Traditionally, Beltane is a Gaelic holiday celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It occurs on May 1st and marks the first day of summer. To the Celts, the beginning of summer was a time to protect their flock. They depended heavily on the well being of their livestock. In the spring, the young were born and by early May the little ones have grown and the herdsmen were charged with maintaining the growth and health of the animals.
To commemorate the most important part of the changing season - the Celts would light sacred bonfires in the pastures and drive the herds of livestock between the two. The warmth of the fire represented the sustained well being of the animals, and the cleansing or protection from harmful forces. Often there was a sacrifice of a lamb and libations to appease the Gods and to ensure a successful season.
In our modern world, most of us don’t have to worry about herding our sheep and cattle. However, the symbolism still rings true. The Celts placed a lot of importance on their livestock because it was a vital aspect of the community and the families that lived within it.
In the heart of winter, plans for the future are often stirred inside us. The cold air, the warm fires and the tender moments spent with loved ones awaken a call to look within. Often times, this reflection leads us to ask the deeper questions that get neglected. The New Year brings with it new goals and make us reprioritize our desires.
The blossoming flowers and birthing mothers of early spring have came and gone. The burst of excitement that comes with shiny, new ideas have lost their luster as well. Reality begins to sink in, and the commitments we made begin to weigh in on us as the Piper starts asking for his payment. Now we must reap the results of preparing our ground work. Either the seedlings sprouted and gave root - or they failed to germinate.
Beltane (and the start of any season) is a critical time. If your plans for the new year are teetering on the edge of success - the fires of beltane just might be the spark needed to keep your dreams alive.
(Disclaimer: This ritual involves the use of fire. Use common sense. If you are a minor - get adult help or supervision. If you are a grown up, don’t burn yourself or set your house on fire.)
1. Prepare your sacred space.
2. Take a blank piece of paper and write down all of the dreams, desires, goals, and necessary responsibilities onto the paper. Think of these words as your “livestock”. These words are what feeds your soul and sustains your joy. Decorate this paper - use it as a vision board. Get artistic, write a poem beneath the words. Celebrate your wishes, and visualize their growth and success.
3. Now, fold the paper and place it in the bowl on your altar or sacred space. Place your candles on opposite sides of the bowl and light them. You can use as many as you like, just make sure there is at least two so that your “sheep” are “herded” between the fire.
4. Take your White Sage and smudge the area around your paper. Visualize the obstacles that are in the way of achieving the goals listed on your paper. Allow the negatives to show themselves. Feel the fears, the hauntings of past failures, the roadblocks that are sure to creep up along the way. Be a witness to their place in your life and think through your blockages. How will you jump those hurdles. Where does the fear come from and is there a way to heal the wound? Imagine the smoke of the sage dissolving away the negative energy.
5. Meditate for as long as necessary. Some may want to do some divination at this point. Pull out your pendulum, runes and/or tarot deck. Get out your diary and write a heartfelt entry. Purge your thoughts and feelings and connect to your inner self.
6. When you are ready, take a bit of the food and drink for yourself and accept the things that you are to receive. Give the rest of the food and drink as an offering. Place it between the candles as well with the wicks still lit. Give a prayer of gratitude.
7. When you are ready, you can close the ceremony according to your normal spiritual practice.
Merry Beltane! Let me know how you plan to celebrate in the comments below.