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Reflections on Beltaine




 

            (The Tldr; we will be gathering on Sunday, May 5 at 2PM to celebrate Beltaine. My studio is located at 142 Quick Street, Phoenixville, PA. My buzzer number is 7 – please come by and join us.  If you do attend, we ask for a donation to assist with room rental and supplies we will be using in the ritual. $10 is the recommended amount. Additionally, do bring food or beverage to share).

 

 

Beltaine is a Celtic fire holiday generally celebrated on or around May 1 in Ireland. In Wales, it is known as Calan Mai. It is a celebration of the coming of Summer, and the Irish holiday refers to the Romano-Celtic God Belenos. The name Beltaine means “Bel’s Fire” in Gaelic. It is considered a “Cross Quarter Day,” meaning that it falls between an Equinox and a Solstice on the calendar – in this case, the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Generally, in North America, we think of Summer starting with the Summer Solstice, but for the Northern Europeans it was time to celebrate the increasing warmth for as long as they possibly could.

 

In Ireland, this was a great time for lighting many bonfires across the land. The High King would be the first to light his fire at Tara, and then all of the other fires could be lit. The lighting of fires represented the hopes for a good harvest, for fertility in both the fields and within people’s homes. Traditionally, people would observe this holiday by driving their cattle between bonfires for good luck, as well as jumping over the bonfires themselves for the same reason.

 

One might wonder, in these modern times, why celebrating this Iron Age Celtic festival is still worthwhile. Still some of us may remember this festival as “Lady Day” from our Catholic youths in which we paraded through the school yard to adorn the Virgin Mary statue with a crown of flowers. It was definitely a beautiful ceremony, and I loved the flowers, and although I no longer practice the Catholic faith, I still have a place in my heart for Mary.

 

I learned as a young Pagan that Beltaine was considered one of two high holidays and it sat across the Wheel of the Year from the other – Samhain. Samhain is considered “Summer’s End” and is traditionally celebrated on October 31 or November 1. Beltaine is a celebration of warmth, light, sex, and joy, whereas Samhain was considered much more somber: about getting ready for the cold months of winter ahead and letting go of whatever was no longer needed. From this perspective, this was going to be my starting place for bringing my lived past experience and my present reality as a Pagan woman of a certain age.

 

Of the many Beltaine celebrations I have attended in my many years as a Pagan (certainly many more than I spent as a Catholic), I have memories of creating a May Pole – sometimes quite successfully, with the ribbons intertwining and creating a beautiful weave and other times a very fun mess with everyone laughing by the end. The weather at the beginning of May can be tricky – it was raining for the last Beltaine celebration I celebrated with my coven.

 

This year, we will be holding Beltaine in my art studio, for which there is really no good space outside. I have a very high ceiling, so I am imagining we might be able to weave something together out of ribbons dangling from the season. I think it will be a lot of fun! If you want to join us for this endeavor, we will be gathering on Sunday, May 5 at 2PM. My studio is located at 142 Quick Street, Phoenixville, PA. My buzzer number is 7 – please come by and join us. If you do attend, we ask for a donation to assist with room rental and supplies we will be using in the ritual. $10 is the recommended amount. Additionally, do bring food or beverage to share.

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