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Beltane - The Lover's Holiday

Author: Gordon Ireland

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ABOUT BELTANE |
RITUAL |
FOODS
|
REFERENCES







ABOUT BELTANE



Beltane is celebrated on May 1st and is one of the original Celtic
festivals, Samhain being the other one. Beltane or May Day is also known as
the Lover's holiday. Beltane is pronounced bel-tene, "a goodly fire" or
bel-dine, the offering of cattle, dine to the God Bel. Though the latter
is thought to somehow have been connected to the Celtic god Belus, though this
has not been proven. (MacCulloch, page 264-68) Beltane is one of the four
Celtic Fire festivals, and is probably the second most important festival
next to Samhain. Beltane is primarily a sun festival and was performed
during the day.

The most important part of Beltane was the kindling of the fires. The
Irish Celts would extinguish their fires, the night before and would eat a
cold meal to insure that all fires were out. Then, they would attend the
ceremony, returning with an ember to once more start their fires. The fire
festival later evolved into the Celts driving their cattle through two fires
to purify the herd. This was done to insure the good health of the cattle for
the coming year. Modern day pagans will jump over the Beltane fires, though
very few actually know why they do so.

The Beltane role in fertility rites is not as old as some people think. They
were however a natural extension of the planting season. May Day was the
time when the crops planted earlier would begin to sprout. The story goes
that Beltane marks the wedding of the Goddess and God, and that their
coupling brings new life to the earth. The awakening of spring marks the
end of winter. It is also the custom that this is the day of handfastings.
The use of the May pole also has sexual implications, the pole representing
the phallus and the ribbons that are tied to it connect oneself to the
Goddess. As they dance around the Pole, the wreath (the Goddess) would
descend down the pole, thus consummating their marriage.

Beltane is also a Tree festival; many of the fires were lit under a
sacred tree. For the Celts, this use of the Tree represents death and
rebirth. The tree, appearing dead in the winter, would begin to spout new
branches and leaves during this time, signifying the coming of summer.
This use of the tree later evolved into the May pole festival. It should also be
also noted that The Celts would also tie rags and pieces of personal
articles to the tree in attempt to connect themselves to the spirit of the
tree.

The other myth that is tied to Beltane is that of Shapeshifting. Beltane,
like its counterpart, Samhain, has mystical implications. Once more the
veil to other world is thinned and thus strange doings happen on this day.
In Ireland, Hags, or witches, are given to shape shift into
hares and steal all the butter from the cattle. Even in Ireland today, the
men hunt down and kill all the hares in the fields with the cattle. The
epic chase of Ceridwen and Gwion, which resulted in producing Taliesen, is a
prime example of the changes of seasons and consummation of the Goddess and
God.



RITUAL




The following was created using poems by John Herrick and Caitlin Matthews
plus parts of a Ceremony found in The Book of Druidry. This ceremony is
designed to be generic and for the use of those who do not have a specific
God or Goddess to call upon, but nonetheless feel connected to the Celtic
festivals. Some of the poems have been altered to fit the general concept
of Beltane the original lines are bracketed.

The ceremony shall be as follows:

First: All will enter from the East in honoring of this being a solar
festival. All holding an unlit candle.
Second: Everyone who is participating will pick up a ribbon. Those who are
playing parts of East, South, West, and North will stand in their
perspective positions.

Third: The leader will open up the ceremony by lighting the fire and say the
following:




LEADER:
In the beginning gleaming fire was I
Grant, O Spirits of our Celtic ancestors, [O God/dess] thy Protection,
And in protection, Strength
And in strength, Understanding
And in understanding, Knowledge
And in Knowledge, Knowledge of Justice
And in Knowledge of Justice, the Love of it
And in the Love of it, the Love of all Existence
And the Love of all Existence, the Love of Ourselves [the Love of God/dess
and all Goodness]

ALL MOVE ONE FULL TURN CLOCKWISE
ALL SAY: MAY THERE BE PEACE IN THE EAST
EAST:
We will go as wren in spring,
With sorrow and sighing on silent wing,
And we shall go in Our Ancestors names [Our Lady's name]
Aye, til we come home again

Then we shall follow as falcon's grey
And hunt thee cruelly for our prey
And we shall go in your good names [in the Good God's name]
Aye, to fetch thee home again

ALL MOVE ONE FULL TURN CLOCKWISE
ALL SAY: MAY THERE BE LOVE IN THE SOUTH
SOUTH:
Then we will go as a mouse in May
In fields by night, in cellars by day,
And we shall go in Our Ancestor's name [Our Lady's name]
Aye, til we come home again

Then we shall follow as black tom's cats,
And hunt thee through corn and vats,
And we shall go in your good names [in the Good God's name]
Aye, to fetch thee home again

ALL MOVE ONE FULL TURN CLOCKWISE
ALL SAY: MAY THERE BE HARMONY IN THE WEST
WEST:
Then we shall go as an autumn hare,
With sorrow and sighing and mickle care
And we shall go in our Ansectors names [Our Lady's name]
Aye, till we come home again

Then we shall follow as swift grey hounds
And hunt thy tracks by leaps and bounds
And we shall go in your good names [in the Good God's name]
Aye, to fetch thee home again

ALL MOVE ONE FULL TURN CLOCKWISE
ALL SAY: MAY THERE BE TRUTH IN THE NORTH
NORTH:
Then we shall go as winter trout
With sorrow and sighing and mickle doubt
And we shall go in Our Ancestors names [Our Lady's name]
Aye, till we come home again

Then we shall follow as otter's swift
And snare thee fast ere thou canst shift
And we shall go in your good names [in the Good God's name]
Aye till we fetch thee home again

ALL MOVE ONE FULL TURN CLOCKWISE

LEADER:
Come; let us go while we are in our prime,
And take the harmless folly of the time.
[We shall grow old apace,
And die before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun;]
And, as a vapor or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne'er be found again
So when or you or I are made A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves and we are but decaying
Come, my friends, come, let's go a-Maying!

ALL SAY:
WE SWEAR BY PEACE, LOVE, HARMONY AND TRUTH TO STAND
HEART TO HEART AND HAND IN HAND
MARK, O SPIRIT, AND HEAR US NOW
CONFIRIMING THIS OUR SACRED VOW


All exit West by jumping over the fire and lighting their candle




FOODS




MEADE



1/2 gallon water
1 1/2 cups raw honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Heat all ingredients together over medium heat in a large pot. As the honey
melts, an oily crust forms at the top. DO NOT REMOVE. When in is well
blended, remove from the heat, stirring occasionally as it cools. This is
the non-alcoholic version. (McCoy page 136)




FARLS


3 cups real mashed potatoes
2 cups dry oats
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch rosemary

Soak oats in warm water for 15 minutes until soft and swollen. Mix them
with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Knead till mixture is like
thick dough. Make patties, fry in hot oil until brown. Serve immediately.
(McCoy page 137)





BELTANE CREAM PIE


1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
Ground nutmeg
Prepared piecrust, already cooked.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. In separate bowl add milk to
cornstarch, making sure it is fully dissolved. Add this and all other
ingredients to pan, except vanilla and nutmeg. Stir till mixture becomes
thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture into piecrust
and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve chilled. (McCoy page 134)



OATCAKES - IRISH


6 ounces Oatmeal (preferably fine)
2 ounces flour
1-teaspoon Salt
10 fluid ounces warm water

Mix flour and salt together. Slowly add warm water. Roll out on a floured
board to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into triangles. Cook on a pan or griddle until
golden on both sides. Dry out in a cool oven (300 degrees) until crisp.
These cakes are eaten buttered, with a glass of milk, for supper, but are
also terrific with wine and cheese.




OATCAKES - SCOTS


1/2 cup Shortening
1 cup Oats or quick-cooking oats
1 cup All-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 - 3 Tablespoons Cold Water

Cut shortening into next four ingredients until mixture resembles fine
crumbs. Add water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until it forms stiff dough. Roll
until 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch rounds or
squares. Place on un-greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 until they just
start to brown - 12 to 15 minutes. Bake on a hot griddle or frying pan until
the edges begin to curl. Turn over and cook the other side. Do not let the
oatcakes brown; they should be a pale fawn color. Put on a wire rack to
cool. They are delicious served with cheese.





IRISH SODA BREAD


1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour -- unbleached, enriched
1 1/2 cups Whole wheat flour -- stone-ground
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
1 1/4 cups Buttermilk

Set the baking rack in the center of the oven and place a baking stone (if
available) on the rack. Preheat the oven to 375. In a mixing bowl, combine
the dry ingredients. Mix to incorporate. Make a well in the center of the
dry ingredients and add the buttermilk. Mix quickly to incorporate the milk
evenly. It may be easier to mix with the hands than with a spoon. Form the
dough into a loaf shape and place in a nonstick 8 1/2-x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2" loaf
pan. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, until well
browned and a skewer inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove from the
oven and the baking pan. Place on a wire rack to cool.




SAND TARTS (OLD GERMAN STYLE)

2 1/2 cups Sugar
2 cups Butter
2 each Egg, well beaten
1 each Egg white
4 cups Flour
Pecans
Cinnamon

Cream the butter and sugar together. Slowly add the flour, working it in
well. Add the well-beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Chill over night. Roll
out thin on lightly floured board; brush cookies with the egg white which
has been slightly beaten, sprinkle with sugar and a little cinnamon and
press 1/2 pecan into center of cookie. Bake at 350-F about 10 minutes.




WORK CITED




  • Bord, Janet & Colin, Earth Rites, Fertility Practices in Pre-Industrial
    Britain, Granada, London, 1982.
  • Carr-Gomm, Philip The Elements of the Druid Tradition Element Books,
    Rockport, MA 1998
  • Danaher, Kevin, The Year in Ireland, The Mercier Press, Cork, 1972.
  • Henes, Donna, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles &
    Celebrations, A Pedigree Book. NY, NY 1996
  • Hole, Christina, Witchcraft in England, Rowman & Littlefield, Totowa NJ,
    1977.
  • Holleston, T.W., Celtic Mythology: History, Legends and Deities, NewCastle
    Publishing, Van Nuys, CA 1997
  • MacCana, Proinsias, Celtic Mythology, The Hamlyn Publishing Group, Ltd.,
    London, 1970.
  • MacCulloch, J.A. Religion of the Ancient Celts, Folcroft Library Editions,
    London, 1977.
  • Matthews, John, The Druid Source Book: Complied and Edited by John Matthews,
    A Blanford Book, London, England, 1997
  • Matthews, John and Caitlin Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom,
    Element Books Rockport, MA 1994
  • McCoy, Edain, The Sabbats: A New Approach to living the Old Ways, Llewellyn
    Publications, St. Paul, MN 1998
  • Nichols, Ross, The Book of Druidry, Harper-Collins, London, England 1992
    Powell, T.G.E. The Celts, Thames & Hudson, New York, 1980.
  • Sharkey, John, Celtic Mysteries, the Ancient Religion, Thames & Hudson, New
    York, 1979.
  • Squire, Charles, Celtic Myth, Legend, Poetry, and Romance, Newcastle
    Publishing Co., Van Nuys, CA, 1975.
  • Stewart, R.J. Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends, Blanford Books, London, England,
    1997
  • Williamson, John, The Oak King, The Holly King, and the Unicorn, Harper &
    Row, New York, 1986.
  • Wood-Martin, W.G., Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland,
    Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY, 1902.

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