Beltane is seen by some to be one of the most important festivals on the Pagan wheel of the year and is one of the four fire festivals – it’s certainly one of the most fun! The Pagan festival of Beltane is traditionally held around the 1st of May, about halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice (the longest day) around the 21st June.
What Does The Pagan Festival Of Beltane Represent?
For Pagans, Beltane represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. The Earth energies are at their strongest – new life is bursting forth everywhere. Fertility and sexuality of all life and the earth is at it’s peak now! There are many traditions from this most ancient of festivals that we still participate in today, without even realising their pagan links!
The May Pole
All over the country May Day fairs are held with children dancing around the Maypole – this was actually to encourage fertile harvests. The pole is a phallic symbol representing the potency of the God and the ring of flowers atop the pole representing the fertile Goddess! The many coloured ribbons and the weaving dance symbolising the spiral of life and the union of the God and Goddess.
Image credit to The Independent
As a fertility festival, Beltane was (and still is) a traditional time for pagan weddings to happen – called Handfastings. My husband and I chose Beltane to have our Handfasting. Traditionally, the couple could commit themselves for “a year and a day”, after which the couple could walk away with no recriminations if they so choose. Today the length of commitment is personal choice.
The act of handfasting involves the binding of the couple’s hands with a handfasting ribbon – this is where the saying “tying the knot” comes from. It is often traditional for the bride to make the ribbon (I made mine!). At some point in the ceremony the hands are untied, which symbolises that the couple chose to come together and remain together of their own free will.
Another important element of the Handfasting is the “jumping the broomstick.” Once again, an ancient custom, where the broomstick marks a threshold, symbolising moving from an old life to a new one. Our ancestors held equality in much higher esteem, this custom was replaced in later years by the husband carrying the wife over the threshold… much more a symbol of ownership!
Mead and cakes are shared with the guests at a Handfasting. Mead is known as the brew of the Gods and seen as Divine. It is made from honey, which was seen as a gift from the gods (there is much myth and legend around bees) and is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man!
Whether they were getting handfasted or not, our ancestors were a lusty lot at this time of year! The days were warming, the scarcity of food from over the Winter was beginning to lesson as fields were planted and lambs had been born. Both the young and the old went “A-Maying.” Couples spent the night in the woods and fields, getting up to all sorts of frisky shenanigans! They brought back armfuls of the May (Hawthorn) blossoms to decorate their homes and barns with. The blossoms were to ensure luck and fertility for their crops, animals and the coming year. This is the only time of the year that you can bring Hawthorn into the house as it is considered a fairy tree, and unlucky to bring it into the home at any other time of the year. Everyone was free to enact the Sacred Marriage of the Goddess and the God, and there was an accepted tradition of Beltane babies arriving the following February – to coincide with Imbolc!
Morris Men and Dancing up the sun on May Day Morning
All over the country at the crack of dawn, come rain or shine, Morris Men, those iconic traditional British folk dancers, get up and “Dance up the Sun.” They danced in a bid to ensure we have good weather for the coming May Day celebrations and the harvests!
The May Tree
The May tree, or Hawthorn, is a sacred tree to many pagans and has an affinity with the Fae (the Fairies) and magic. It is one of the most beautiful sights of the British countryside to see the hedgerows brimming with the May blossom. There is much ancient lore and mythology surrounding the May tree. To cut one down is said to incur the wrath of the Fairies.
One of the old traditions that young maidens used to do was to awake at dawn on the 1st of May and bathe their faces in the dew gathered on the Hawthorn flowers to ensure their beauty for the rest of the year!
Treatments and Training that Have an Affinity with Beltane
These ancient customs are still relevant to us today. We all feel the growing warmth and power of the sun. Our thoughts turn to booking holidays, and wanting to shake of the gloom and cold days of Winter! We attend May Day fairs and emerge from our homes and into our gardens with bright expectations for the coming Summer months.
Our skin has dried out from exposure to the cold Winter and Spring winds and central heating. So, in the tradition of our maiden ancestor sisters, I recommend a beautifying Holistic Facial, a Natural Lift Facial and Body Brushing and Skin Conditioning .
All these treatments are perfect for renewing our energy, vitality and for putting a glow to our skin and a spring in our step!
They are amazing treatments to give too, so if you are a therapist and thinking about adding to your list of services. Or want to retrain in a new and rewarding career, this is the perfect time of year to learn these therapies!