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Celtic Festivals

Beltane: The May Celtic Holiday of Renewal and Hope

by Marc Choyt 01 May 2013 0 Comments

"Flora at Beltane" by Wendy Andrew.

Today is Beltane.  Imagine living in the olden times, when your feet could feel the plants easing through the earth.  On May Day, in small Gaelic villages, ritual bonfires were lit.  The people danced around the flames, bathing in smoke and ash that brought blessing and protection from natural and the supernatural.   Embers taken from the sacred central fire were used to rekindle household flames. Beltane is midway point between spring equinox and summer solstice. 

On the seasonal circle, the “medicine” wheel, today is the midway point between northeast and east, the moment when the first light emerges in the darkest night sky. This light carries illumination and hope for a new day.  But on Beltane, it has extra blessing.  Even to wipe yourself with dew in this early light was said to bring youthfulness  and beauty.

Traditionally, Beltane formally marked the beginning of summer.   Sheep and cattle decorated with yellow flowers, circled around the fire for protection, and brought out to the summer pastures.  You had to be careful.  The nature spirits, or fairies were particularly active and needed to be appeased.  Priestly rituals were performed to protect the crops.  The community gathering around the circle and fire celebrated life, hope and fertility. These days, May day has become a cultural event still marked. 

Around the traditional Celtic lands, many people still practice the old traditions and mark Beltane.  Even if you are not tied into these traditions formally, if you are a Celt,  they still live in your blood and bones.  We all have our indigenous roots.   Take some time today and feel the energy of the season, the emergence and blessing of this time of year.... the beauty of longer days in the waxing sun

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