Beltane Festivities

Spring is in full swing, and we will be celebrating Beltane on May 1. What a joyous time of year! Beltane, Beltaine or Cetsamhain (means opposite Samhain) is a cross-quarter fire festival between Ostara, the beginning of spring and Litha, the first day of summer. It is instructive to look at what is across the Wheel of the Year, and we see Samhain in the midst of autumn. Beltane starts the Celtic season of light and is the beginning of summer. Samhain starts the Celtic season of dark and is the beginning of the season of winter. Once again when seasons begin and end depends on how you look at the world. Beltane is all about fertility. And why not? This is the time of year that we see flowers all around. This can be a time of fertility for humans, animals, plants, the land, wildlife, relationships, ideas and creative endeavors.

The Celts observed a lunar calendar. Danu Forest suggests that Beltane was observed on the full moon after the hawthorn tree bloomed. Celts also liked to start the day in the evening. Therefore Beltane started in the evening before the full moon or the evening of April 30. Today, Beltane is considered to be the midway point between Ostara and Litha. Some people choose to celebrate Beltane on May 5 because it is closer to that midway point than May 1.

Hawthorn blossoms.

Beltane means Bel’s fires. Bel or Belenus is a Celtic god of fire, and Beltane is a Celtic fire festival. Traditionally herds were driven between two bale fires to increase the milk yield, purify and protect them as they were sent out to summer pastures. On Samhain they were returned to their pens for winter. In Ireland the first fire was lit in Tara, and the rest of the fires were lit from that flame from Tara. Traditionally, the nine sacred woods were burned: alder, aspen, birch, briar, elder, holly, oak, rowan and yew. I do not suggest that you go running around looking for the nine woods to burn. However this is a great time to light a fire if you can. Otherwise light a candle as a symbolic bale fire.

Celebration of Beltane can include the traditional dancing around the Maypole. The Maypole is a very large phallic symbol. It is planted into Mother Earth sometimes with oil and wine. Originally Maypoles were decorated with ivy and flowers. The ribbons are a fairly recent addition starting in the 18th Century. Each person takes the end of a ribbon and with a dance the ribbons are braided around the pole. Wishes for this season may be written on the ribbons before dancing. Dancing is so appropriate this time of year. Maypoles were danced around 2000 years ago in Britain and Germany. Today the Morris Dancers sometimes dance around a Maypole not using the ribbons. This is just one way to celebrate Beltane.

Make a small Maypole for your tabletop, altar or garden. What you need:

13 inch dowel rod (See note below)
3 26 inch long ribbons (colorful)
1 pushpin
3 small fabric flowers
Hot glue and hot glue gun

In a large Maypole, ribbons are nailed at the top in a star pattern. For this small Maypole we are using a pushpin. Fold ribbons in half and place the middle of the ribbons over top of the dowel rod in a star pattern. Push pushpin through the ribbons into the top of the dowel rod. Glue flowers around the top of the dowel rod. If this is your first time using a glue gun be carful because the glue is hot. You have a small Maypole. Optional: Paint the dowel rod before assembling. Note that 13 means luck, the number in a coven, and 13 moon cycles in a year.

At such festivals a May Queen is often elected or otherwise chosen. Her consort may be called the May King, Jack-in-the-Green or Green Man. Some more progressive circles today choose a May Couple which may be any committed couple. This couple leads the festivities. To help the land become fertile, a couple will go out into the field or forest and have sex as part of the Beltane festivities. This is known as the Great Rite. This is a time of year for handfasting. Couples will test out their relationship for a year and a day. May Birching is a tradition in which young men put up greenery and flowers on the homes of their lady lovers on the evening of April 30.

A May Couple

Use of flowers is another way to celebrate Beltane. They are sometimes put at the top or the base of a Maypole. A crown of flowers can be made to wear on your head. A wreath can be made of flowers to bless your home. Flowers can be used in a variety of decorations. Scented bath products can be made with flowers. May baskets filled with flowers and maybe even sweets are a fun tradition. These baskets can be given to loved ones and friends. Some flowers such as violets, rose and primrose are edible. Be sure that pesticides were not used on them if you are going to eat them. Herbs both for love and associated with Beltane are blessed thistle, broom, meadowsweet and almond. If you have not done this already, this is a great time to plant and watch your garden bloom. Put out a hummingbird feeder. Colors for this time of year include green and a multitude of floral colors. May your robes, altar cloths, candles and so on reflect that.

Flowers, flowers, flowers!

This is a time for fertility for creative endeavors. Write down something that you want to have occur. I use special paper and a special pen dedicated for that purpose. I do not feel that you have to get a pricy quill and ink. I just set aside a special pen and ink for that purpose. Instead of buying pricy paper I like to make my own paper. See one of my previous posts titled “Creating Paper for Spells and Other Special Reasons” to find out more on how to make your own paper. Maybe your wish is going to school, opening a business or writing a book. Maybe it is the next great idea.

This is a time year when the veil is thin between us and the faery world. This is a good time to leave an offering out for the faeries. Make sure that the food had no contact with steel that you put out for the faeries.

Among the foods that are traditionally served at Beltane are a bannock. It is a cake made of eggs, milk and oatmeal. Oatmeal cookies are a tasty idea. All things dairy are associated with Beltane. Try a spinach pie or quiche, blintzes, fondue or a pizza. Patricia Telesco has some yummy recipes. May wine is made with white wine (or a favorite juice), fresh woodruff and strawberries.

Enjoy learning how you can have a meaningful and festive Beltane!

I will continue to post on Wednesdays.

Auburn Greene

Fondue, yum!

Suggested Investigation:

“Beltane, May Day, the Fires of Edinburgh and the Coming of Summer.” Clan Campbell Society (North America),

Cabot, Laurie, Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition, Dell Publishing, 1994.

Cunningham, Scott, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen, Llewellyn, 1990.

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook, Phoenix, 1981, 1984.

Forest, Danu, The Magical Year: Seasonal Celebrations to Honour Nature’s Ever-Turning Wheel, Watkins, 2016.

Nock, Judy Ann, The Wiccan Year: Spells, Rituals, Holiday Celebrations, Provenance Press, 2007.

Rankine, David & Sorita D’ Este, The Isles of the Many Gods, Avalonia, 2007.

Telesco, Patricia, A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook, Llewellyn, 1994.

“12 Ways to Celebrate Beltane,” Moody Moons, April 28, 2020,

Wigington, Patti. “A Brief History of the Maypole Dance.” Learn Religions, September 4, 2021,

Wigington, Patti. “Beltane History-Celebrating May Day.” Learn Religions, April 5, 2023,

A field of buttercups.

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