April's showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st (or October 31 - November 1 for our Southern Hemisphere readers), festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It's a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history.
There are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It's the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.
Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying—and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead. Try some of these rituals and ceremonies for your Beltane sabbat celebration.
The tradition of the Maypole Dance has been around for a long time — it's a celebration of the fertility of the season. Because Beltane festivities usually kicked off the night before with a big bonfire, the Maypole celebration usually took place shortly after sunrise the next morning. Young people came and danced around the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. As they wove in and out, men going one way and women the other, it created a sleeve of sorts — the enveloping womb of the earth — around the pole. By the time they were done, the Maypole was nearly invisible beneath a sheath of ribbons. If you have a big group of friends and a lot of ribbon, you can easily hold your own Maypole Dance as part of your Beltane festivities.
When spring arrives, we can see the fertility of the earth in full bloom. For many traditions, this brings the opportunity to celebrate the sacred feminine energy of the universe. Take advantage of the blooming of spring, and use this time to celebrate the archetype of the mother goddess, and honor your own female ancestors and friends.
This simple ritual can be performed by both men and women, and is designed to honor the feminine aspects of the universe as well as our female ancestors. If you have a particular deity you call upon, feel free to change names or attributes around where needed. This goddess ritual honors the feminine, while also celebrating our female ancestors.
Beltane is a time of fire and fertility. Combine the passion of a roaring bonfire with the love of the May Queen and the God of the Forest, and you've got a recipe for a fantastic ritual. This ceremony is designed for a group, and includes a symbolic union of the May Queen and the King of the Forest. Depending on the relationship between the people playing these roles, you can get as lusty as you like. If you're doing a family-oriented Beltane celebration, you may choose instead to keep things fairly tame. Use your imagination to kick start your Beltane festivities with this group ritual.
Many people opt to hold a handfasting or wedding at Beltane. Looking for information on how to hold your own handfasting ceremony? Here's where we've got it all covered, from the origins of handfastings to jumping the broom to selecting your cake! Also, be sure to learn about magical handfasting favors to give your guests, and find out what you need to ask the person who's performing your ceremony.