Tag Archives: Bealtaine

World Tree and Maypole

Standard

“The single tree, fenced or walled off, with or without an altar beside it, is a universal feature of European sacred culture, and indeed it appears throughout Eurasia and Africa. In Minoan Crete the icons show people dancing in the walled-off area around a single fig or olive tree.”
–Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe

People danced around living trees in Spring rituals long before trees were felled for maypoles. In fact, attaching ribbons and weaving them around the pole did not come about until the Middle Ages. Contrary to popular belief, the custom of the maypole didn’t originate with Celtic peoples, but in German culture.

The most common explanation of the maypole is that it is a phallic symbol, and that symbolism does seem to befit the season; in the fertile onset of Summer, the Sky Father fertilizes the Earth Mother. However, the greater symbolism is that the maypole is representative of the axis mundi, the World Tree, Irminsul, Yggdrasil.

I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.
-Hávamál

And so Odin received his wisdom and power- from his initiation on the World Tree, at the center connecting point of the universe. The World Tree is the backbone of our universe, the connection to all the worlds, the cosmic pillar that upholds everything. It is symbolic of all life and is a connecting force like a web. No wonder it is one of the most common motifs in mythology around the world.

Trees connect the world we live in, in very non-metaphoric ways as well. They hold together the soil, clean the air, and produce the very oxygen we breathe. Without trees, we most likely wouldn’t be here. It is a most essential symbiotic relationship. If you look at a river system from the air, it looks like a tree. Our lungs and nerve systems look like trees as well. We have the power of the world tree within us. As above, so below, so without, so within. The ancient Norse knew this, for in the mythology, the first people were from trees- they were driftwood in which Odin breathed life.

tree of life prayer

Hallow Magic for the High Days

Standard

Most ADF rituals emphasize worship over magical workings, or so I’ve heard. It doesn’t have to be so… why not have it all? The Druid-style rituals I piece together tend to be short and sweet, so there’s plenty of room to add a little magic. Here are some ideas I’ve had for High Day themed magical workings that are aligned with the Triple Hallows. Most of these ideas are for outdoor rituals. For some of these, you may want to have a crafting session ahead of time, then have participants bring their finished work to the ritual, ready to give it that final “oomph” of energy before activating in the Hallow.

In the following workings, I use the word “intent” a lot. What I mean by this is the goal of your magic, and the act of thinking about it and letting the energy of it flow into what your are crafting or doing. Your intent can be for increase (like for prosperity, wisdom, love, for a few examples), or your intent could be something you want to release to the universe (like negativity, bad vibes… things that hold you back) for the Kindreds to transform it into something better or make use of somewhere else.

As a general guideline, do “releasing” work in the waning part of the year (Lughnasadh to Yule) or during a waning moon, and “increasing” work in the waxing part of the year (Imbolc to Midsummer) or waxing moon. Whatever your intent, you can often change it’s nature by perspective and wording, to flow with the season. For example; if you want to do prosperity magic, but it’s a waning season/moon phase, make it a “poverty banishing” working instead.

FIRE
These are items that are fashioned to be burned in the Fire Hallow.

  • PRAYER LEAF: Hand out big Sassafras leaves (or other big leaves) and markers for participants to inscribe their intent through words symbols or pictures. This one is ideal for any High Day. I like to use it for Samhain, and with bay leaves on Imbolc. (For indoor rituals, use slips of flash paper instead; to avoid having a room filled with smoke.)
  • SUN SYMBOLS: Hand out thin straight sticks or wheat stalks and sun-colored yarn/raffia for participants to make rustic “god‘s eyes”, weaving with the energy and intent of their goal. This one is ideal for Summer Solstice.
  • HARVEST FIGURES: Hand out string, sticks, corn husks, raffia, and/or other dried plant materials for participants to shape and tie into human or animal form, representing a goal or intention completed. This one is ideal for Harvest holidays. I like to use it for the Autumn Equinox.

“At this time we shall infuse our ______ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Fire and burn them.”
After all have done this, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Sky, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

WELL
These are items that are fashioned to be placed in the Well Hallow. Consider using a flowing stream for your Well Hallow.

  • PRAYER BOATS: Hand out paper and markers/crayons for participants to make origami boats and inscribe their intent on them through words, symbols and/or pictures. I like this one for Lughnasadh/Freyfaxi.
  • FLOWERS: Let participants choose from a basket of flowers, the one that represents their intent, or make paper flowers. This one is ideal for Beltane.
  • PRAYER SLIPS: Hand out pens and strips of water soluble paper for participants to inscribe their intent. This is another good one for Imbolc.

“At this time we shall infuse our _____ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Well and set them afloat.”
After all have done this, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Waters, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

TREE
These are items that are fashioned to be hung from the branches of the Tree Hallow.

  • CLOOTIES (prayer flags): Pass around a basket of various colors of thin natural fabric cut in strips (or participants may bring their own; the magic is especially powerful when it is cloth torn from one’s own clothing). Participants choose color and pattern of cloth based on their intent and infuse them with the energy of their intent with touch and prayer. Each dip their cloth in the Well and tie to the tree. Ideal for any warm weather High Day.
  • TREE ORNAMENTS: Hand out toast, peanut butter, birdseed, string, and cookie cutters. Participants cut shapes from the toast, spread on peanut butter, and sprinkle on birdseed (all with intent!) then poke a string through for hanging. This one is a good one for Winter Solstice.
  • WISHING EGGS/SPHERES: Hand out papier-mâché eggs (with 2 holes poked in one end), paints, markers, and string. Participants use paint and markers to inscribe their intent through words, symbols and/or pictures on the eggs, then hang them on a tree or shrub with string.  Do this one for the Spring Equinox.

“At this time we shall infuse our ______ with the energies of our intentions.
When you are ready, you may come to the Tree and tie them.”
After all are tied, say:
“Our intentions have been released to the Land, to the Kindreds,
and to the passing of the seasons. It is done.” ALL: “So be it!”

Countdown to Beltane – Holiday Planner

Standard

April 1st – 7th

  • Decorate for the holiday / make crafts to decorate home and altar.
  • Take seasonal (outdoor) pictures with family/friends.

April  8th – 14th

  • Firm up ritual plans, if you haven’t already. Will you be attending a festival, local event, a family event, or doing something on your own? If you are planning the ritual, decide on location and script/liturgy.
  • Obtain ribbons, pole, etc. and construct a may pole (unless you already have one you use every year).
  • Scope out good places to forage various wild foods (especially nettles, and other greens).

April  15th – 21st

  • Make menu plans and grocery list.
  • Find place to pick/obtain flowers for ritual.
  • Start a batch of mead for next year.

April  22nd – 30th

  • Shop for menu items.
  • Gather Sassafras leaves.
  • Pack away winter clothes in Sassafras leaves (an Ozark folk tradition).
  • Prepare some menu items in advance (if applicable).

April 31st / May 1st

  • Forage for wild greens, if part of feast.
  • Pick wild flowers and make garlands, crowns, altar decorations, etc.
  • Cook Feast.
  • Observe ritual, or honor the Kindreds in one form or another.
  • Feast and make merry.

HappyBeltane

A BEALTAINE RITE

Standard

(A part of my “little ritual” series.  Materials from, and adapted from ADF, the Carmia Gadelica, and other sources.)   In addition to usual “little ritual” supplies, bring ribbons, flowers and blown eggs to decorate your May tree.

*(Edited to note: I wrote this ritual when I was a Celtic Reconstructionist and scheduled it for this later date. For info on how to convert this ritual to an ADF format, see the “little rituals” article highlighted above.)

Circumambulation (circle ritual area three times.)

Purpose
“I am here to keep the old ways and honor the Kindred at the time of Bealtaine.”

Three Realms Blessing
“As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be —
I stand at the Center of Earth, Sky and Sea.”

Fire Lighting
“I kindle the sacred fire of Bealtaine in the names of Belenos and to Belisama.”  (light fire and offer oil)

Hail to the Spirits
“Hail, Earth Mother, whole and holy, honor unto thee!” 
(touch the earth, give offering)
“I offer now as the ancients did to the Kindreds Three!”
“To the Fair Folk, I give offering and welcome.”  (Make offerings and libations.)
To the Ancestors, I give offering and welcome.”  (Make offerings and libations.)
“To my Deities, I give offering and welcome.”  (Make offerings and libations.)
“Danu- Sacred Mother, Bíle- Tree of Life, I honor you this day.”
(Make offerings and libations.)

Blessing with Fire
Set aflame two brands from the fire and circle around the land, your home, or ritual area and say:
Hail Summer, season of light and life. 
May the Bealtaine fires bring health, prosperity, and happiness to all! 
May all maladies be banished in the names of the Shining Ones!”
Return brands to the fire.
(Optional: toss knobs of banock over your shoulder as offering to various nature Spirits.)

May Tree
Decorate a tree with flowers, ribbons, and blown eggs.
Say the “Tree of Life” prayer:
“Bíle, King of the Tree of Life, the blossoms on the branches are your people,
the singing birds are your angels, the whispering breeze is your Spirit. 
O King of the Tree of Life, my the blossoms bring forth the sweetest fruit,
may the birds sing out the highest praise,
may your Spirit cover all with it’s gentle breath.” 
Sing Bealtaine songs and dance around the tree.

Blessing Cup
“Ancient Ones, a Child of the Earth calls out for your blessing.
Hallow these waters, O holy powers.  Grant me the blessing I seek.
May the Wisdom, Love and Power of the Deities,
Ancestors and Sidhe flow into this Cup of Blessing.”
(Hold cup out with both hands and feel the energy flow into the cup.)
“This cup now holds the waters of life!
I drink this in the name of the Kindred.”  (drink deeply)
“May these waters I have received
flow through my body and through my spirit,
and may they pour out into the rest of my life.” 

Parting Blessing
“I offer my thanks to the Mother of All. 
I offer my thanks to the Deities, Ancestors and Fair-Folk.
May the Three Sacred Kins bring joy to all beings,
and renew the ancient wisdom.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.”

My Beltane Playlist

Standard

1. Thugamar Fein an Samhradh Linn – Wolfe Tones (As Gaeilege)

2. Flowering Earth  – Ani Williams & Lisa Thiel (Sisters of the Dream)

3. The Wild Mountain Thyme – The Corries (Silver collection)

4. Weaving the Summer  – Spiral Dance (The Quickening)

5. The Pretty Maid  – Clannad (Clannad)

6. Till April is Dead – Lisa Knapp (Till April is Dead – A Garland of May)

7. Padstow – Steeleye Span (Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert)

8. Bealtaine Song – La Lugh (Senex Puer)

9. Faery Song – Lisa Thiel (Invocation of the Graces)

10. Hal-An-Tow  – The Watersons (Frost and Fire)

11. Blessings of Beltane – Cernunnos Rising (Wild Soul)

12. Pleasant Month of May – Lisa Knapp (Till April is Dead – A Garland of May)

13. Maypole – Magnet (The Wicker Man – Original Soundtrack Recording)

14. The Market Song – Faun (Eden)

15. Beltane Fires – Gaia Consort (Secret Voices)

16. Sumer Is Icumen In  – Circulus (Thought Becomes Reality)

17. Mating Dance / Beltane – Jenna Greene (Crossroads)

18. Tine Bealtaine – Omnia (Pagan Folk)

19. Beltane Fires – Oxymora (Thundering Silence)

20. Under a Beltane Sun – Damh the Bard (Antlered Crown and Standing Stone)

21. Walpurgisnacht – Faun (Luna)

22. The May Queen – Robert Plant (Carry Fire)

23. The Night Before May Day – Lisa Knapp (Till April is Dead – A Garland of May)

24. Cup of Wonder – Jethro Tull (Songs from the Woods)

25. Samhradh, Samhradh – The Chieftains (The Chieftains 5)

26. May Morning Dew – Siobhan Miller (All Is Not Forgotten)

27. Queen of the May – Belshazzar’s Feast (Find the Lady)

28. Sumer Is Icumen In – Liederlicher Unfug (Mirst von herzen leide)

29. Staines Morris – Wren of Iniquity (Wren of Iniquity)

30. Wildwood Flower – Emmylou Harris (Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems)

31. Cherry Blossom Love – The Wailin’ Jennys (Bright Morning Stars)

You can listen to them all on one playlist here.

Bealtaine Playlist - Ozark Pagan Mamma

Our Bealtaine Rite

Standard

This year my family and I celebrated Bealtaine at a local park.  What a beautiful day it was to bring the summer in!  We stopped to pick flowers on the way there.
When we arrived at the park, the first thing we did was to trek down to Skull creek and splash our faces with water.

~A sacred fire we lit in an outdoor stone fireplace and gave an offering of oil:
“I kindle a fire in the presence of Bríde, gold-red woman.
May her blessings be on us here today.”

We bent to touch the Earth Mother in reverence, and made to her our personal prayers individually and gave offerings of grains.

~We spoke a Three Realms blessing:
“As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be,
may we live, love, and be blest
Midst the realms of Earth, Sky, and Sea.”

~We called to the Three:
“Today begins the season of Bealtaine!
We give offering and welcome to the Spirits of the Land and Nature.
We give offering and welcome to the Ancestors.
We give offering and welcome to our Gods and Goddesses…”
(Individual personalized prayers followed.)
We made offerings of grains into the fire for each, followed by libations.

DSCN0783

~We offered knobs from the Bealtaine bannock (over the shoulder) to a miscellany of Spirits.

~We made more offerings- a portion of our ritual feast…

~So commenced our celebration, with feasting, singing, merriment and making daisy chains!

We ended our rite with “As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.”

KIDS’ ACTIVITIES FOR BELTANE / MAY DAY

Standard

EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

STORIES

CRAFTS / ACTIVITIES

  • Wash your face in May dew.
  • Pick flowers and make May baskets. (Use instructions for Yule Cornucopias.) Place flower-filled May baskets on neighbors’ door knobs.
  • Make flower crowns and daisy chains.

how to make flower chains

  • Decorate a May Bush: This can be a living tree or a branch or clump of a tree brought indoors. Decorate it streamers, ribbons, scraps of cloth, flowers, and colored blown eggs. At dusk, dance around it! The May Bush is representative of the World Tree.

Kids Activities for Beltane

Ozark May Day Customs

Standard

Though the big celebrations of Bealtaine/ May day had been left behind long ago in the ancestral homelands, folklorist Vance Randolph documented many folk customs that he witnessed in the Ozarks persisting well up into the twentieth century.

~For many families, the first of May was the first day of the year that children were allowed to go outside barefoot.

~On this day, winter clothes were packed away with sassafras leaves.

~Cucumber and watermelons planted before sunrise on May first would not be bothered by insects.

~May first was considered the best day of the year for a girl to pick a husband. However, it was considered unlucky to marry in May.

~If you throw an eggshell into a fire on May first and you see a drop of blood on it, you will not live to see another May day.

May Day Future Mate Divinations

~Look into a spring before breakfast to see images of your future husband and children.
~Go to a well at noon and reflect light down into the darkness with a mirror to see the face of your future spouse.

~Wet a handkerchief on the eve of May and hang it in a cornfield. The next day look for initials in the wrinkles.

~Hold a bottle of water up to the light at sunrise to see an outline of your future husband.

~Place a horseshoe over your door before dawn on May first and the next person to pass through the door will look like your future husband.

~A widow may leave her door open at daybreak on the first of May and the first creature to enter her house will have the hair color of her future husband.

~The first bird’s nest a girl finds on May day will have as many eggs in it as she will have children.

Ozark May Day Customs

Bealtaine – May 1st

Standard

Bealtaine is the Celtic feast day that marks the beginning of summer and the true end of winter.  (Beltane is the anglicized version of the name.)  Some may argue that the spring equinox is the end of winter.  Perhaps it is for you, but where I live, it is still a bit chilly in March, and this year, we got quite a bit of snow on the day of spring equinox!  And some may also say that the summer solstice is the first day of summer.  Again, where I live, it has been warm for quite a while by the time the summer solstice comes along– despite what is printed on your calendar, the summer solstice is Midsummer.

Now, back to Bealtaine–  In Irish mythology, Bealtaine was the day that the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland.  It is one of the four festival days listed on the Coligny calendar, on the opposite side of the year from Samhain.  These four Celtic festival days, Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh, they have their roots in the agricultural and pastoral cycles.  At Bealtaine, the herds were brought out to summer grazing lands.  The livestock were driven between two fires for purification from disease and as a way for the deities to bless the herds and insure fertility.
As for other customs of Bealtaine, there are so many, that I might be writing all day, but I will list a few here then go on to dispel some misconceptions…

Customs
~Hilltop gatherings– on Bealtaine Eve, folks gathered on hills to view the rising sun.
~Bealtaine sacred fires– great fires were kindled (with the wood of nine sacred trees) to bless the whole community- the people livestock, crops; the dying embers were tossed into the fields.  All hearth fires would be put out and then a new fire would be kindled using an ember from the Bealtaine fire.  People linked hands and danced around the flames, walked around, chanting prayers, and many jumped through the flames for luck and prosperity.  It was taboo to give away fire or food on Bealtaine.
~Offerings were made- some offerings were cast into the fire, and milk, custard, and ale were poured upon the ground.  (See “Survivals in Belief Among the Celts” by George Henderson p262.)
~A dangerous time, concerning fairies– the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin at Bealtaine, as it is Samhain, it was a time that the fairies could cross more easily.  However, at Bealtaine, more so even than at other liminal times, the fairy race is dangerous and predatory- there is a greater risk of being taken.
~Magic dew– if you rise at dawn and bathe your face in the magical dew of Bealtaine, you will ensure lasting beauty and youthfulness.  Walking in the dew will keep your feet from getting sore.  Sprinkling people with water/dew is another popular May day custom.
~Flowers!-  gathered and left on doorsteps (or on doorknobs in May baskets), flower boughs hung over windows and doorways and petals strew over thresholds to deter fairies.  Flower wreaths were exchanged by sweethearts.  The luckiest flower of Bealtaine is the marsh marigold.  People dressed up in costumes and went in procession singing and dancing through town carrying boughs of flowers.

Misconceptions
~Origins of the name Bealtaine- contrary to popular thought, the name Bealtaine most likely does not refer to the god Belenus.  Bealtaine probably means bright fire or new fire.  Belenus was a Gaulish god, and it is not certain whether or not Bealtaine was observed in Gaul.
~There is no historical evidence of “the great rite” being a part of Celtic Bealtaine rituals.  Wiccans believe that Bealtaine is the time of year that “The Goddess” and “The God” consummate their passions.  Purification and fertility of land and livestock were the main focal points of Bealtaine in Celtic lands.  And, contrary to popular belief, handfastings took place at Lughnasadh, not Bealtaine.
~The Maypole was not an ancient Celtic tradition.  It is of German origin at dates back to the 16th century- and the kind with ribbons that are woven around is an even more recent variation.  The Celtic tradition is/was to decorate a May bush- a branch of piece of a tree (sometimes a living tree) is decorated with flowers and blown eggs.  Some of these decorate the inside of homes, some are set outside- that ones outside were danced around in the evening of Bealtaine.
~There are some other names (I’m not talking about alternative spellings) used for Bealtaine by some in the Neopagan community which don‘t really jive…  “Roodmas” is actually the Catholic holiday of the “finding of the cross”- it takes place on May 3rd and probably was established as a distraction from Bealtaine.  There’s a similar thing with “Lady Day”; it is a Catholic holiday, the “feast of the annunciation of the blessed virgin” and takes place on March 25th, not May 1st.  (Yes, and it probably was placed there to distract from some kind of spring equinox celebration taking place somewhere.)  My point is, these names, and other Catholic holiday names are often listed in Neopagan books and articles as alternate names for Celtic (and other polytheistic) holidays without any background on what they really mean.

Bealtaine Songs

Standard

This first song, Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn, is the only traditional Irish Bealtaine song I’ve been able to find. It is on four recordings that I know of; Celtic For Kids by Barbary (click the link and then track 16 for a sound sample), Live in the Highlands by Maire Ni Chathasaigh, As Gaeilge by the Wolfe Tones (lisen to it here on youtube) and an English version of the song is on Heart is the Only Nation by Ruth Barrett and Cyntia Smith (titled “Summer, Summer”- a different version than the English lyrics given here).

Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn
– “We Have Brought the Summer with Us”

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh buí ó luí na gréine
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Samhradh samhradh bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh duilliúir thugamar an chraobh linn
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Bábóg na Bealtaine, maighdean an tSamhraidh
Suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann
Cailíní maiseacha bán-gheala gléasta
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Cuileann is coll is trom is caorthann,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn,
Is fuinnseag ghléigeal bhéil an Átha,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn,
Thugamar linn é is cé bhainfeadh dínn é?
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Now in English-

We brought the summer with us
We brought the summer with us;
Summer golden in the setting of the sun
We brought the summer with us.
Summer summer milk from the calves
We brought the summer with us
Summer greenery, we brought the branch with us
We brought the summer with us
The Mayday doll maiden of the summer
Up every hill down every glen
Graceful girls all dressed in white
We brought the summer with us
Holly and hazel and elder and rowan,
We brought the summer with us;
And bright ash-tree at the mouth of the Ford,
We brought the summer with us.
We brought the summer with us,
We brought the summer with us;
We brought it with us, and who’d take it from us?
We brought the summer with us.

Here are some May songs that I think are from England:

Hal-an-tow
 Take the scorn and wear the horns. It was a crest when you were born
Your father’s father wore it. And your father wore it too

Robin Hood and Little John have both gone to the fair-o
We shall to the merry green wood, to hunt the buck and hare-o

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbelow
We were up long before the day-o
To welcome in the summertime
To welcome in the May-o
For summer is coming in
And winter’s gone away

Padstow Morning Song
Unite and unite, oh let us all unite
For summer is a’coming today
And whither we are going, we all will unite
In the merry month of May.
Oh, where are the young men that now here should dance
For summer is a’coming today
Well some there are in England and some are in France
In the merry month of May
Oh, where are the maidens that now here should sing
For summer is a’coming today
They’re all out in the meadows a flower gathering
In the merry month of May
The young men of Padstow they might if the would
For summer is a’coming today
They might have built a ship and gilded it with gold
In the merry month of May
Oh where is Saint George, oh where is he oh
He’s down in his longboat upon the salt sea oh
Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-o
And Ursula Birdwood, she had an old ewe
And she died in her park-o
With a merry ring and joyful spring
For summer is a’coming today
Oh happy are the little birds and merrily do they sing
In the merry morning of May
Unite and unite oh let us all unite
For summer is a’coming today
And whither we are going we all will unite
In the merry month of May
In the merry month of May