Beltane is a very special time of year for the Celts, Irish, Gaelic and Scottish people. It marks the mid-point of the sun’s progress between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. It can mean “Belfire” or “Bright Fire” and is often marked in the Irish community by making wonderful bonfires to celebrate a time of purification and transition and jumping the fire.
There is also a time to hope for future good harvest. The Celtic people celebrate Beltane as a Spring Festival of hope and optimism, and the Irish also hang beautiful boughs of greens and flowers on the doors and windows of their homes. Everything represents beauty, fertility and the flowering of the earth.
Beltane can occur on May 1st, and is often celebrated anywhere between May 1 and May 7, depending upon the culture. The Beltane festivals are filled with intense celebration, singing, dancing and raucous behavior are found everywhere during festival; joyful self-expression is highly encouraged.
Matthew Fox, a great theologian and radical priest; studied this time and made a very interesting observation in a lecture I has attended. Fox told us “in the Celtic traditions, a young man who was about to become a soldier couldn’t do so until he first learned to dance.” When I think of the implications of that, and understand some of the nature of Beltane, it makes sense. How could a person go to war and be put in the potential position of having to take the life of another, before he first learned the reverence and celebration of life?
We can learn a great deal during this very special time of year. It is also more currently celebrated as May Day, and lovely poles of flowers and ribbon and created for children to dance and weave around. How can we incorporate some of the beauty and joyfulness of this time of year into our own lives? Tapping in to ancient traditions such as Beltane can add an unexpected dimension of meaning, especially when we allow ourselves time to celebrate, sing, dance and even be a little “raucous”!
These times in our world call for more celebration and dance. We have so much to be grateful for and the natural beauty of the earth during this special period is evidence. If we hold to the hope and optimism the Celts believe this time of year brings, perhaps it will lift us above the trap of discouragement we can easily fall into.
Get some ribbon. Celebrate and buy some flowers for yourself or a friend. Sing something. Do a jig. Allow yourself to feel purified of something negative and make an oath that some type of necessary transition can occur in life. Maybe that transition can be Peace?
Here’s an Earth Prayer for you: “Lord make us mindful of the little things than grow and blossom in these days to make the world beautiful for us”. (Du Bois)