Beltane is one of the greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on May 1st, but some celebrate it on the night of April 30th, depending on the tradition. The Celtic tradition celebrates Baltane on May 1st, with the first full moon, when the sun is in Taurus. The Scottish tradition celebrates Beltane on May 15th.
This Sabbat is firstly a festival of fertility, of natural magic, offerings to the spirits of wildlife and the elements. The forces of elves and fairies grow and reach their peak on Litha Sabbat or summer solstice. Beltane celebrations include jumping on broomsticks, dancing around the Maypole and jumping over the fire. Weaving is a traditional art in this time of the year, and is a symbol of connection with two substances to form a third one – in accordance with the spirit of Beltane. This Sabbat represents the union of God and the Goddess, the sacred marriage, new life and fertility of all living things.
Most Wiccans believe that Beltane is the beginning of the bright half of the year, which is summer, compared to the dark half of the year, which is winter, that begins on Samhain Sabbat. Wiccans believe that the bright half is controlled by the Goddess, while the dark half is controlled by the God. As Beltane is considered a Sabbat of fertility, this is a time when the God and the Goddess unite in marriage. It is also believed that at this time the God fertilizes the Goddess, because of their sexual connection on this day – which is symbolized by the Maypole. In ancient times, the Maypole was made of pine wood, which was decorated by everyone on the Yule Sabbat, and most of its branches removed. Traditionally, there are red and white colored ribbons tied to the top of the Maypole. The red ribbons symbolize the Sun God or the Mother, while the white ribbons symbolize the Virgin Goddess. The participants dance around the Maypole while holding the ribbons. The men hold red ribbons, and the women white ribbons. When they dance, they weave and twist the ribbons to form a symbolic birth canal around the phallic tree, representing the union of the Goddess and God. Many Wiccans choose this Sabbat to fulfill their own Handfastings (connecting hands) or weddings. In addition to Beltane, Litha is another time for such rituals and ceremonies.
Traditional Beltane activities include Maypole decorating, the Great Rite, jumping over the fire, playing the horn and collecting flowers. Solitary practitioners may also choose a woven belt as an alternative to installing a Maypole and dance around it.
Beltane is a good time for spellwork and witchcraft, especially love, fertility, protection and prosperity spells, as well as spiritual communication with deities and divination of all sorts. It is especially good to establish a small shrine in the woods or in your garden. The house guardians should be honored on this holiday. You should remember one key element during this time of the year, which is to take action on the activities or projects that you’ve planned and started on Ostara Sabbat.
Beltane is a time for faery magic, when the fairy queen is known as the May Queen. The fairy queen runs the festival together with her husband, and is acting as a representative of the Goddess. In countries with temperate climate, flowers bloom, blossom or get completely covered with leaves, gardens grow, all hibernating animals awaken and birds make nests. Beltane is the holiday of fertility, and we are grateful for it. It is our task to preserve the land and keep it healthy, protect the animals, plants and trees and make sure this fertility continues.
- Other names for Beltane: Beltaine, May Day, Festival of Fire, Witches Night.
- Symbolism: Festival of fertility, natural magic and offerings to the spirit of wildlife and elementals.
- Gods & deities: Aphrodite, Arianrod, Artemis, Astrate, Venus, Diana, Ariel, Var, Skadi, Cybele, Freya, Rhiannon, Apollo, Bacchus, Bel, Pan, Cupid, Odin, Orion, Horned God.
- Decorations: Maypole, phallic shaped candle, floral garland of daisies or other flowers, floral wreaths, colorful ribbons.
- Stones: Sapphire, bloodstone, emerald, rose quartz.
- Plants: Primrose, yellow primrose, hawthorn, rose, birch, rosemary, lilac, almond, angelica, ash tree, bell, cinquefoil, daisies, frankincense, ivy, claw, woodruff.
- Incense: Frankincense, lilac, passion flower, rose and vanilla.
- Colors: Green, pink, brown, red, yellow, white.
- Food: Milk products, honey, leafy vegetables, fruits, berries, pies.
- Animals: Cat, lynx, leopard, swan, pigeon, rabbit, bee, horse.
- Mythical creatures: Pegasus.
The Wiccan altar on Beltane can contain a simple placement of flowers that bloom at this time of year. May baskets can be made from strips of paper and placed on the altar, as well as branches of hawthorn or leaves and branches of an oak tree may be used as a green background to the altar.
Goddess in Beltane
We know the Goddess as a Mother and a Daughter. On Beltane she can be called Queen Mab, a fairy queen, who arrives from above on a horse from the other world, from the reality of visions and spirits, to teach us how to how to move between worlds. In Irish mythology, Mab was harsh and beautiful Goddess, respecting her husband Ailill, because she was generous, kind and not jealous. She was associated with the sacred hare, which brought magic and inspiration.
God in Beltane
The Beltane God is the Green Man, God of all plants. He is also beloved by all the living creatures, the protector and guardian of the wild forest. He is often portrayed as a face on a leaf, looking out of branches and foliage. One of the oldest names of the Green Man is Robin Hood, a hunter who lives under the Greenwood tree. You might be familiar with the story of Robin Hood, but the name’s origin is actually from this old Pagan God. Robin Hood means “Rob in Hood” – a hood which good people and fairies wore. He was dressed in green and lived in the wild woods with his brothers, who defended the poor.
How to Celebrate Beltane
There are many different Wiccan ways to celebrate Beltane, some like to work with witchcraft by performing rituals and casting spells, some like to open tarot spreads for themselves, while others like to cook festive dishes.
We have a whole section for Beltane related articles here. Here are some more ideas for your Beltane celebrations: