Beltaine is otherwise known as May Day it is founded after the Goddess Maia and is ranked just under the Wicca New Year which is Halloween October 31st the Samhaim! We begin to celebrate on the eve of Beltane which is Apr. 30th but Beltane is Celebrated all day on the 1st of May! There are many festivals this time of year now that we are welcoming Summer and Beltane is to honor Fertility and Virility it is about becoming a woman and a man separately and then giving birth to new life! Below are some great sites that have went to a great deal of time to describe the Holiday in depth so I have linked up to them and hope you enjoy
Beltane is the last of the spring fertility festivals. This sabat is opposite Samhain, which is the Witches New Year by the old Celtic calendar. Because Beltane and Samhain are equally opposite each other they divide the year in half.
Beltane ushers in the fifth month of the year, May. May is named after the goddess Maia, who is a Greek Mountain Nymph and identified as the most beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. Plus she is the mother of Hermes, god of magic. Her parents were Atlas and Pleione, a Sea Nymph.
Beltane is the old Celtic name for May Day. Beltane is derived from the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine or the Scottish Gaelic Beatuinn, meaning Belfire, the fire of the Celtic god of light (Bel, Beli, or Belinus). He in turn can be traced back to the Middle Eastern god Baal.
The Beltane celebration should begin on April 30 at sunset, as sunset is the proper time to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill. These fires are said to have healing properties, and sky-clad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection. Plus it would dangerous to jump through a fire clothed. One would not want to catch their clothing on fire.
A Beltane celebration is a time of unashamed human sexuality and fertility. This can be seen in the Maypole dance traditionally performed on this day. The Maypole represents the male aspect of the God, as a phallic symbol. While the brightly colored ribbons (traditionally red and white), represent the Goddess aspect and the Goddess transition from Maiden to Mother. Red and white ribbons traditionally represent the blood that flows from the woman when her purity is taken. Thus this holiday represents the Divine Union of the Lord and Lady. For it is this beautiful union that brings forth the spring time renewal of life from the long sleep of winter.
For both ancient Celts and modern day Witches Beltane is a celebration of fertility and life. It is the time when plants and crops begin to sprout, animals bear their young and people can begin to get out of the house where they have been cooped up during the long dark cold winter months. Keep in mind, although it may hard to relate to fertility as a necessity today, without the bounty of the Earth to provide us with food, clothing and shelter, we would be without these basic necessities. Thus, even today the continued fertility of the Earth Mother and all of her children, whether they be plant or animal is of great concern to us and this day should be a celebration of life and the renewal of life.
Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, He desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. Also celebrates the returning sun (or Sun God). Flower petals can be strewn about the circle and later swept into a pole and distributed around the perimeter of the house for protection. Spring primroses, violets, pansies and crocus are the flowers of choice. Irises, the sacred flower of the Rainbow Goddess, are said to bode a glorious summer if in bloom by beltane, and a rainbow on Beltane is a powerful mystic sign. Children (especially girls), born on Beltane, are the ???children of the Goddess??? and children conceived on Beltane are said to have "luck and fortune beyond the world." "Womanhood" ceremonies, new business deals, real estate buying and other rites of passage are all for Beltane. Eating a pomegranate on Beltane is said to be in bad taste. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion and hopes consummated. ? Irish Gaelic for either "fires of Bel" or "bright fires."
This is the last Spring Fertility Festival. It is a time to dance around the maypole, which is a symbol of fertility. This festival celebrates the marriage and union of the Goddess and God and the reawakening of the earth's fertility at its fullest. The time of planting is finished and a time of waiting has begun. It is one of the two most important sabbats of the year. Beltane is the compliment of Samhain. These are the times when the veil between the earth and the Otherworld is thinnest. At Samhain the Otherworld visits us, at Beltane we can visit the Otherworld.
All fires are extinguished on the eve of Beltane. All hearths are rekindled with a fresh flame (the Bel-fire) at sunrise. The rowan branch may be hung over the house on May Day to preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being symbolic of the luck of the house). Jumping over the Belfire will promote fertility and prosperity. It is said that if you bathe in the dew of beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) is collected on this day and used to bathe in or used to drink for health. Beltane literally means "fire of Bel" (Celtic God of light and fire.). May is a month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and her children.
The international working class holiday; Mayday, originated in pagan Europe. It was a festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting. The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane or the day of fire. Bel was the Celtic god of the sun.
The Saxons began their May day celebrations on the eve of May, April 30. It was an evening of games and feasting celebrating the end of winter and the return of the sun and fertility of the soil. Torch bearing peasants and villager would wind their way up paths to the top of tall hills or mountain crags and then ignite wooden wheels which they would roll down into the fields
The May eve celebrations were eventually outlawed by the Catholic church, but were still celebrated by peasants until the late 1700's. While good church going folk would shy away from joining in the celebrations, those less afraid of papal authority would don animal masks and various costumes, not unlike our modern Halloween. The revelers, lead by the Goddess of the Hunt; Diana (sometimes played by a pagan-priest in women's clothing) and the Horned God; Herne, would travel up the hill shouting, chanting and singing, while blowing hunting horns. This night became known in Europe as Walpurgisnacht, or night of the witches
The Celtic tradition of Mayday in the British isles continued to be celebrated through-out the middle ages by rural and village folk. Here the traditions were similar with a goddess and god of the hunt.
As European peasants moved away from hunting gathering societies their gods and goddesses changed to reflect a more agrarian society. Thus Diana and Herne came to be seen by medieval villagers as fertility deities of the crops and fields. Diana became the Queen of the May and Herne became Robin Goodfellow (a predecessor of Robin Hood) or the Green Man.
The Queen of the May reflected the life of the fields and Robin reflected the hunting traditions of the woods. The rites of mayday were part and parcel of pagan celebrations of the seasons. Many of these pagan rites were later absorbed by the Christian church in order to win over converts from the 'Old Religion'.
Mayday celebrations in Europe varied according to locality, however they were immensely popular with artisans and villagers until the 19th Century. The Christian church could not eliminate many of the traditional feast and holy days of the Old Religion so they were transformed into Saint days.
During the middle ages the various trade guilds celebrated feast days for the patron saints of their craft. The shoemakers guild honored St. Crispin, the tailors guild celebrated Adam and Eve. As late as the 18th century various trade societies and early craft-unions would enter floats in local parades still depicting Adam and Eve being clothed by the Tailors and St. Crispin blessing the shoemaker.
The two most popular feast days for Medieval craft guilds were the Feast of St. John, or the Summer Solstice and Mayday. Mayday was a raucous and fun time, electing a queen of the May from the eligible young women of the village, to rule the crops until harvest. Our tradition of beauty pagents may have evolved , albeit in a very bastardized form, from the May Queen.
Besides the selection of the May Queen was the raising of the phallic Maypole, around which the young single men and women of the village would dance holding on to the ribbons until they became entwined, with their ( hoped for) new love.
And of course there was Robin Goodfellow, or the Green Man who was the Lord of Misrule for this day. Mayday was a celebration of the common people, and Robin would be the King/Priest/Fool for a day. Priests and Lords were the butt of many jokes, and the Green Man and his supporters; mummers would make jokes and poke fun of the local authorities. This tradition of satire is still conducted today in Newfoundland, with the Christmas Mummery.
The church and state did not take kindly to these celebrations, especially during times of popular rebellion. Mayday and the Maypole were outlawed in the 1600's. Yet the tradition still carried on in many rural areas of England. The trade societies still celebrated Mayday until the 18th Century.
As trade societies evolved from guilds, to friendly societies and eventually into unions, the craft traditions remained strong into the early 19th century. In North America Dominion Day celebrations in Canada and July 4th celebrations in the United States would be celebrated by tradesmen still decorating floats depicting their ancient saints such as St. Crispin.