This is the third Spring festival of the Wheel of the Year. It is the celebration of full blown fertility. If you look outside, you will see that everything is fast growing to it’s full potential; the trees all have their leaves, the bluebells are in bloom, butterflies and bee’s abound and the birds have come back from their journey south.
Traditionally, this is the time of year that Pagan’s celebrate the return of life and the impregnation of the Goddess (the land), to ensure the God is reborn (a good harvest). This practice goes back far into history and there are many ways in which we celebrate this day.
Situated between Ostara (Spring Equinox) and Litha (Summer Solstice), Beltane should be celebrated on the 6th of March, rather than the 1st, as this would mark the halfway point between the two. Unfortunately, with the effort of the Christian church to eradicate the Pagan beliefs, the date was moved to the 1st. The majority of festivals are performed on the first; however, if you want to, within your own practice, celebrate on both days! Who needs a reason to celebrate? I certainly don’t!
So, why should we celebrate this date?
In the ancient Pagan beliefs, when people lived by the seasons – planting in spring, tending the crops in summer, harvesting in autumn and allowing the Earth to rest in winter – they felt that certain rituals would aid Mother Nature in ensuring good crops, in order to ensure full bellies during the bleak winter months. They believed that their actions of emulating the seasons with real life would ensure healthy, bountiful crops. So, they performed what is now called “The Great Rite”.
The Great Rite is often misconstrued (especially in celluloid such as The DaVinci Code), in that the High Priestess and Priest copulate in front of the Coven. While that may be practised in some paths of Paganism, generally in Wicca, it is not. This is personal preference.
My understanding of the Great Rite is that the High Priestess and Priest (May Queen and King) do copulate, but this was probably done outside, in nature. More than likely practised as a kind of “Sex Magick”. While the couple make love, both of their focus is centred on creating magick and focusing their energy and the magickal energy of the time of year and perhaps Coven or even local community, and directing that energy into the Earth to assist and ensure bountiful crops for the community or tribe in the autumn.
The roots of this re-enactment are based on the belief of the Goddess and God.
In Paganism, we believe that during this time of the year, the God impregnates the Goddess with his seed. He will then die at the end of autumn or Samhain (Halloween). And is reborn of the Goddess at Yule (Midwinter). There are many different traditions that recognise this, including Christianity, with Jesus, for example being born at this time of the year.
There are many traditions that are followed presently and have been followed around this Sabbat, not least of which is the May Pole. This extreme phallic symbol represents the God, thrusting his fertility, into the fertile land of the Goddess. Men and women dance around the May Pole, weaving ribbons together, to symbolise the potent energies of the Lord, streaming into the Lady’s lap.
Some ideas of things that you may wish to celebrate with, while working your magick at Beltane, can be found in the correspondence table below;
Beltane – The return of full blown fertility
Practices: Weaving ribbons (Maypole), Leaping the bonfire, Blowing of horns, Copulating to bless the land and the crops.
Colours: White, red, soft pink, green, pale blue and yellow.
Incense or Oils: Frankincense, Lilac, Rose.
Decorations: Maypoles, strings of beads or flowers, ribbons, spring flowers.
Foods: Dairy, Oatmeal cakes, Cherries, Strawberries, Wine punches and Green salads.
Altar items: Large bowl of floating flowers and white candles. Baskets of fresh flowers. Fire pit or cauldron with fire. Broom for jumping. Ribbons.
Other items or practices: Love and union. Joining two halves to make a whole. Pick a tree and adorn it with ribbons and bows. This represents the union of the goddess and god. Weaving and plaiting. Jumping over the Beltane fire or Broom to encourage fertility.
Symbolism: The consummation of the Goddess and God, to ensure the God is reborn at Yule.
Stones or Crystals: Rose Quartz, Red Jasper, Ruby and Diamond.
Deities: Celtic: Arianrhod & Bel / Brighid & Bres. Nordic: Freya & Frey. Sumerian: Inanna & Demuzid. Roman: Venus & Bacchus. Greek: Persephone & Demeter. The Lady. Pan. Eros. The Green Man. The Horned God. Cernnunos. Herne.
* More information regarding Beltane and the other Sabbats, will be found in my book.