Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
The Beltane festival is one of the greater Sabbats of the
Witches annual calendar and today is normally celebrated on the 30th
of April (May Eve). Beltane
also marks the midpoint of the Sun’s progress between the vernal equinox and
the Summer Solstice. As the Celtic
year was based on lunar and solar cycles, many people choose to celebrate on the
full moon nearest this midpoint, the date of which is closer to the 5th
or 7th of May, but this can vary from year to year.
Beltane is also known as “Roodmas” or “Walpurgis
Night”, and symbolizes
the start of Spring, one of
the most important festivals of the Wiccan year.
It’s origins lie in among the Celtic peoples of Western Europe and of
old was celebrated all across the British Isles, including England, Scotland,
Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. In
Ireland it is known as “Beltaine”, in Scotland “Bealtunn”, in Wales as
“Galan Mae” and in the Isle of Man as “Shenn do Boaldyn”.
the time of year when crops begin to grow, when animals bear their young, and
when people came out of houses after being cooped up during the long dark months
of winter. Without the trapping of the technical age “lighting and
central heating”, things that we all take for granted today, in older times
the coming of fair weather and longer daylight hours would have been most
welcome and cause for celebration.
Samhain, Imbolc and Lammas,
Beltane is one of the four great “fire festivals” that quarter the turning
points of the Celtic year. In
preparation of Beltane, the Celts would build two
large bonfires called “Bel-fires”, which would be dedicated to the Celtic
sun god Bel in thanks for shining his blessings and protection down on the clan,
their lands and livestock. Traditionally
the fires would be built using nine of the sacred woods of the Druids:
Oak, Ash, Rowan, Birch, Alder, Willow, Hazel, Holly and Hawthorn. The Hawthorn in particular, as according to the Celtic
calendar of the Druids, Hawthorn is the sacred tree most associated with the
month of May (13th-9th June).
On the Eve of Beltane the two fires be would be lit by
the Druids, leaving enough room between the two fires so that
cattle and other livestock could be
ritually led between them, an act that purified and protected
them from disease during the coming year. While
the cattle and other livestock were led away to their
summer grazing lands, torches
of dried sedge, gorse and heather would also be lit and carried around their
barns and stables, another act of purification.
The Bel-fires were considered sacred for their
healing and purifying powers, and were lit to celebrate the return of life and
fruitfulness to the earth while burning away the cold of winter.
All across the country household fires would be extinguished and re-lit
afresh from the Bel-Fires. Later
the left over ashes from the fires would be scattered in the fields.
Once the fires had been lit on Beltane Eve, and children had been put to bed, in the hours before sunrise adult activities would begin. These would include traditional activities associated with fertility. Newly wed couples would dance around the fires to enhance their fertility. Single men and women would also join in and later wonder off into the nearby fields or forest to let nature take its course. Such unions were seen as good and proper, even when not sanctified by marriage (a Christian notion), and were referred to as “Greenwood marriages”. These were the origin of the “Year and a Day” handfasting customs observed by modern witches and pagans today. If the new marriages did not produce children within the year, the couples had the option to split and re-marry others without the messy and complicated procedures of divorce (another Christian notion).
The Beltane Lady
With bed of leaves and cloak of sky,
The Lady draws Her Lover nigh,
Ensconced within Their woodland bower
they relish every passing hour.
A throaty moan, a gentle sigh,
a touch upon a willing thigh.
A soft caress, a tender kiss,
a night of never ending bliss.
The Goddess, overcome with need,
receives Her young Lords virile seed.
The Mother now, no longer, Maid,
Conceives new life, so long delayed.
Oh, Western Wind, Oh, gentle Rain,
Bring new life to the fertile plain
Oh, nubile Goddess, Lord of Light,
Before You join as One this night,
We give You thanks for being here
At this our Beltane wheel of the year.
Author unknown (please let me know if you recognise it)?
has a strong association
with Beltane, and more specifically Morning Dew, which was seen as sacred and
magical (particularly dew from Oak and Rowan trees). Of old, women would bathe in dew
gathered before dawn on Beltane morning in the belief that her beauty would
flourish throughout the year,
and if she chanted an appropriate charm while doing so, she might even meet her
future husband. Another
custom was to drink from a well before sunrise on Beltane morning to insure good
health and good fortune.
This led to the tradition of “Well Dressing”, particularly in Ireland
where many wells are considered Holy places.
popular custom associated with Beltane is “bringing in the May”, when people
from the villages go out into the fields and forests to gather seasonal flowers,
these they would use to decorate their homes and later to dress themselves in
readiness for the festivities. On
returning laden with flowers they would stop at each house along the way to sing
songs of spring and leave gifts of flowers, they would customarily be greeted
with the best food and drink that the house had to offer.
One of the principal characters associated with the
Beltane festivities is
the “Queen of May”.
The May Queen is usually a young maiden selected from the previous years
“Maidens in Waiting” and crowned with a ring of fresh flowers.
Many old accounts mention both a May Queen and King being chosen, and
that they reign from sundown on the Eve of Beltane to sunset on Beltane day.
Among their duties were to lead the Beltane procession around the
village, and start the day’s festivities and games, later awarding prizes to
the most recognised symbol associated with the Beltane festivities is the
Maypole. To the Celts who started
the custom, the Maypole was a phallic symbol representing fertility.
The Celts were a tribal clan who depended upon the land and their animals
for survival. If their cattle and
crops proved to be fertile, they were able to eat, but if there was famine or
drought, they went hungry. Likewise
the fertility of their women was essential to the survival and longevity of the
clan. The Maypole as a phallic
symbol was therefore a very powerful symbol of the significance of fertility.
In the old
days just before Beltane, clan members would go into the woods and cut down a
tall tree. Stripped of all its branches, the
resulting tall pole would be erected in the village square and decorated with
long brightly colored ribbons, leaves, flowers and wreaths.
During the festivities an even number of young men and women would be
selected to dance the May pole, each alternately holding the end of a ribbon.
The circle of dancers would start as far out from the pole as the length
of ribbon allowed, men facing clockwise and maidens facing counterclockwise.
Once the dance began, each would move in the direction they faced, those
on the inside ducking under the ribbon of those on the outside, while those
passing on the outside raise their ribbons to slide over those on the inside.
As the dance progressed the ribbons weave into a pattern down the pole.
The success of the pattern is said to indicate the success of the years
As with any festival of old, food plays an important part
in the celebrations. On Beltane it
was customary to bake small scones like cakes called “Bannocks”.
These were made from oat or barley flour worked into dough with just a
little water and no leavening, then filled with sweetmeat and spices.
Traditionally one of the cakes would be burned or marked with ashes. The recipient of the burnt cake would be considered bad luck,
and required to jumped over a small fire three times to purify and cleanse him
or herself of any ill fortune. Offerings
of bannocks and drink were traditionally left on doorsteps and roadways for the
Fairies as an offering.
Beltane marks the end of Winter and the beginning of
Summer. It should be a day full of laughter and gaiety, fun and
frolicking, games and feasting while bearing in mind it is still a precarious
time year as the crops are still very young and tender, and susceptible to frost
and blight. As was the way of
ancient beliefs, the Wheel of the Year wouldn’t turn without human persuasion,
so the people did all they could to encourage the Sun’s growth, for the Earth
will not produce and prosper without its warmth.
Fires, ritual and celebration were an important part of the old ways to
insure the Sun’s light would continue to promote the fecundity of the earth.
Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs - By Scott Cunningham
A Witches Bible - by Stewart and Janet Farrar
Plus others to many too mention
Written and compiled on the 04th August 2007 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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