The Wheel of the Year keeps turning, and spring starts to turn into summer with the coming of Beltane.
Beltane (Là Bealltainn in Scottish Gaelic) is one of the four Gaelic festivals marking the turn of the seasons. The other festivals, in case you aren’t aware, are Imbolc (Là Fhèill Brìghde), Lughanasadh (Lùnastal) and Samhuinn. For more information on the festivals and associated folk traditions, I’d really recommend the fantastic Cailleach’s Herbarium site.
Lunar Beltane is the full moon nearest the end of April or start of May. Calendar Beltane is the evening of the 30th April to the evening of the 1st May. Some people wait for the coming of the May (hawthorn) blossoms. This date obviously varies depending on your own little micro-climate.
You may know the Scottish saying ‘Ne’er cast a cloot til May is oot’ (never take off your clothes/jacket til May is out). Well, it’s not the month, rather the hawthorn the saying is referring to. (Marking the coming of seasons by the appearance of certain plant/animal signs is a great way to connect yourself to the land you live on)
Connecting to the Earth and Ancestors
When it comes to re-wilding ourselves, connecting in with the practices of our ancestors, or the ancestors of the land can be really powerful. Knowing the old practices can be helpful as a good starting point. We can then choose to follow them to the letter (as much as the modern day allows), or we can combine them in a syncretic practice of our own making.
What I love about the Celtic festivals is that they embody the deep earth knowledge of the seasons. Whether it’s the slowing down in the darker months, or moving more in the lighter months. The call is to to embrace the energy and wisdom of that season.
Festival focus points
There is a real focus on fertility at Beltane, and the world around us is teeming with new life. You can choose to focus on the sexual aspect of this – if you do, there are oh-so-many motifs in folklore you can choose to work with. Horned Gods, Green Men, Sheela-Na-Gigs, and more. Embrace the phallic and yonic imagery, and take the time to concentrate on your desires.
It could be that you choose NOT to work with the sexual energy of the season. There’s still scope for celebrating the body sensual at Beltane. Indulge yourself in movement, whatever that means for you. You could choose to dance and enjoy the fluidity of your movement. You can go for a walk, moving mindfully through the wakening world, and soaking up the signs of new life. Sometimes, we aren’t able to move as much, for pain, or other reasons. If you can, try stretching, or shifting your body in a way that feels good to you.
Incorporating movement into your celebrations is a great way to involve the younger people in our lives too . We can obviously talk about new life happening as the seasons pass, and we can discuss how the earth warming again can make us feel like moving more. Try some funny dances together, or challenge each other to see what shapes we can make our bodies into.
Whether celebrating with adults, or children, or just by myself – personally, I mark all the festivals with a fire, and some time contemplating what I’m taking forward, and what needs gifted to the flames. Becoming wilder for me means smelling of wood smoke quite a lot (and eating marshmallows, because, why wouldn’t you?)