Beltane (pronounced bell-tain as in “rain”) is a spring fertility festival. It celebrates the quickening fires of the coming summer and is the midpoint between Ostara (Spring Equinox) and Litha (Summer Solstice).
Beltane is about celebrating our passions – sexually and/or emotionally – and sparking the fire needed to fully express our wild (and free) sacred selves.
In the Celtic calendar there are 8 high holy days that involve nature festivals. It includes the equinoxes and solstices that demark our four traditional seasons along with cross-quarter days. Beltane is one of these cross quarter festivals along with Imbolc, Lammas, and Samhain.
These holy days are times when we harness the energy of connecting to Nature and expand our sense of the Self and the Sacred.
Beltane correlates with Germanic and English May Day festivals along with the Norse festival Thrimilci (pronounced th-er-mill-key). Thrimilci means “three-milk month” because this was when, after the cold, hard months of winter, cows could be milked three times a day. It also marks the last day of the nine day Norse festival of Walpurgis (starting on the modern Earth day: April 22nd)
Observed on May 1st, Beltane – the beginning of summer – is the seasonal opposite of Samhain (sow-en aka. Halloween) – the beginning of winter.
Together they are the most important of the Celtic festivals.
At Beltane the Divine Female shifts from Maiden/Huntress into the Mother archetype. This archetype represents the creative force within and isn’t dependent on birthing a human baby. The Mother symbolizes fertility, abundance, growth, sexuality, and total fulfillment.
During Beltane, the earth mother opens up to the fertility god as She takes the Divine Male as her sacred consort. Together they join in sacred union (also known as Hieros Gamos or the sacred marriage/great rite) eventually birthing all of creation: bringing about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life.
Their union peaks in the cosmic orgasm (it is called the Big Bang) between Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, the Divine Female and the Divine Male principles.
When I refer to male and female energies, however, I’m not referring to gender. Everyone, regardless of gender, has both masculine and feminine energies within them. It is this union (also known as yoga “to yoke”) that makes us whole. It is also about the union of our inner and external selves so we are more aligned with who we are instead of feeling one way and projecting another.
Many ancient rituals included sacred sexual rites, naming Kings who laid with the Priestesses of the Goddess of the Land. It is also quite popular for the ritual of handfasting to occur on Beltane.
Handfasting involves both partners approaching each other as equals. As they state their promises directly to each other, their hands are tied together with silver and gold ribbon. The handfasting would last for one of three periods of time that was agreed upon by both people: a year and a day, a lifetime, and for all time (like in the movie The Crow).
Traditionally, festivities began on the Eve of Beltane (the last night of April) with the lighting of the sacred fire which draws the people to gather for music, dancing, and fertility rites.
This included the raising of the maypole, a 20 foot pole, symbolizing a phallus, with a wreath of flowers, symbolizing a yoni, at the top which descended as circle dancers tightly wound ribbons to the pole. Another unabashed celebration of fertility!
Beltane was also when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. This was also the source of the beacon fires for each village which would be lit during special celebrations or, during times of warfare, to alert defenses.
How can we acknowledge the Sacredness of this time?
Before you continue to the suggestions on how to celebrate, first connect to the essence of this being a time to bring together the divine male and female energies within.
Take out your journal and ask yourself:
- What (if anything) holds me back from making pleasure a priority?
- Are my inner and external selves aligned with who I am or do I feel one way and act or project another?
- How does my innermost passionate nature want expression with wild abandon without compromise or apology?
- Where can I get the support I need for this expression of myself?
Ways to Celebrate Beltane
- Ummmm…I know this is totally obvious but in case I have to spell it out…Have S-E-X in whatever way you enjoy the most. It could be with yourself, with a trusted partner, or whatever, however, with whomever strikes your fancy (just remember – safety first:) Now go have fun! Extra points if you have a place you (and those involved) are comfortable doing it outside at night.
- Dance break! Put on some music that calls you to shake what your mama gave ya.
- Take your dance break to the next level and striptease for yourself or for a trusted lover.
- Make a circlet of flowers and wear them upon your head as though you’ve been crowned May Queen, King, or Sovereign.
- Do or get involved with something that you are passionate about.
- Become sensual and engage with each of your senses: sound, taste, touch, sight, smell.
- Plant your garden or repot a houseplant. Simply put – get dirty 😉
How did you celebrate Beltane?
I’d love to know! Leave your comment in the box below and share your experience with me.
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Your Soul Sistah,
Women’s Hormone Love, Body Wisdom, + Soul Connection Guide