My friend, Stuart, reminded me that today is Beltane. When I lived in the U.S. I didn’t know Beltane from my pinky finger but having lived in the United Kingdom for nigh on eleven years, I am starting to learn about our pagan roots and the festivals and celebrations relating to them.
…or Beltain is the Gaelic May Day festival. It is held on April 30, but sometimes on May 1st, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It marks the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, the people, and to encourage growth. Bonfires were lit and were thought to have special protective powers. People and cattle circled the bonfires or walked between them as a way of harnessing the powers and home hearth flames were extinguished and relit with the Beltane fire as a means of protection also. Yellow flowers decorated the homes and the cattle.
And so we have the May Day festival which brings us the Maypole, the flowers, the dancing…
Unless, of course, you celebrate Beltane up in Scotland where nothing is done by half measures:
Happy Beltane everyone.
I think I might have to revise my bucket list and replace Burning Man for Beltane in Scotland.