Beltane April 30th/May 1st, an important festival in the Celtic calendar. The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel - the 'bright one', and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire, giving the name 'bealttainn', meaning 'bright fire'.
The festival was known by other names in other Celtic countries. Beltaine in Ireland, Bealtunn in Scotland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Mann, and Galan Mae in Wales.
Beltane is one of the four Celtic fire festivals marking the quarter points in the year - feasts were held and bonfires were lit throughout the countryside. Fire was believed to have purifying qualities - it cleansed and rejuvenated both the land and the people.
The ritual welcoming of the sun and the lighting of the fires was also believed to ensure fertility of the land and the people. Animals were transferred from winter pens to summer pastures, and were driven between the Beltane fires to cleanse them of evil spirits and to bring fertility The Celts leapt over Beltane fires - for fertility and purification. Many couples wishing to conceive children will jump the cauldron together at this time.
The Triple Goddess - at Beltane is now in her aspect of the Maiden : The May Queen, May Bride, Goddess of Spring, Flower Bride, Queen of the Fairies.
The Crone turns to stone on Beltane Eve.
It was a Celtic tradition to fell a birch tree on May day and to bring it into the community. Crosses of birch and rowan twigs were hung over doors on the May morning, and left until next May day.
Another tradition of this holiday is the Maypole. The Maypole is a Phallic symbol of the Gods fertility, and the ribbons are a symbol of the Goddess.
In tradition, a fir tree was used. The young, unwed men would go to the forest and return with the tree that would be fashioned into the pole. The pole was brought to the centre of the village to be guarded through the night until the first day of May. Traditionally red and white ribbons were hung from the pole, the red ribbons were held by the boys, and the white were held by the girls and they would dance around the maypole in opposite directions, so the two were intertwined, this symbolized the union and balance of the masculine and feminine aspects of the God and Goddess. The ribbons would then be removed and kept in a safe place to be burned in the Beltane fires of next year. This action represents the old dying to give birth to the new.