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Celebrating the Fertility Festival of Beltane

Updated on April 22, 2013
Children dancing around a May pole.
Children dancing around a May pole. | Source

Beltane is considered to be the second most important festival of the year. At Beltane the goddess s casts off her maiden robes and becomes mother and the god leaves behind the irresponsibility and freedom of youth as they join together in marriage. The word Beltane means bel-fire. Bel was a Celtic fire god (also known as Beli, Balor and Belenus) Traditional bel-fires were lit to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world after winter. Fires were built using nine sacred woods (birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir) and the village’s herds of sheep and cattle would be driven between them as people believed that this would purify and protect them in the times ahead.

Another tradition had all single men and women dress in green and spend Beltane night in the woods seeking a partner. Children born into partnerships resulting from this practice were considered to be especially blessed.

Like at Samhain, Beltane is a time at which the veil between worlds is thinnest. At Samhain this is the worlds of the living and dead and at Beltane, those of mortals and faery are very close. This is a time when spirits fond of jest and honour may past through and when gods known for their sense of humour or fun such as Pan, Puck and Loki can be invoked. Fires are often lit at Beltane and the festival is one of joy. Beltane celebrates love, rebirth and the return of the summer.

2012 Beltane Fire Festival in front of the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
2012 Beltane Fire Festival in front of the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland | Source
These beautifully fragrant elderflowers can be made into fritters.
These beautifully fragrant elderflowers can be made into fritters. | Source

Food for Beltane

Beltane celebrates the marriage of the god and goddess and is therefore considered the perfect time for a major feast. In fine weather this could be held outside, perhaps as a picnic with friends or family. Traditional foods for Beltane include fresh fruits and salads, herbs, season vegetables, cheese, breads and eggs. May wine and mead is also often served.

Easy Beltane Recipes

May wine

1 bottle of white wine
½ cup strawberries, sliced
12 sprigs of fresh woodruff

Pour wine into a wide mouthed jug. Add sliced strawberries and woodruff and let sit for a few hours. Strain and serve chilled.

Dandelion salad

½ lb dandelion greens, torn
½ red onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss together the dandelion greens, onions and tomatoes. Season with basil, salt and pepper.

Faery sugar

3 cups of white sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. red food colouring
2 tbsp. of edible glitter
Glass container

Place the sugar, red food colouring and vanilla into a bowl and mix well. Add the glitter and mix to combine. Store in the glass container and use to make special treats and offerings to fae.

Elderflower fritters

1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp. rose water
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup honey
2 cups of freshly picked elderflower

1) Mix the egg, rose water and honey in a mixing bowl. Stir in the flour and cinnamon.
2) Fold in the elderflowers.
3) Fry heaped tbsps. of the mixture as you would pancakes until golden.

Beltane Incense Recipes

3 tsp. frankincense
2 tsp. sandalwood
1 tsp. woodruff
1 tsp. rose petals
A few drops of jasmine essential oil

2 tsp. mugwort
1 tsp. dried daffodil petals
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. hawthorn berries
1 tsp. patchouli
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. dragons blood resin

Beltane Crafts and Activities

Create May baskets. Place fresh cut flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, seeds, a poem, affirmation or blessing and sweet treats such as home-made or bought cookies, sweets and cake. Give the baskets to anyone in need of kindness, healing, emotional support or uplifting.

Make your own portable May pole – Place one end of a pole or straight tree branch into a bucket and then fill the bucket with quick drying cement. Once the cement has hardened the pole can be used for many years to come and will be easy to store in-between.

Plant seeds.

Fill a dish with fruits, berries and nuts and leave it in the woods for the animals and fae folk to enjoy.

Make a floral headdress or crown using fresh or dried flowers.

Weaving projects are ideal for Beltane to symbolise the joining of the god and goddess.

Make a Green Man mask by sticking artificial, paper or dried leaves to a mask form.


Decorating your Altar for Beltane

Beltane celebrates the fertility of the earth, new life, fire, passion and rebirth. For this festival decorate your altar with greens and bright spring colours. Small pots of daffodils, dandelions and other spring flowers are ideal. Cloths, candles and other items in these colours can also be used. Vases of cut flowers can also be used.

Eggs and seeds can be used to represent fertility and items that symbolise the god and goddess’ fertility at this time such as antlers, sticks, acorns, cauldrons, cups and circular items such as rings and wreaths can be placed on your altar.

If you wish to honour the faerie realm, at this time of the year small offerings can be left on your altar. At Beltane the veil between our world and the fae realm is at its thinnest. Leave offerings of bread and other foods from your celebrations on your altar.

Other commonly used symbols of Beltane include May baskets, honey, oats and milk, fruits such as cherries, mangoes and peaches, horns, swords or arrows.

© 2013 Claire


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