Beltane in 2019
Beltane is a key Pagan festival, still celebrated in the United Kingdom but usually re-packaged in a pretty bow and labelled “May Day” where local village fetes have children dancing round a Maypole. What appears at first glance to be the other side of the spectrum, the increasingly popular Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh hosted by the Beltane Fire Society features scantily clad, possibly intoxicated individuals dancing around (and with) fire. How can both these traditional images possibly equate to the same festival? What’s it really all about?
One of my earliest memories of Beltane in Devon when I was aged about 5 is partaking in a Maypole dance. Actually, I often joke that my fear of Morris Men (it’s 2019, should I say, “Morris People”?) came from my early childhood which seemed to be an endless stream of folkish Devon festivals. I can’t remember a specific moment when a Morris-person terrified me or how this awful fear took hold, but I’m still very wary of them today. There’s something about the jingling bells, clacking sticks, jolly folk music and general frolicking that irks me. Some people fear clowns and I suppose it’s not all that different really. Being confronted with a person under a disguise of coloured make-up, wigs of leaves and bizarre clothing, who seems to insist that I MUST HAVE FUN makes me feel as though I’m trapped in a paradox. I’d love to have fun thank you, I’m just not sure this is my idea of it. With my chubby 5-year-old hand clutching a white ribbon, I carefully skipped to the cheerful music as best I could, weaving in and out as I circled clockwise around the Maypole. Occasionally glancing up at the pattern made on the pole in red, white and blue ribbons which fascinated me in it’s perfect woven symmetry.
Fast forward 36 years and I’m sitting at my laptop trying as always to somehow meld the energy of the spiritual world into something my online community can relate to. The festival a few weeks before, Ostara, is when we hone our ideas, hopes and dreams that we have been creating over the Winter months. Beltane is a time when we put our plans into action. Fire represents action, vigour, energy. A bonfire or bale-fire built on the earth strongly represents Action on the Earth Plane – getting on with it! I love all that the four elements represent, but to me, fire has the most extreme expression. From keeping us warm and cosy and cooking our meals to razing everything we know and love to the ground, causing injury and death so we are forced to be re-born. The intensity can be frightening, it’s energy comforting. I wonder how many of you reading this have ever lit a candle for the joy of seeing a dancing flame? Maybe just a home scenting candle, maybe in memory of a loved one, perhaps regularly on your altar or hearth? We still use fire today to create energy in our modern lives and I think it’s easy to see why fire festivals are gaining popularity even outside of the bonfires of Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ night.
Fire is known as a masculine energy and the Sun in occult teachings is usually the male aspect, with Water and the Moon being the female. As the Season changes from Spring into Summer, the Sun becomes stronger and we celebrate his energy along with the female rain being the forces that allow the crops to grow and nature to flourish. Acknowledging the unity of male and female is another aspect of Beltane, the Horned God makes his appearance again, fertility and reproduction are the theme here, the uniting of the Male and Female. Of course, if you are wanting to conceive a child at this time you will give birth to a bouncing Aquarian baby, known as a Merry-Begot or child of the Gods. I like to think that’s a wonderful thing, but others may disagree! Back to the Maypole. The white ribbon represents the pure Maiden looking for a husband and the red represents the Male or sometimes the Mother that the Maiden ultimately becomes. The Maypole is a phallic symbol indeed. Personally, I love the idea that the Goddess weaves everything into existence rather than the messy and painful process of conception and birth, I know a few people who would agree with me on that one!
You could celebrate Beltane by attempting to conceive a child and to me there is nothing more beautiful and magical than the entire life process – as long as someone else is doing it! If that’s not for you, there are lots of ways to celebrate. Have a go at weaving using ribbons, cloth or rags. Perhaps making a rag-rug, tapestry or even crochet something. If you’re more inclined to celebrate with fire, you could light some candles (safely of course – never leave a fire unattended) or a bonfire and enjoy the energy sparking you into action. The fiery energy of this time is strong, so use it to achieve your goals. Remember it is the time for taking action. We’ll be lighting a bonfire and I might have a little dance around it, probably mostly clothed as I’m not a fan of standing on slugs barefoot. We will throw some flowers and herbs into the fire to supercharge it, anything in bloom in your local area is perfect for adorning your altar, your hair, or throwing onto the fire. I’m going to use Coriander, Meadowsweet, Hawthorne, Dragons Blood and Rose and undoubtedly Wild Garlic which will be growing profusely around the fire area. As the flames reach their height, we are going to ask the Beltane spirits to come and commune with us and show themselves within the flames. We will ring bells with white and red ribbons on them to deter negative energies and then hang these in the nearby trees. The smoke from the fire will be strongly charged so I’ll use it to purify my altar items and when the fire has burned down, I’ll be carefully jumping over it to cleanse my energy too.
Tell us what you’ll be doing for May Day/ Beltane, we love to hear how you celebrate!
Co-Owner – Paranormal Discovery