This Saturday, the 1st of May, will see the arrival of Beltane, or May Day, as it is also known. The day’s origins can be traced back to Celtic times, in which ‘Bel’ was a deity known as the ‘Bright One’ and ‘teine’ came from the Gaelic word for fire; when combined, they create ‘Bright Fire’, which is one of the most important rituals of this day.
In this week’s Wellbeing 101, we give you an overview of this auspicious date and how you can honour it yourself.
Beltane is halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, marking the true start of summer (even though this feels very far away as at the time of writing, we are experiencing the coldest May for 30 years here in the UK!). It is one of the four quarter-day festivals on the Wheel of the year, the others being Imbolc, Lughnasadh (celebrated at the start of August) and Samhain.
Beltane honours Life and marks the very peak of Springtime and the beginning of Summertime. The energies of the Earth are at their most active, with baby animals spinning around in fields and flowers bursting with fullness; abundance and fertility are the key themes of this celebration. (Maypoles were used to dance around as they were the phallic, male representation of this time, with flowers at the top representing the female).
Fire is the central element of this day; it is viewed as a healer and purifier. In ancient times, the winter fires were put out, and the new, Summer hearths were lit on Beltane – with each member of the community lighting theirs simultaneously in a show of unity. Fires were lit on the eve of the day, walked around and jumped over to act as a cleanser of bad spirits, with farmers walking their animals through the smoke to protect them before moving to Summer pastures.
Here we have some suggestions for honouring the day as we move out of lockdown and begin our lives in this new era. The past year has made us (along with most of the world we imagine!) take stock of what’s essential and reconnect to our mother Earth, so we thought we would give you some inspiration about how to honour this day, to manifest and connect with yourself.
Daydream, journal, have a morning of imagination to create something unique to work on or even enjoy! This is the weekend to shake off the darkness and bask in the light; celebrate your fertile mind and get on with that idea! Whether it’s a craft project, a business idea or even something unique to yourself, use this Saturday to birth something new for yourself.
This is the festival of flora. Create a crown, make a daisy chain or even buy yourself a bunch; take this day to honour the majesty of creation and bloom (plus add a little gratitude in there too as you take in those gorgeous little flower faces).
Want a perfect time to celebrate a tree? Well, Beltane is it! Take a walk in nature and see which tree calls to you and take time to connect with it; sit by it, talk to it and even dance around it (ignore those strange looks from passers-by! The tree spirit will welcome your attention), maybe hang a ribbon on a branch to offer thanks. Honour the tree and its fertility. Beltane is a day mainly dedicated to Hawthorne, Rowan and Birch.
We decided to keep our favourite way to honour the day until last! Usually, Hawthorne is never brought into the house as it is seen as unlucky, but on Beltane, there is an exception. Not only is hawthorn renowned as a tonic for the heart, but it is also delicious.
You will need a bottle of brandy and at least one cup of hawthorn flowers, plus a little sugar to taste. Mix the ingredients and leave them away from direct light for at least two weeks. Shake occasionally.
Strain and sip!