What About Beltane?

The celebration of May 1st, or Beltane is one of the most important festivals the year.
The word Beltane literally means, "shining fire." This is one of the most exciting
festivals of the Wheel of the year. It is also one of the only holidays that is usually
celebrated in the light of day.

The collecting of spring flowers is one of the popular customs of this day. For thousands
of years, people would go into the fields to collect the pretty flowers and exchange them.
Towns people would often proceed through the village streets putting flowers on all the
houses and buildings. People inside the homes would offer them wonderful food and
goodies to eat as sort of a spring version of "trick or treat."

Another benchmark tradition of this holiday is the Maypole. In tradition, a fir was used.
The young, unwed men would go to the forest and return with the tree that would be
fashioned into the pole. The pole was brought to the center of the village to be guarded
through the night until the first day of May. On that day, the people would come and
dance around the maypole clockwise to bring fertility and good luck. Later, brightly
colored ribbons were woven around the pole by the dancers as they wove around eachother. This symbolizes the balance of masculine and feminine energies and the duality of
life. The ribbons would then be removed and kept in a safe place to be burned in the
Beltane fires of next year. This action represents the old dying to give birth to the new.

Fertility is a central theme of Beltane. The people lived in close connection with the
Earth. To have food to eat, the crops and the beasts of the fields would have to be fertile.
In the time of the ancients, this was a life and death matter. For this reason, we have a number of holidays and rituals that are connected with fertility. The maypole is connected to
this theme by way of the view point of it being a phallic symbol.

Another fertility representation is the custom of jumping the cauldron. Couples wishing
to conceive children will jump the cauldron together. Fertility of all areas of life are
invoked during this holiday as well as sexual fertility. This is the day for Wiccans to
laugh and banter about having the most joyous of times!