Beltane means "lucky fires" or "bright fires." Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain,
divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light
Part). As Samhain is about honouring Death, Beltane, its counterpart, is about honouring
Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and
able to rule over summer and life once again. Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of
"no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is
when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when
the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief
and faery delight.
The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult
journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to
the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The
drab non-colour of winter's end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that
permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the
sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.
Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth
from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self
are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again
be had. November is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again
returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests,
not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.
On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine
sacred woods (see the Wiccan Rede). The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God)
to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven
between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through
to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before
they were taken to summer grazing lands.
The Maypole dance is an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to
the earth. The pole itself is not only phallic in symbolism but also is the connector
of the three worlds. Dancing the Maypole during Beltane is magical experience as
it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when these gateways
are more easily penetrable. As people gaily dance around and around the pole holding
the brightly coloured ribbons, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth's
womb, bringing about Her full awakening and fruitfulness. Element: fire.