The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Some Folk Traditions of Beltane!

 

Beltane Blessings All,


I have not written in quite a while about the Sabbat of Beltane, and this time I will delve into some of the little known lore and legend and folk magicks and traditions that many people no longer remember or practice around Beltane. This ancient holiday is also known as May Day and Lady's Day. There are many spring rituals held in many cultures at this time of the year. Some are religious, as when Easter falls late in the calendar and some are just a recognition of winter's end.

After a long, cold, six month dark half of the year we are now ready to welcome in the Summer months, to bring in the abundance, the prosperity, the fertility of creation, action, movement, as well as bringing in strength and optimum health on all planes, emotional, spiritual, energetically as well as physically.

Many people  find themselves restless this time of year, it is an inner need to move. We are naturally 'in sync' with the earth's energies and you can research bio rhythms to learn more but be prepared to fall down a rabbit hole for a bit, but it is enough to know, we are in tune with the earth's energy. The energy of the earth, the rocks, the oceans, the sky. This is why when the moon pulls hard on the oceans of the earth, and actually all of the moisture on earth, including every adult humans body's approximately 60% water content is affected in some curious ways. We feel the energy of the earth and we incorporate this energy in our rituals and our worship.

The one very important thing about Pagans is we embrace the fact that we are one with the Mother Earth, that we are part of the wonderful, colorful tapestry woven of the elements, and whereas all of our Sabbats and rituals recognize the elements,  one such as Beltane truly celebrates the elements we come from!

Maypole:  The May Pole is a very significant part of this early spring, first day of summer celebration. In very ancient times the first May poles were in fact living trees with ribbons or threads, strings, or strips of cloth wrapped around.

At one time, in very ancient pagan times, in Celtic Western Europe it was a folk magickal custom to take scraps of fabric, write upon them wishes or prayers for the Goddess to answer. Many would ask for healing, or for a safe child birth, or for a loved one to come back safely from a war, a serious wish, nothing frivolous. Then the cloth scrap would be tied to the branch of a tree or bush, overhanging a stream or small creek.

The idea of this, is when the piece of fabric, which would have been old, used and worn to begin with, and of course a natural material which would easily and quickly biodegrade, no synthetics back then! ,  when it had broken down and worn away, the prayer would be answered.

I am not saying that this is the origin of the Maypole but I do see similarities, as both were used on living trees in the most ancient of times, the ribbons of the Maypole did symbolize wishes and were to bring in magickal benefits to the people who danced around the pole, and the village it graced in the center of the village square. And today there are still cultures and religions that take ribbons and do write blessings and prayers on the actual ribbons to be used in ceremony in various ways.

Today it is remembered that the original colors of the Maypole ribbons were alternating red and white. One color goes in one direction and the other color goes in the other direction. Many today have all sorts of pretty colors. Our Maypole, we use many colors, except for black. That is for the dark half of the year.




It is important to point out that the Celts originated in Eastern Europe near Russia and slowly migrated west until they ended in Great Britain in Eastern Europe simply because they couldn't go any further and they were not a seafaring race. In ancient Celtic Europe in many villages and towns where they celebrated Beltane, which comes from the Gaelic bealltainn, 15th century, meaning "bright fire" or "blazing fire" villagers would erect a  great Maypole, many feet tall, and several feet thick.  Beltane would start on the eve of May 1st, on April 30th and it would last that first evening, all the next day and through the next evening.

At many Sabbat, white steer, or bulls would be driven through smoky flaming bon fires to 'purify' the animals, which today scientists say actually did sanitize the animals ridding them of vermin, pests and disease on their hides before slaughter, making them safer to consume.

The villagers would eat the meat, and many times it would be the only meat consumed except for another 3 times that year during the greater Sabbats.

The Maypole would stay erected and adorned with ribbons until Samhain, when ribbons would be removed and replaced with black, silver or grey and purple ribbons to honor the crone. At the beginning on August, before the first harvest someone would climb a ladder and nail a glove used in the field at the top of the pole. To honor the first harvest and the work it took t get to this place. The glove stays there until the pole comes down.

At Yule, the Maypole comes down and is decorated with greenery and placed in a large fire pit, many times just and end and it is fed into the fire as it burns and this is the famed Yule log. Everyone from the village would come and take a piece of the log to bring home to kindle their home fries from the magickal town fire which kept everyone connected together to one another.

Flowers:

Flowers are also a very big part of the Beltane celebration. Fresh flowers calling out clear and loud summer is here and winter has left us. Flowers are an attachment of the faerie association of Beltane season. For this, more so than any other Sabbat is truly the faerie Sabbat. I was as young as three and out in the yard picking tiny dandelions, violets and whatever I could find blossoming in the grass for a basket to place on the doorstep and then ring the bell or knock on the door and run and hide so my mother would come and find the gift from the 'faeries' on May Day!

 Flowered Circlets:

You can get garlands of artificial flowers and strands of flowers with pipe cleaners, which are prettier and softer to tie them with and ribbons to drape down the back and wear them as a crown for the festivities and the ritual. Even the Maypole can be adorned with circlets of flowers.


This is always done on May Day, no matter what day of the week it falls on, and it does not matter if it is early in the day or later in the evening, it is still appropriate.

Dew:

Another thing that can be done on Beltane morning is to go out, first thing, preferably when the sun is rising, and lay a towel out of the grass and then take a tiny vial and place it close to dew laden blades of clean grass and with a finger tip, gently tap each drop into the vial. With each one you can say a quiet thank you.  When you have a good amount of dew collected, cap tightly. This can be used for love potions and ointments to keep your skin looking youthful and refreshed.




May Wine:

One of the more popular drinks at a Beltane Sabbat is May wine and it is not made from wine necessarily, it can be made from sparkling juice. The key is to put a small sprig of sweet woodruff in each cup and a slice or two of strawberry, fresh strawberry. Strawberry is a very big item for this Sabbat. If you use sparkling grape juice that you can buy at your food market, it is good for young people and anyone who chooses to abstain from alcohol. I prefer the sparkling juice as it is lighter and more refreshing and this way I can stay up and focused for all the festivities. Much more fun!


The Great Rite or The Great Marriage:

Beltane is also the Sabbat where the Goddess and God are reputed to 'get married' to use a euphemism for more delicate sensibilities and their union is one that is believed necessary to fertilize the earth so that all can blossom and flourish and grow and become stronger so that in six weeks, come the Summer Solstice, Litha, the first harvest, which is the harvest of medicinal and magickal herbs, all of those plants are considered at their peek of magickal strength.

The night of the 29th is a full moon, which falling right before Beltane, 2 days before, allows for one to sweep clean the darkness and to clear out any last vestiges of winter scraps. Light a candle, a new, brand new candle. A color which brings you happiness. Any color you like. A pink, or red, or yellow, or green, or blue or purple any color that brings joy and happiness and excitement and reminds you of summer!

Light the candles, play happy music, fill up your kitchen with fresh fruit, feasting on fresh baked breads, spring chicken, spring herbs, pasta primavera with light cheeses and green salads, fruit salads, cheeses and crackers, flavored waters and sparkling juices are all good feast choices.

Any dessert choices keep light and fruit based, such as fruit pies, fruit sherbets, lemon puddings, even resurrecting fruit Jell-O parfaits with whipped cream is fun, pretty, festive and light. That's the whole idea. To dance the May pole, skip hop scotch, visit, socialize, walk the gardens and enjoy the outdoors you don't want to be weighed down with heavy carbs.

Bon Fire:

I will finish up this discussion with the concept of the Beltane fires. In ancient times it was reputed that fires all along the tribes and villages would be extinguished and everyone would be forced to trust in that the next morning the Beltane fires would be kindled and a new fire would be started in your homes hearth from the bigger fires with flaming brands taken from the main Beltane fires.  At a time when one did not have matches or lighters and fires were started with supplies a bit more tricky to use one needed to trust that there was going to be a fire that next morning. For to have lost the fire,would mean an end to your civilization. No warm or cooked food, which would mean an increase in disease and illness, no warmth, no safety where fire could keep away dangerous predators. Now of course, one needs to consider the time frame I may be writing about.

I tend to write often about a time when the ancient Celts lived in small stockade fence surrounded enclosure with a round house, maybe just one or two. Their entire community may have been made up of 5 to 20 of these enclosures. This would consist of their tribe and other Celtic tribes would dot the landscape all over Europe as they migrated West.

However you choose to celebrate, even if just choosing to BBQ out on the grill, sit back, relax, enjoy and know it is the beginning of Summer and the warmth and light half of the year is upon us. Blessings and peace!!


Live, Laugh and Always Love, Ms. Faith


© 2010-2018 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited. 

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