Beltane Festival _May 1_ by zhangyun


									Beltane (April 30 - 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

Culture – Celtic

Location –Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Isle of Mann, Brittany

Description - Beltane, Beltaine or Bealtaine is Gaelic for the seasonal feast that marks
the end of the dark half of the year, which has been translated as „lucky fire‟ since bel is
the Celtic word for bright or fortunate. The festival is a celebration for welcoming the
start of summer and the awakening of the land. It starts on the evening before May Day
with the gathering of flowers and greenery and a communal bonfire and continues
through into the first of May with dancing around the maypole.

A Brief History
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 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.
The Wheel of the Year
Also, because the Celts calculated their days from sundown to sundown, the actual
celebrations began 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.

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.

With the suppression of the festival by
the church over the centuries, the
people began increasingly to celebrate
the less pagan May Day festival
imported in from mainland Europe,
centered around the May Pole.

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 nine sacred woods and the local
people drove their herds through the
                                            The Green Man at Thornborough Henge
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.

Activities for Beltane
On Beltane Eve
   1. Go out into the fields or forests, or your garden with your friends and gather wild
      flowers and other greenery. Decorate your house with garlands of flowers and
      branches and weave some flowers to make May Day garlands for your head.
  2. Organize a bonfire with friends, family and neighbors. If possible near a tree.
     Dress in bright colours and wear ribbons and your garland or flowers in your hair.
     Choose a Queen and King for the evening. The Queen should dress in white and
     the King in green. Try to bring some people with drums

  3. Prepare some oatcakes, including one large one for sharing, and some May wine
     (see recipes below). Create a small token or charm in honour of the wedding of
     the Goddess and God to hang upon the tree. You can make several if you desire.
     These tokens can be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings,
     flower garlands etc.

  4. When you leave your house, turn out all the lights and turn off any heating or, if
     you have one, put out the fire. Take a candle with you.

  5. Let the King and Queen hang your token(s) on the tree and gather in a circle
     around the lit bonfire holding hands, male and female alternately with the King
     and Queen opposite each other. Dance around the fire clockwise.

  6. Take the large oatcake you made and break it into enough pieces for all the males
     in the party. Mark a part of it with ash from the fire and put all the pieces into a
     container. Each male must then close his eyes and choose a piece. The one who
     picks the marked part becomes the “devoted” and must jump through the flames
     of the dying fire three times.

  7. Serve the King and Queen with an oatcake and a glass of May wine and share out
     the rest among the revelers.

  8. When the fire dies down, light the candle from the coals and take it back home
     with you to rekindle your “hearth”

On May day
  1. Wake early in the morning and if you are female go into the field or garden and
     wash your face with the morning dew. This will keep you beautiful for the whole
     year and if you are lucky you will see the face of your true love.

  2. Make a May Day basket (see instructions below) and hang it and/or other small
     gifts on a neighbor's doorknob. The trick is you don't want the neighbor to see
     you! If you get caught, you are supposed to get a kiss.

  3. Dress again in colourful clothes and wear ribbons and a garland or flowers in your

  4. Decorate a pole with brightly colored ribbon or paper streamers. Some also add
     flowers and balloons. Carry the May pole in a parade with your friends, family
       and neighbors and place in it the ground at a designated area. Then dance around
       the May pole, holding the ends of the streamers or ribbon in your hands, singing

       “Here we come gathering knots of May, Knots of May, Knots of May.
       Here we come gathering knots of May, on a fine and sunny morning”.

       (knots means buds)


Food & Drink


(Serves two)

» 60g/2oz/one quarter cup medium oatmeal, plus extra for sprinkling in step 6.
» 60g//2oz/one quarter cup wholemeal (whole wheat) flour.
» ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
» A pinch of salt.
» A tablespoon of fat.
» 5 tablespoons of boiling water.

Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F or Gas Mark 6.

2. Grease a baking tray and line with greaseproof paper.

3. Melt a tablespoon of fat over a medium heat until it has completely melted.

4. Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and add a tablespoon of melted lard and five
tablespoons of boiling water.

5. Mix together using a round bladed knife until a dough forms.

6. Sprinkle a surface with oatmeal and place the dough on it.

7. Cut the dough in two and place one piece aside.

8. Shape the half into a round and roll it out using a rolling pin until it is about half a
centimetre thick.

9. Cut as many oatcakes as the shape allows and place them on the baking tray.

10. Place the offcuts aside and repeat steps 8 and 9 with the other half.

11. Mould all the offcuts into a ball and repeat steps 8 and 9 once more.

12. Place the oatcakes into the hot oven for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden

13. Remove the oatcakes from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.


May Wine

                               To make May wine, pick sweet woodruff that does not have
                               open blossoms the day before you want to serve the wine.
                               The herb has more flavor when slightly dry. Tie the stems of
                               a bunch with cotton thread and hang it in a bottle of wine so
                               the leaves are covered. After ten or fifteen minutes, remove
                               the woodruff.

Sweet woodruff
May Day Cone Basket
Directions on how to make a cone-shaped May Day basket.

Materials Needed:

      Construction Paper
      Glue or Tape

Cut a triangle shape out of bright colored construction paper. Make the point flat and
the long edge rounded (figure 1). Roll the triangle into a cone and glue or tape the 2
sides together (figure 2).

Cut a strip of construction paper that is approximately 12 inches by 2 inches. Glue or
tape it onto the top of your cone to make a handle (figure 3). Fill your cone basket
with real or home-made flowers and try to hang it on your neighbor's doorknob
without getting caught!


Interesting Links

The Beltane Fire Festival – Edinburgh

Beltane at Thornborough Henge

The Beltane Bash in London

Beltane -- Holiday Details and History

Mything Links

Celebrating May Day

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