Beltane_Festival - Kevin Chilton by malj


									Beltane Festival (May 1)
"Oh do not tell the priest our plight,
for he would call it a sin,
But we've been out in the woods all night
a-conjuring summer in;
And we bring good news by word of mouth,
for women and cattle and corn,
For now is the sun come up from the South
by Oak and Ash and Thorn."
Rudyard Kipling "Oak and Ash and Thorn”.
                                                   The Edinburgh Beltane Festival

For most of us in western industrial society May 1st is Mayday, the Workers Day, born
from the 1889 declaration of the International Working Men's Association in
commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Martyrs. In our age of globalization it has even
become a day of protest against the threatening forces of trans-national corporatism and
cultural imperialism. However in the British Isles, the ancient roots of this festival still
run deep. Beltane, Beltaine or Bealtaine is a Celtic word, which has been translated as the
‘fires of Bel’, Bel being an ancient Celtic god, or ‘lucky fire’ since bel is the Celtic word
for bright or fortunate. Whatever version you choose, this festival is about fire.

                                                 Beltane is one of the four fire festivals of
                                                 the Pagan seasonal cycle known as the
                                                 Wheel of the Year, the others being
                                                 Imbloc, Lughnasadh and Samhain. Since
                                                 the Celts followed a Lunar Calendar, the
                                                 festival did not occur on any fixed solar
                                                 date but tended to be held on the first full
                                                 moon after the modern 1st of May.

                                                 Also, because the Celts calculated their
                                                 days from sundown to sundown, the
                                                 actual celebrations begin on sundown of
                                                 the preceding day when all the fires of
                                                 the community would be extinguished
                                                 and the great Bel-fires lit on the top of the
                                                 nearest hill.
The Wheel of the Year

As the fires died down, all the animals of the community would be driven through or
between them, so that the smoke and flame of the fires would purify the herd, protecting
them in the year to come and ensuring many offspring. The inhabitants of the village
would then take pieces of the fire to their homes and relight their hearths, and dance
clockwise around the bonfires to ensure good luck for them and their families. There
were even tales that the young maidens of the village would also run through the dying
embers to ensure their fertility, while their suitors would try to outdo each other leaping
through the surviving flames.

As Christianity took hold in Europe, the
church began to suppress the festival
and eventually outlawed it. However
the country folk of Europe continued to
celebrate a mutated version of the
festival, involving Diana the Huntress
and Herne the Hunter. Right up until
the 19th Century Mayday was
celebrated in Britain and
Walpurgisnacht in Germany.

Official records show that the last
public Beltaine festival to be held in
Britain was on the Isle of Arran in
1895, when the men of a certain
townland made a tein-eigen or need-fire
on Beltaine eve. They fueled it with the The Green Man at Thornborough Henge
nine sacred woods and the local people Source:
drove their herds through the fire.

With the re-kindling of interest in Celtic mythology and Pagan religions in the 1960s,
Beltane got a new lease of life in these Islands. Increasing numbers of people began to
gather at the great stone-age monuments to celebrate the eight great festivals of the Celtic
Calendar. Today, as well as the great mid-summer and mid-winter festivals at Stonehenge
and Glastonbury, the celebration of Beltane is once again on the rise.
                                                A number of large public Beltane festivals are
                                                now held in Britain including:

                                                   The Beltane Fire Festival – Edinburgh
                                                   Beltane at Thornborough Henge
                                                   The Beltane Bash in London
                                                   Peebles Beltaine Festival

                                                And the festival has also caught on in the
                                                United States:

                                                   Beltane Festival
                                                   Beltaine Spring Gathering
Hernes Tribe the Beltane Bash                      Open Beltaine Circle
Source:       (

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