I have celebrated this day from a very young age since I went primary school, but I had known it as Mayday. As my knowledge grew over the years, I came to know the day as Beltane; the ancient Gaelic fire festival. There are many traditions that take place to mark the day, but I thought I would share my experience throughout the years. I find this holiday fascinating; as many of the pagan traditions have either been renamed or buried in lies over time but Beltane seems to still remain in tack.
In England the Mayday is a tradition has deep routes in the past, it is a celebration of the height of spring and is recognised as a Bank Holiday in the UK. I have grown up celebrating this day in the form of a school fate; in which the highlight of the day is the crowning of the May King and Queen then followed by the dance of around the Maypole. For the young King and Queen; a boy and girl would be chosen and they would be honoured in a ceremony in which they are crowned with flowers. It was a real honour to be chosen and you would take pride of place throughout the day’s celebrations and, to be honest, it was fun to dress up! Unfortunately, this was never me but I did have another important role to play.
After the crowning, the tradition of the Maypole dance would take place. This involved children (including me), who would dance and weave coloured ribbons around the pole to form a pattern. The maypole is as it sounds; a large wooden pole traditionally made of birch and is a phallic symbol to represents the God. There is a ring of flowers placed on the top of the pole which represents the goddess, the ribbons which are weaved from the top to represent the union of the two divine. Of course, being only very young at the time I did not understand the true meaning and I just enjoyed this a colourful day full of laughter, music and dance. Mayday is, after all, a celebration of the height of spring, love, fertility and new life.
Beltane is also known as the fire festival and is a time to honour the Sun God. This is done to ensure a fruitful harvest later on in the year and is done by the lighting of the Beltane fire. In the past, cattle would be passed through two Beltane fires to ward off any disease for the following year.
There are many other traditions on this day; as it is a celebration of the union of the Gods it is traditional for handfasting to be performed on this day. The duration of the handfasting can vary and is decided between the couple. It can either be for a year and one day, a lifetime or for all eternity. After the ceremony is performed the couple can choose to jump the Beltane fire for good luck.
For me this year, the celebration will be very small. If you have read my previous blogs you will understand I am going through a slightly of a tough time. To mark the day I will go for a walk in the forest, a small fire and flowers. I hope whatever you chose to do, you enjoy the celebration.