beltane heading

The spelling varies from Belteinne to Bealtine, Beltane is most common and closest to its pronunciation. The word can be translated as 'The bright [or fortunate] fire' and can be connected with the Irish Balor, the Gallic god Belenus and the Welsh Beli Mawr, all deities connected with light and fire.

It's the first festival of summer, celebrated by the calendar on May 1st.

Cormac's Glossary relates that all fires were extinguished at Beltane, to be rekindled from those lit by druids who chanted spells over them, infusing them with magical powers, and cattle were driven between twin fires on hilltops as a charm against disease before being led to their summer pastures.

The modern Beltane rite focuses on fertility: for those wanting children, for the land, farmed and wild, for our own souls and dreams. The twin fires of the rite express the duality of nature. The tension of opposites craving union, the source of creativity, the source of life.

There are many folk customs around Beltane, such as washing one's face with dew before dawn to bring beauty, picking certain herbs said to inspire attraction, blessing the bees who give us mead, the dance around the May pole and the disappearing of couples into the forest and fields to make love in the moonlight. It is a time of music and dance, youthful energy and freedom.

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Details from: Principles of Druidy by Emma Restall Orr 1998 ISBN 07 2253 6747