As the sun gathers its strength and blesses the Earth with warmth and longer days, we are witnessing the fullness of fertility in the world around us. The leaves on the trees have burst open from their buds, the wildflowers are adorning the meadows again, and hawthorn blossom is lighting up the hedgerows. We have arrived at Beltane, the festival of fertility, when the God and Goddess are entwined in their love-making and our dreams have the fullest support of nature to be fertilised and birthed in to the world.
The origins of the word Beltane come from combining the Celtic God 'Bel', meaning 'the bright one' and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire. Together they make 'goodly fire' or 'Bright Fire', describing the vitality and power of the Sun at this time.
Beltane is one of the four Cross Quarter Fire festivals that occur between the Solstices and Equinoxes. Beltane falls on May 1st, May Day, but can also be celebrated on the full moon nearest to this date. Traditionally bonfires would have been lit on Beltane eve upon the surrounding hills of the villages to call upon Bel and the Sun to honour the power of fire to cleanse, purify and bring fertility, and to bless the community with a fruitful harvest. Fire is also the element connected with our passion, desires and dreams, our sensory experience and the spark represents the beginning of all Creation, the moment of conception.
It is this moment that is honoured at Beltane through the traditional stories of the 'greenwood marriage' between the fertile maiden Goddess and the wild and untameable horned god, Herne the Hunter. The story goes that Herne lusts after the Goddess and on Beltane seeks her out in the forest, shapeshifting in to a stag as the Goddess becomes a white deer. Amongst the wild green of the woods their union is consummated, ensuring the fertility of the land. The Goddess is blessed with new life and becomes the Grain-Mother, carrying the fruit of their union.
Through this telling we are reminded of the wild potency of the masculine and feminine life force and the mystical and spiritual transformation that occurs during sexual union. This Sacred Marriage represents the union of Earth and Sky, a time of sacred balance as the masculine and feminine energies are woven together. This is also seen through the annual ritual of the Maypole, with its phallic pole representing the potency of the God, and the crown of flowers at the top representing the fertile Goddess.
Historically Beltane was a popular time for hand-fasting ceremonies, reflecting the Sacred Wedding of the Goddess and the God. Couples made a pledge that lasted a year and a day as their hands were bound together to honour their vows. It was also accepted that couples would go 'A-Maying', frolicking in the fields on Beltane eve, enacting the Sacred Union and perhaps even welcome a babe nine months later! The couples might bring back hawthorn blossoms to adorn their homes with, believed to help their prayers reach heaven.
The fires of Beltane invite us to dance, to be joyful as we bask in the warmth and light of the sun, and to express our wild longing that has been stoked ablaze since the quiet flicker of our winter flame. We have the power of the sun, the dynamic and active energy of the masculine, to shine upon our seeds and help them grow. The feminine earth energies are also at their strongest and most active, so we have the fullest support of Nature behind us to fertilise our dreams and creative projects.
Beltane beckons us to get intimate with ourselves, to explore not just our mental and emotional spheres, but our physical and spiritual bodies. What does it meant to fully inhabit a body on this earth, made from the earth? What is your body trying to tell you? As we deepen our listening of our body we can strengthen our intuitive capabilities and cultivate love and kindness towards ourselves. Honouring our body as a temple we can engage in sacred love-making with ourselves, allowing our senses to guide us so that we become more embodied and connected with Nature through our own body. Beltane is the festival of love-making, so enjoy the sweet pleasures that come from turning this love toward yourself!
With the union of the masculine and feminine at Beltane it is also a fruitful time to explore what these powers mean to us, what is our relationship to them, and how do their qualities manifest in our lives? It is common for us to feel out of balance, so bringing attention to the ways the masculine and feminine energies play out in our experience might encourage us to cultivate more feminine yin qualities or masculine yang qualities. Through the blending of opposites within ourselves we create balance and align to our inherent fertility and our potential to manifest.
Through the union of male and female forces all creativity is birthed. As we honour the sacredness of love, sexual pleasure and our bodily desires we unravel the cultural conditioning that has shamed our wild selves and the yearning to be free and unbridled as we fully inhabit and celebrate our embodied presence in the world.
“Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life's breath, the ocean of air that envelopes the earth.”
― David Suzuki
When Hawthorn's delicate white flowers are in full bloom, Beltane is nigh. Her medicine is all about the heart, helping to stimulate the heart and reduce blood pressure, as well as cultivating love and forgiveness on an energetic level.
Hawthorn has been revered for her magical properties and connection to the faerie realm, appearing in many myths and folk tales that connect with the fertile and vital energy of Beltane.. She is a tree that symbolises hope, fertility, cleansing and protection. A sprig of hawthorn is said to promote happiness in the troubled, depressed or sad.
Gather pictures, crystals, items and write prayers or words that reflect what you are wishing to create in your life and in the world. Light a candle and call in your Higher Self to be accessible to you. Using a shoebox or something smaller, you might like to paint or decorate it, begin placing the items in your box as you speak aloud the dreams you wish to birth. Be playful and creative as you fill the box, imbuing it with the fertile and vital energies within you. If you feel to, you can bury this in your garden or somewhere in nature. Or keep it somewhere dark - a wardrobe or draw - so that you can imagine your dreams gestating in the womb, being birthed to life.
Find a stick on a nature walk - using your masculine hunter energy to direct your intention to find the perfect one! Back home gather three strands of ribbon or thread, light a candle, and create sacred space however you feel to. Tie the ribbons to the top of the stick and speak a dream aloud to each one - one represents your self, the second your community and the third the world. Weave the ribbons around the stick, imagining the masculine and feminine energies mingling and fertilising your dreams as you go. Add bells or adornments if you wish and add to your altar or somewhere visible to keep these dreams alive.
On Beltane eve get some juicy vibes going in your room - light candles, diffuse some aromatherapy blends with rose, geranium or patchouli, play some sensual music. Allow your body to guide you with what it wants, and playfully feed your senses with touch, loving words and maybe some delicious foods. You might like to use a feather or silk scarf to caress your skin, massage your belly and all those other places where you hold tension. Gazing in to a mirror look deeply in to your eyes and say 'I love you'... Say whatever words you have been longing to hear and let them be fully felt in your body. Allow this is to evolve and melt in to whatever feels good for you.
If you are able to gather some flowers, leaves and something to form a crown, like willow or ivy, spend some time with each piece of what you have gathered, looking closely at the different elements, touching them on your skin, smelling their scent. Light a candle and set the intention to weave a crown that represents the union of masculine and feminine within you. Enjoy the process of weaving your crown and appreciating the vitality of the masculine and feminine life-force that gave birth to each piece. When it is complete prepare a pledge to speak aloud that commits you to uniting the forces within you - or whatever feels alive for you. When you have said it with your fullest heart and intention place the crown on your head and enjoy time embodying your inner Sovereign!
Prepare your sacred space however you feel to, adding an empty chair in to the space and gathering some offerings - things you enjoy, maybe some quality chocolate, a herbal infusion, a glass of whiskey or mead. Adorn the chair with a beautiful piece of fabric, make it like a throne! Light a candle and state your intention to welcome all parts of yourself back to you, coming in to balance and embodying your fullest potential. Spend a few minutes in silence or drumming to quieten the mind and expand your perception. Now facing the empty chair, call upon your Higher Self and ask that all parts of yourself return to you so that you many embody your full potential. Allow your intuition to guide you next... Is there a dialogue to be had to speak to forgotten parts of yourself? Do you feel called to dance to welcome yourself back? Are there tears to shed? Be free to explore what arises. When you feel a shift in energy and feel ready to, make a pledge to yourself to embody your fullness and celebrate ALL that you are. And then sit in your throne, allowing the energy to settle in to you from this embodied place. Drink it in. Give thanks and enjoy some of the offerings you laid out. Give the rest to the earth of one of your hungry houseplants!
If you are able to find a hawthorn tree, light a candle with your an intention for Beltane (what feels alive for you at this time that you want to energise and fertilise?) and set it near the trunk of the tree. Spend time in its company connecting with your heart, offer a song, sit in silence, and perhaps adorn the tree with some ribbons. Ask if you may cut a few branches of blossom to take home with youWhen your heart feels filled up thank the tree, and blow out the candle.
On a Beltane walk, look out for branches of fresh green leaves and blossom. With some scissors and asking permission, offering a song or some gift in return, cut foliage to adorn your home with. Once home, dress in something green and ceremonial, put on your favourite upbeat playlist, and enjoy weaving the green into your home. Adorn your altar, window-sills and shelves as you invite the fertile potency and beauty of nature in to your home to connect with these vibrant energies and support your creative projects.