Beltane or Beltaine, origin (Old Irish) is the anglicised spelling of Bealtaine or Bealltainn, the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May.

Beltaine occurs on May Day, May 1st of every year (date does not change).

Wicca

Wiccans and Wiccan-inspired Neopagans celebrate a variation of Beltane as a Sabbat, one of the eight solar holidays. Although the holiday may use features of the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as maypole dancing). Some Wiccans celebrate “High Beltaine” by enacting a ritual union of the May Lord and May Lady.

Among the Wiccan Sabbats, Beltane is a cross-quarter day; it is celebrated in the northern hemisphere on May 1 and in the southern hemisphere on November 1. Beltane follows Ostara and precedes Midsummer.

Old Beltane

By the way, due to various calendrical changes down through the centuries, the traditional date of Beltane is not the same as its astrological date. This date, like all astronomically determined dates, may vary by a day or two depending on the year. However, it may be calculated easily enough by determining the date on which the sun is at 15 degrees Taurus (usually around May 5th). British Witches often refer to this date as Old Beltane, and folklorists call it Beltane O.S. (‘Old Style’). Some Covens prefer to celebrate on the old date and, at the very least, it gives one options. If a Coven is operating on ‘Pagan Standard Time’ and misses May 1st altogether, it can still throw a viable Beltane bash as long as it’s before May 5th. This may also be a consideration for Covens that need to organize activities around the week-end.

Symbols

Herbs

Honeysuckle, St. John’s wort, Hawthorn, All flowers.

Incense

Frankincense, Lilac, Rose.

Color

Green, Soft pink, Blue, Yellow.

Special Activities

  • Decorate altar with:
    • Tons of flowers
    • Lots of candles
    • Figurines of the Horned God and the fertile Goddess
    • A special Beltane candle for wishes
    • Any other symbols of spring, fertility or the earth.
    • Wreaths of flowers
    • White and red ribbons
  • Women can braid flowers in to their hair.
  • Prepare a feast, emphasizing on grains (such as breads and cookies), dairy, strawberries, wine (I feel a white wine would be appropate) and salad.
  • Sex. This is a fertility holiday afer all.
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