It’s spring! Even though it might not feel like it (as I write, it is currently 42* outside,) warmer, sunnier days are ahead! Spring is such a beautiful time of rebirth and renewal. From flowers blooming to baby animals being born, this time of year is full of regeneration.
While Ostara is traditionally the holiday most aligned with these themes, many of us connect them more with May and Beltane, when we can truly see and feel possibilities bursting before our eyes. Not only does Beltane align with new growth, but it is also a time to celebrate love and light.
You may have heard of May Day. In school, we often made small gifts (usually paper baskets of paper flowers) to leave for neighbors on May Day. However, May Day (also known as Beltane) has a much deeper history.
Many believe that Beltane was acknowledged as the “first” day of Spring, a way to welcome the changing of the season. As it is halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, this makes sense.
How did Beltane come to be? Beltane has its roots in the Roman Festival of Floralia. It was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, later spreading to Great Britain and Europe. As these people came to live in other countries, they brought their traditions with them–Floralia included. In the old days, people made offerings to Flora, the Roman Goddess of Flowers, for whom the Festival of Floralia is named. She is often associated with Spring and fertility, hence the desire to honor her on Beltane, when we celebrate newness. Many people decorated a May Bush with flowers, ribbons, shells, and bright cloth. This was often a family ritual (complete with dancing around the May Bush) yet sometimes the May Bush was paraded around the neighborhood for all to see.
Fire also played a role in Beltane. Traditionally, during Beltane, two fires were lit in a public place. Then, cattle were made to pass between the two fires. This act was thought to bless the cattle and protect them from disease. But the magic didn’t end when the fires were extinguished! Many people believed that the embers and ashes from Beltane fires held magical properties, capable of granting health and protection.
Nowadays, Beltane celebrations are a little different, yet they are still important and meaningful. Many people choose to celebrate on their own or within their family unit. There are a number of powerful ways you can honor the tradition of Beltane. Here are just a few:
*Protect your living space. Just as the ritual of cattle passing between two raging fires made the Celts feel a stronger sense of protection, upping the ante on your home defense can have a similar effect on you. Sage your home, put an extra charm or protection spell on your door locks and windows, or place some crystals for protection in your home.
*Become one with the natural world. Beltane is a beautiful time to renew our connection to the natural world. Go for a walk outside (as far removed from man-made objects as you can), have a picnic in the park, or plant some seeds. If you can’t get outside, bring nature in with plants and flowers.
*Have an adventure! Take an unplanned trip, ask that special someone out for coffee, or enroll in a class. Beltane is all about growth and possibility; embrace these ideas and take a leap into something new!
*Revive an old tradition. Bonfires and cattle blessing aside, maybe you’d like to celebrate Beltane as our ancestors did. Make some small baskets of goodies for your friends and neighbors, decorate a May Bush, or create an altar for Flora.
I would love to hear from you! Have you celebrated Beltane or are you planning a celebration for this year? I invite you to share your customs and traditions with others so we can all continue growing!