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May 01, 2023
On the first of May I can’t help but turn my thoughts to the season of Beltane, and the joy and hope that comes with warmer days, increased sunshine, and the sowing of seeds in anticipation of a bountiful harvest. Beltane is an ancient Gaelic festival that marks the mid point between the spring equinox and summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Beltane is celebrated in various forms with traditions throughout the world, but at its core it remains an important time for reconnecting with nature, celebrating fertility and growth, and honoring the cycles of life, death, rebirth and interconnectedness. The festival is celebrated with bonfires, feasts, music and dancing, as well as home decorations of flowers and greenery.
The Fires of Beltane
The name "Beltane" comes from the Old Irish words "Bel" and "taine," which mean "bright fire" or "lucky fire." The festival is closely associated with the god Bel or Belenus, who represent the powers of light, healing and fertility. Bel was asked to provide protection from disease and supernatural forces to the livestock. Scented wood was often used or herbs such as valerian and oregano were tossed into the fire to help with protection from mischievous forces. As the scent of these herbs can be pungent, they were thought to create an environment that would not be inviting to evil spirits. After all, Beltane is a time when the veil between worlds is thinner so an extra layer of protection couldn’t hurt.
Fire is seen as a cleanser and purifier, so dancing around a fire or jumping over one was thought to cleanse, protect and heal. Livestock owners would have their livestock run between two fires for protection from disease. Hearth fires in the home were extinguished and a new fire was lit and used to relight the home hearth, once again symbolizing that we are all connected.
The Maypole dance is a popular Beltane tradition that involves dancing around a tall pole decorated with ribbons and flowers. It symbolizes the unity of the community, the interconnection and balance between masculine and feminine and the growth of the earth. It is thought to have originated in Germany and was brought into the UK in the 1600s. Regardless of its origin, the weaving of the ribbons symbolizes the interconnection of all life.
Traditionally, Beltane was an important time for matchmaking and courtship rituals, and it was believed that couples who jumped over the Beltane fire together would be blessed with fertility and prosperity.
Celebration of Nature
Beltane is a celebration of our connection to nature and a reminder to respect the land that sustains us. We are all connected, and it is important to live in harmony with the earth and in community with each other, while expressing an appreciation for the cycles of nature. As a personification of this, Beltane often depicts the image of the Green Man. The Green Man is a figure associated with nature and rebirth, and is often depicted in artwork and celebrations as a face of leaves representing the life force of nature.
Modern ways to celebrate Beltane
In my mind, all things evolve and the celebration of a new season is no exception. A few modern suggestions for celebrating this season include creating your own table display of plants and flowers, or decorating your dining table. The Beltane feast would consist of food that is in season such as honey, milk or fruit. Muffins, breads and cakes are a good start. Try creating a crown of flowers with help from your local craft store or make your own maypole out of sticks and ribbon. Light a candle to create your own fire ritual for health and prosperity. You can even use wind chimes to create your own sound bath for cleansing.
Using Essential Oils for Beltane
One of the great uses for essential oils is in using these plant essences to appreciate the abundance of the earth and the cycles of nature. Enjoy these essential blends for Beltane as diffuser recipes, or combine them with 10ml of olive oil or sweet almond oil, place them into a roller bottle and use as a personal perfume.
Our clay diffusers are a great way to provide lasting scent to a small space. Just place a few drops of essential oil onto the clay and hang the diffuser in your office, car or anywhere that you can enjoy a personal scent. The more these clay diffusers are used the more effective they become at holding scent. Purchase here.
Regardless of how you celebrate this new season, spend some time this week connecting with nature and celebrating her beauty and abundance. The cycles of the earth, of life, and our connection to each other are ideas and thoughts that are prevalent at this time of year. Here in the north, we are coming out of our homes as the weather improves, walking our dogs more, and waving hello to our neighbours as we celebrate life, community and connection.
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