Yes, it is that time of year again, folks. Blessed Beltane to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere. Today is one of our most carefree Sabbats on the Wheel. It is all about love, fertility (not just the procreating sort), feasting, and celebration. I can't think of a somber note anywhere in this Sabbat. It was one of the celebrations that the country folk in Europe refused to give up despite pressures from the Church. The Maypole, the bonfires (it is one of the four fire festivals as well), the crowns of flowers, these things remained apart of May first. It makes sense when one considers the importance of this festival as it relates to fertility of the earth. A person who depends almost entirely on good crops would be rather reluctant to give up anything they believe will help the crops grow and that is an important aspect of the day. So the Maypole and the fire festivals remained, kept alive even if they were alive in secret, and today thousands around the world attend festivals where the Maypole is still danced, the fires still burn, and the May Queen is still crowned.
Technically speaking, today is the midway point between the first day of Spring and the first day of Summer. In Wiccan mythology, it is the day of the Sacred Marriage between the Goddess and the God. As Scott Cunningham put it:
'Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant by the God.'
The two important symbols of the day are Maypoles and flowers. Maypoles are phallic symbols and they, like flowers, are seen as symbols of fertility. The Maypole itself, homes, and people are often decorated with flowers and blossoms. In the days of old, people rose at dawn to gather flowers and branches and drops of dew. The flowers were used as decorations while the dew was kept (though how one keeps dew, I am not sure. I have yet to try it. To me, gathering dew sounds a bit tedious and it is one of those things that I tell myself I'll do every year and every year I do not.) Beltane to the ancient Celts was thought of as the beginning of summer and it was celebrated as such. Today was also a day associated with protection for the coming season and often, rowan branches put on window ledges were a way of asking for protection for the home.
In Seasons of Witchery, Ellen Dugan lists the Sabbat correspondences as such:
Theme: Unity and partnerships
Energy: Romance, lust, and joy
Deities: Flora (Roman Goddess of Flowers) and the Green Man
Colors: Green, white, rose, and pink
Crystals and Stones: Emeralds, rose quartz, aventrine
Herbs: Thyme, oregano, viburnum, shrubs, rue, foxglove, chive
Flowers: Lilac, peony, rose, iris, pansy, vida, snapdragon
Scents: Lilac, peony, thyme
Decorations: Baskets of fresh flowers, ribbons, mini Maypoles
Foods: Berries, fresh field greens, spring onions
Another common element to this day are Faeries. This Sabbat is directly across the Wheel from Samhain and while Samhain is believed to include a thinning veil between the realms of the living and the dead, Beltane is believed to have a thinning veil of its own: Between our realm and the realm of the Fay.
Like the ritual I posted sometime back for Yule, my ritual for Beltane is Solitary and it includes elements from Edain McCoy's book Sabbats and Silver Ravenwolf's book Solitary Witch. The initial incantation and the activity listed at the end belong to Silver while the ritual itself is Edain's. I find that the combination works well for me. I have also gotten in the habit of beginning each ritual for the Sabbats with the Wiccan Creation Story. I now reserve the Charges of the Goddess for Esbats. I do this because each point on the Wheel is about the dance of the Goddess and the God and I feel that the Creation Story summarizes that along with the connection of the Deities to us. Perhaps in sixteen years I will have a completely different way of doing things. The thing about being Solitary is that you find yourself adding and subtracting elements of how you do things throughout the years. But for now, I try to spend the whole day celebrating life and the things that make me happy in my life and when it comes to the ritual itself on this day, this is the bare bones of what I do:
After casting the circle and calling my quarters, I say Silver's Beltane Ritual Incantation:
'Maypole rises to the heavens/lengths of colored ribbons/flutter in the morning's sunlight/tokens kept and given./Costumed Lords and Ladies/step quick in Deosil round/weaving love and harmony/as the sun goes down./Circle in to touch the sky/out to manifest/spiral dance around the ring/grant me my request!/Venus rules Her passions deep/in games of love and war/Taurus vows that he will keep/riches at the door./Cupid's bow is pointed to shoot/right through the heart/Aphrodite's scented lips breathe "Romance is an art./Circle in to touch the sky/out to manifest/spiral dance around the ring/grant me my request!/The Maypole is the world tree/Poteau Mitan of lore/that draws from ebony oceans/stars to earthen shores/and carries power to the dance/through streamers of such hue/the spark of life that is required/to make a witch's brew./Circle in to touch the sky/out to manifest/spiral dance around the ring/grant me my request!/The first dew of morning/and rowan on the ledge/are secrets of the season/renewing each year's pledge./ Circle in to touch the sky/out to manifest/spiral dance around the ring/grant me my request!/ Deosil thrice around the bonfire/leap the roaring flame./Cast off the old and birth the new/in God and Goddess' name./Protection for the animals/good fortune, healing too/Bannach Bealtaine, an offering to make my dreams come true./Circle in to touch the sky/out to manifest/spiral dance around the ring/grant me my request!
For the Beltane ritual you need to have on hand your usual ritual tools and some spring flowers. Say:
"Blessed be this day of Beltane, wedding day of the Goddess and God. Holy day of sacred marriage, holy night of sacred union."
Take your athame in your right hand and your chalice in your left. Hold them in front of you. See them as earthly vessels of Deity. Say:
"Tonight I witness the marriage of my Goddess and my God. May the union be fruitful."
Place the athame inside the chalice and feel the union of the Deities. Say:
"As they are one, they become one. As they become one, they are one. I, too, am one with them."
Raise the athame and chalice, still united, to your forehead to honor this union of the three of you. Take some of the flowers from the altar and dance with them. They are manifestations of the union of Deities.
Light a fire in your cauldron. Turn to the east and say:
"Out of the east the sun wells and whitens, the darkness tumbles into light, and the stars are extinguished like the lamps of a human city. The whiteness brightens into silver, the silver warms into gold, the gold kindles into pure and living fire, and the face of the east is covered with elemental scarlet. The day draws its first breath, steady and chill, and for leagues around the woods and valleys will sigh and shiver. From every side the shadows will leap from their ambush and fall prone. The day of prosperity has come! This I give to thee, O sacred fire, so that I aand my family shall be spared from all evil."
Walk around the cauldron three times.
Release the quarters, close the circle, and have a blessed Beltane.