a time to create life, the Lord and Lady join as one. The Lord and Lady share the dance of life. The Lord and Lady share the kiss of life.

Kiss the rim of the chalice, then say:

I partake of the seed of life.

Take a sip from the chalice.

Now place your hands on the sides of the cauldron or pot of water, which is a symbol of the womb of the Goddess and place of transformation. Close your eyes, take a few relaxing breaths and make a wish about something that you would like to see materialize over the summer. When you are ready, take the coin in your hand and walk around the altar three times while whispering your wish. When you arrive back in front of the cauldron, drop the coin into the water, then dance and chant:

Holy well, enchanted land,
Take this coin from my hand.
With my wish now set free,
Make it real, so mote it be.

When it feels appropriate, slow your dancing and say:

May my joy, celebration and intention be carried out into the world. As above, so below.

Now it’s time to ask the Goddess through divination what your message is for the remainder of the spring season. Be sure to record this reading along with the messages that came through from Spirit on a piece of paper or on a tape recorder.

Extinguish the candles in reverse order and say:

Sweet maiden of May, thank you for your blessings and presence this night. Stay if you will; go if you must. I bid you farewell.

Lord of Life, thank you for your blessings and presence this night. Stay if you will; go if you must. I bid you farewell.

Precious faeries of Danu, thank you for your blessings and presence this night. Stay if you will; go if you must. I bid you farewell.

May the peace of the Goddess, God and the fairy realm remain in my heart. In faith and unity, blessed be.