30 Apr 2014


Tis the night when it is said fairies return to us. When if you sit beneath a tree you may catch a glimpse of the Queen of the Fae astride her white horse.
- Beltane legend.

Like many of the traditions and symbols surrounding Christmas (and indeed other Holy days) with the rise of Christianity the ancient pagan festival of Beltane (one of the eight Sabbats) was absorbed into the Easter celebrations though oddly enough whilst celebrated as a holiday in many countries May Day as it was to become known was never embraced as a 'Christian holiday' as such.

Marking the beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient Celtic year Beltane (meaning Fires of Bel) though traditionally celebrated when the Hawthorn began to bloom is now celebrated beginning with the rising of the moon on May Day Eve (April 30th) throughout May 1st unless of course you happen to live in the Southern Hemisphere in which case you'll more than likely be celebrating come the 31st of October/1st of November.

A festival of fire, of the end of winter, of the coming of summer. A celebration of fertility, of the union between the Goddess and the God, between man and woman. A time of love and handfastings. Celebrations have included and in some cases still include the .....

  • braiding of hair to honour the union of the Goddess and God/man and woman
  • circling of the Maypole for fertility 
  • jumping of the Beltane fire. Made of the nine sacred woods*Birch (the Goddess), Oak (the God), Rowan (the Tree of Life), Willow (the journey to the afterlife, to the Summerland), Hawthorn (purity), Hazel(wisdom/learning), Apple (love/fertility), Grapevine (joy), Fir (immortality) - to ensure fertility and to cleanse, purify and revitalise. Traditionally herds of cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills 
  • placing of a rowan branch on windows and doors for protection against evil
  • washing of the face with dew at sunrise to ensure continuing beauty.
* Representations in brackets  

Though primarily a festival dedicated to fertility I really don't want to go into the Maypole as a phallic symbol or indeed the traditions which saw young people spending the night in the woods 'A-Maying' and married couples, err, 'removing their wedding rings' (and all that might entail) for the night and instead will mention the traditions that honouring the fairy realm believe that should you bless the fae with offerings of flowers and/or sweets you shall surely be blessed in return.

'This May Eve as I burn, year wheel take another turn. Fire flame and fire bright, bless us on this May eve night'

NB Whilst generally accepted as widely held beliefs details and spellings etc  can vary from individual to individual, from tradition to tradition, from country to country etc.
Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper. All original content on http://pettywitter.blogspot.co.uk/ is created by the website owner, including but not limited to text, design, code, images, photographs and videos are considered to be the Intellectual Property of the website owner, whether copyrighted or not, and are protected by DMCA Protection Services using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Title 17 Chapter 512 (c)(3). Reproduction or re-publication of this content is prohibited without permission. In addition I would also urge that if you are reading this on any other page you contact the original blog owner/reviewer.


Kelly said...

I always enjoy these "informative" posts. Beltane has popped up in quite a few books I've read as have other Celtic holidays and celebrations.

I can remember as a child celebrating May Day in school. I seriously doubt they do that anymore.

Literary Feline said...

How interesting! I was just thinking how I knew May Day meant something but wasn't quite sure what--and then your post arrived in my box. :-)

Suko said...


I remember May Day (and the Maypole, somewhat) as well, and a yellow bonnet my mother made for me, for a celebration at school.
Thank you for this fun and informative post. :)

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

I can never understand why we don't actually celebrate May Day on May 1st and not with a holiday on the first Monday in May, which this year is the 5th! ... In fact does it warrant a holiday at all, or was this just the idea of a civil srvant somewhere who fancied an extra days holiday?

The only thing I need to know about the blooming hawthorn, or indeed the "blooming" hawthorn, is the misery of the hayfever it causes me!! Grass I have no problem with, but the blossom and sap of trees and flowers ...!!

I am busily trying to avoid the great outdoors for a few days until it has all blown off the trees.

Nice post, Yvonne.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Interesting! i didn't know all of this, though I have heard a bit about Maypoles and the like.

Cherie Reich said...

I remember going around a Maypole as a child. And that's interesting to think that the southern hemisphere would celebrate Beltane at a different time, although I can see it.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Interesting! I don't even know a town that does the maypole anymore. Might be why. LOL

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

Excellent post! I learned a lot here today. :) I only knew about the Maypole! Thanks for sharing.

Brian Joseph said...

I had no idea about the history of May Day. It is so very interesting! Your post has made me want to know more about this.

I am sad to say that in The USA May Day is mostly ignored.