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Beltane is a Gaelic mayday festival celebrating the height of spring and the first stirrings of summer. Know as a fire festival, beltane began on the evening before the 1st of May. When all household fires were doused, and beltane fires were lit. The flames and smoke from these fires were believed to hold protective powers. People and animals would jump over or walk around these fires to encourage the land’s and cattle’s fertility and achieve protection from disease. At the end of the festivities, household fires were relit using some of the beltane fire.
These gatherings would include feasting and drinking. Food and drink would also be offered to the fairies and elves known as the aos sí. They were believed to be more active during beltane and in need of appeasement. Yellow may flowers were used to decorate openings to homes; cattle sheds, cattle and people themselves. In certain areas, thorn bushes were also decorated with flowers and ribbons, usually hawthorn or rowan and known as the may bush or wishing tree once decorated.
Holy wells were also visited at beltane. People would pray and leave offerings, such as coins or cloth known as clooties. On Mayday, the first drawn water from the well was seen as powerful. The morning dew was also collected on this day, either in jars left out overnight or straight from nature itself. It was believed that anyone washing in this dew increased their sexuality and attractiveness and minimised facial blemishes and skin conditions. This tradition can still be done today; put a jar out overnight to collect the dew the next morning.
Another tradition often seen on the 1st of May is the maypole and maypole dancing. Although the maypole’s origin has not been confirmed, it is believed to have come from Germanic Europe. Again there is no definitive answer on what the maypole itself symbolizes. Some believe it is a pagan symbol; others believe it represents the world’s axis and more. However, it is agreed that the maypole was erected to celebrate the return of warmth and summer. The maypole dances were initially danced around a living tree as part of a fertility ritual but later moved to the maypole.
During beltane, try carrying clear quartz. Charged with protective, cleansing, and energizing properties, it is ideal to have with you on a night of spirits and changing energies. It also has the bonus of raising the vibrations of nearby crystals. Rose quartz is the crystal of love and fertility. It will brighten your aura and allow you to become more approachable while strengthening your heart. Green aventurine promotes fertility, positivity, and good luck. Fluorite boosts libido and sexuality while also balancing hormones and removing negative energy. All of these stones are ideal to use during beltane and mayday celebrations.
Why not take a walk the evening before mayday, collecting greenery and mayflowers to decorate your home? Take note of nature at this magical time of year and feel the growing warmth of the seasons. Leave jars of pretty flowers on the doorsteps of loved ones to show you care.
Find somewhere special to watch the sunset with those close to you and reflect on life and its joys. Stay up all night with a bonfire for warmth or arise early to watch the sunrise and begin the day by washing with the morning dew.
Bake and eat a beltane bannock. Decorate a tree with ribbons and flowers to dance and wind your way around barefoot while celebrating the day and connecting with the earth’s calming energies. Add crystals to your bath water to surround yourself with their energy and vibration. Furthermore, if the mood takes you, make love; after all, Beltane celebrates fertility.
Finally, why not look at our blog for more information, hints, and tips? Also, don’t forget to tag us in your beltane and mayday photos and celebrations @surrender_to_happiness.