Summer is here! Not sure if the weather here in Northern Ireland has realised that yet or not but in the Wiccan calendar it is almost Beltane – a fire festival that marks the start of summer. This festival falls midway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.
In farming communities, cattle and livestock were driven out to the summer pastures at this time of year and quite often there were rituals held to protect them and ensure a productive season. Special beltane fires would be lit and the cattle would have been driven between the fires in the hope of protecting them from the fairies who were known to be particularly active at this time. The smoke from the flames was also seen as purifying and was thought to ensure the fertility of the livestock.
In early folklore the fairies (or fae) were to be feared as mischevious little sprites but we would do well to remember the good deeds that the fae do as well. The sight of summer flowers is thought to be the work of the fae and Beltane is a great time for leaving out some food and treats for the fairies in your garden.
The fire festival of Beltane is a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world is thin – just like at Samhain (Halloween). It is therefore a good time for divination and consulting the Tarot.
As the wheel of the year continues to turn, the God has reached maturity and is now in a position to consummate his relationship with the Goddess. This festival is therefore a time for celebrating the union between two people and you will often find many handfastings or weddings take place at this time of year.
This festival not only celebrates the hope for a fruitful growing season in the fields but is also one of the most overtly sexual festivals in the Wiccan calendar. Fertility, sexual union and passion are all celebrated. One of the most common rituals, even to this day, is the dance around the Maypole, with the Maypole clearly a phallic symbol.
Fire is still the most important aspect of the festival however and there are various rituals and traditions associated with the beltane fires. People often leap over the fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind and body) and happiness in the coming year.
Edinburgh in Scotland holds the largest Beltane celebrations in the UK and fires are lit on the eve of May Day and festivities carry on until dawn. All around the UK private parties are held and Pagans gather to celebrate the start of summer.
Beltane is a time sowing seeds and acknowledging the abundance of Mother Earth. It is a perfect time to do a little magic to bring about prosperity. Why not cleanse and charge up your citrine crystals and dedicate them to bringing about abundance for you in the coming year?
Have fun and be careful you don’t land in the fire if you are attempting to leap over one on Thursday night!