May 1st sees the Pagan wheel of the year turning to Beltane. Beltane is the best known of the three Pagan fire festivals (the others being Imbolc and Ostara) and is termed a cross quarter day, marking the midpoint between days and nights of equal length (Ostara) and the longest day of the year (Litha).
Beltane is considered by many Pagans to be the first day of the Summer. The symbolism of the growing strength of the Sun is echoed in the festival’s link to fertility and growth.
Traditional elements of fertility have become incorporated over the years into general culture with the phallic symbol of the Maypole remaining a particularly popular May Day ritual in many communities today.
The fertility of this festival is linked to the development of the God and Goddess on their journey around the wheel of the year. At Beltane the God has reached maturity and becomes the lover of the Goddess. It is their union that gives birth to the summer.
Beltane reminds Pagans of their links with the world of magic and is believed to be the day of the year when the veil between the world and the world of faery is at its thinnest.
The tradition of annual well dressings (still very much in evidence in Derbyshire where I live) was originally intended as an offering to the spirits, faeries and deities of the otherworld.
Beltane is an excellent times for the start of magical workings which will come to fruition as the wheel of the year continues to turn. Many Pagans, Wiccans and Witches will also use this festival to communicate with the otherworld and ask for guidance and support in the coming year ahead.
Beltane is closely associated with fire, the significance of the flames being for cleansing and purification but also for the increase of fertility. The fire represents the awakening of passions, energies and desires. Fire plays a key element in most Beltane ceremonies, notably in the ritual of “jumping the bonfire.” Jumping over the bonfire is a ritual designed to bring luck and happiness for the year ahead. (I suggest you don’t do it in your long robes though…)
Beltane is a time to look toward the coming months and decide where your passions, priorites and energies will be invested. Its a time to make plans, to stop procrastinating and to get out there and do it!
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1215451 (kasseckert)
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