Tag Archives: Bealtaine

World Tree and Maypole

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“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

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Hallow Magic for the High Days

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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

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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

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(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 Bealtaine Playlist

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My Bealtaine playlist is a mixture of old and new songs.  Numbers 1 and 8 are variations on the same song, I believe, very traditional and sung in Gaeilege (Irish Gaelic).

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. Round the Tree of Life We Go – Beverly Frederick (Through the Darkness)

7. Padstow – Steeleye Span (Another Parcel of Steeleye Span)

8. Bealtaine Song – La Lugh (Brighid’s Kiss)

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

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

11. Magic in the Air – Jennifer Reif (Mysteries of Earth)

12. Staines Morris – Shirley Collins (Within Sound disk3)

13. Maypole – Paul Giovanni (The Wicker Man)

14. Faery Queen Invocation – Beverly Frederick (Through the Darkness)

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. June Hymn – The Decemberists

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

Bealtaine Playlist - Ozark Pagan Mamma

Our Bealtaine Rite

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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.

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~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

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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