May is the time of fertility and new beginnings
after a long winter. The Faeries are afoot! They dance in the hills and
roll in the grass, reveling in the joy of warm May breezes. Our spirits
are high with the lust and heartiness of spring. New life is stirring and
appetites are keen. -Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth
Beltane is thought by Wiccans to be derived from a word meaning "balefire".
It is traditional to take home a smoldering piece of the Beltane bonfire
to bring blessings to your home during the coming summer months. It is
also believed that the smoke from a Beltane bonfire is the best to use
for ritual purification of tools, jewelry, etc.
The rituals may be quite erotic in nature, symbolizing the union of
diety and of the newly impregnated Goddess. It is another fertility Sabbat,
and the Great Rite may also be a part of the ritual. Dancing around the
Maypole may be a part of the festivities. The original Maypole was a pine
tree which had been previously decorated for Yule. It was then stripped
of all but its uppermost branches, creating a phallic symbol. It was strung
with white ribbons (symbolizing the Goddess) and red ribbons (symbolizing
The best known symbol of Beltane is the phallic Maypole which is planted
deep in the fertile and receptive earth. The young, unwed men would go
to the forest and return with the tree that would be fashioned into the
pole. The pole was brought to the center of the village to be guardedthrough
the night until the first day of May. One of the most important parts of
the maypole tradition is the dance that takes place after it has been errected.
Dancers hold the ends of the ribbons attached to the top of the Maypole
and dance around the pole in both directions. Boys going one way, girls
the other, symbolizing the balance of masculine and feminine energies and
the duality of life. As the ribbons become shorter the dance becomes a
spiral dance and an expression of death and ressurrection. . The ribbons
would then be removed and kept in a safe place to be burned in the Beltane
fires of next year. Thus again representing the old dying to give birth
to the new.
One of the tallest
Mypoles now standing is in the appropriately named village of Paganhill
in Stroud, England. It is painted red, white and blue and though very patriotic
colours they are also the colours of the Triple Goddess. White is for the
Maiden, red for the Mother and blue( though more usually black) for the
Crone. This is yet another example of the hidden pagan meanings. The Puritans
were very aware of the sexual symbolism of the Maypole and it was banned
but was reintroduced during the reformation of Charles the Second.
Hawthorn, also called maybush because it flowers at this time of year,
is sacred to the Goddess. Its pinkish white flowers called "the may" were
gathered for their purification powers and hung
about the house and on doorways as protection. The custom of going 'A-Mayin'
meant staying out all night to gather the hawthorn and making love out
in the greenwood - the so called 'greenwood marriage'. The beginning of
a Pagan marriage usually began on Beltane. On this day, a couple agreed
to live with one another for a year and a day. When that time was up, they
could then choose to marry. If the union was unsatisfying to both, they
could part with no regrets or hassle.. To Pagans, any child born of the
union before formal marriage was not considered a bastard. Any child born
of an un-wed union retained his mother's name as a middle name and took
the father's name as a surname. This way, the lineage of the parents was
The month of May is considered to be the 'sacred marriage
' of the God and Goddess and for this reason it is considered unlucky to
get married during this month. The following month of June became the traditional
month for marriage between ordinary mortals.
The Queen and King of the May
The Marriage of the God and Goddess was celebrated by the appointment
of a May Queen and a May King. Today many areas still appoint a May Queen
but sadly the God seems to have been forgotten. The King and Queen of the
May may well have been the village priest and priestess and the wellbeing
of the community depended on their performance of ritual which included
sexual union. Many believe that the May Queen has links with Maid
Marion of folk legend. Maid Marion is really the maiden herself and her
consort - Robin Hood- was the Green Man or Pan the spirit of lawless nature.
Malachite, garnet, rose quartz, emerald, beryl,
Spells to ensure prosperity, conservation, safety,
Barley Stew With Herbs
Campanelli, Pauline, Wheel of the Year, Llewellyn Publications
Moorey, Theresa, Paganism, A Beginners Guide, Hodder
and Stoughton 1996
Kightly, Carlo, The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore, Thames
& Hudson 1987
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