Beltane/Beltane (pronounced "bell-tane"), celebrated on May 1, is one of the two high holidays or sabbats celebrating by modern Wiccans and other Neopagan religions. (The other high holiday being Samhain.) The name Beltane, means "bright or lucky fire".
The holiday stems from the pagan Celtic fire festival celebrating the return of summer. On Beltane, sacred bonfires would be lit which were believed to possess the power to drive away illness from both animal and man. The fires of the community would be extinguished and then relit from the Beltane blaze. The lighting of bonfires also plays an important role in modern Beltane celebrations.
Beltane Festival In NY, 2009
On Beltane, Wiccans believe the Goddess rules the land and in the form of the maiden, falls in love with the Horned God in his form of young man. From their union all nature springs forth.
Wiccans may celebrate Beltane with flowers, feasting, singing, dancing. laughing, and ritual. One of the important rituals Wiccans perform on Beltane is called The Great Rite. This is the act of lovemaking between the Goddess and the Horned God and is carried out either symbolically by the high priest of the coven inserting the blade of his athame, or magical dagger, into the Wiccan chalice held by the high priestess. Otherwise, consenting adult couples perform the great rite in a more literal fashion in the privacy of their own homes.
According to Wiccan belief, the Horned God rules the time from Samhain (Nov 1) to Beltane (May 1), with the Goddess ruling from Beltane (May 1) to Samhain (Nov 1). Such division reflects that lifestyle of our ancestors who feasted on the fruits of agriculture during the growing season but who depended on meat for their survival in winter.
The night before Beltane, April 30, is referred to as Walpurgisnacht (Witches Night), a night similar to Halloween, when many European peoples believed witches, goblins, and ghosts roamed the land celebrating the last stand of the cold and darkness before the arrival of summer.
The celebration of Beltane has become secularized as the holiday known as May Day. On May Day, children dance the May Pole and a May King (or Jack-in-the-Green) and May Queen would be elected. (Wiccans would say these would be the stand-ins for the Goddess and the Horned God!) May Day is also celebrated with picniks and friendly community get-togethers.
A major Beltain fire festival is held each Beltane in Edinburgh, Scotland. People from all around the world come to Edinburgh to witness the rites. If you enjoy drama and performance art, be sure to catch one.
Beltane Fire Society
BELTANE: Its History and Modern Celebration in Wicca in America
Beltane, Pagan Spring Celebration: Druid and Wiccan Fire Festival and Solar Sabbat
Beltane History - Celebrating May Day