Beltane is also known as Calan Mai in ancient Welsh Celtic societies. It is the celebration of the beginning of May, and of the fertility of the land, and people. Many goddesses and faerie queens are associated with Beltane. They include Blodeuwedd, Rhiannon, and Maeve. Guinevere is often associated with the figure of a May Queen and May Bride (I myself will be a May Bride two weeks from today!) In the legends there are many references to Guinevere going-a-Maying. This is a celebration during the month of May that includes picking flowers and celebrating the land and nature.
Beltane is a fire festival where faeries, goddesses, and the green man take center stage! Through a series of events nature is celebrated and honored. All the elements are utilized during Beltane celebrations, and nature is in full bloom for this liminal holiday!
The association of faeries and the celebration of Beltane is a deeply rooted one. It makes sense that during the time when the veil between the worlds is thin we would see the association with supernatural beings become prevalent. This is also the case with the other most thin veiled time of the year, Samhain! We mostly hear talks of faeries at Beltane and ghosts at Samhain.
Famous Beltane rituals and celebrations include the May Pole dance and Handfastings. May Pole is an art of dance that is used to celebrate and symbolize the fertility of the land, as the pole is a phallic symbol. Handfastings in ancient times were year and a day marriages. This meant that if the couple no longer wanted to be married after a year and a day they could go their separate ways, so long as no children had been conceived in that time! Handfastings are still used today as part of wedding ceremonies by pagans, magical practitioners, and people of diverse religious backgrounds, as well. Another famous Beltane celebration is bonfires! As with any fire festival, bonfires are common practice in order to celebrate the power and fertility of nature. In fact, fertility is why handfastings and other romantic and sexual events happen at Beltane. Fertility of the body and fertility of nature are seen as linked in these rites!
We still see many modern associations with Beltane, like gifting flowers to your mothers on Mother’s Day. Earth Day is another holiday near Beltane that keeps some of its rituals alive. On Earth Day it is common to plant trees, and celebrate nature! Anytime we celebrate the beauty and bounty of nature during the months of April and May we are honoring the spirit of Beltane!
This year for Beltane I encourage you to spend time outside, wear flowers in your hair, go barefoot in the grass, and let yourself celebrate the beauty of this time of year! I hope this post has inspired you to have fun for this faerie Holiday. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a Beltane painting. I found the image on https://visitfloydva.com/event/may-day-beltane-fire-drum-celebration/.
- Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials: Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day by Melanie Marquis
- Rhiannon: Divine Queen of the Celtic Britons by Jhenah Telyndru
- Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd edited by Lori Feldmann