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Beltaine

 

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About Beltaine

 

Beltaine (Also spelt Beltane) is one of the Celtic Fire Festivals. In the Northern hemisphere it is held on the first day of May (also known as May Day). Here we celebrate Beltaine around the 1st of November.

 

Along with the other fire festivals - Imbolc, Lammas and Samhain, Beltaine is also known as one of the four "Cross Quarter Days" are roughly mid-way between the solar holidays of the Solstices and Equinoxes and mark the highlights of the Celtic year.

 

The god who was born at Yule and a child at Imbolc is a youth at Beltaine (and is full of youthful energy and mischief !) Bonfires are custom at this festival, and traditionally young women would leap across small fires in hopes of gaining a good husband. At Beltane the God is the Green Man, God of all growing things. He too is the lover of all that lives, the protector of the wild things and the guardian of the forest. Often he is depicted as a leafy face peering out from the branches and foliage. He even appears in many old Christian churches, carved on pillars or decorating the altar screen.

 

For Pagans, one of the great gifts of the Goddess is the power of the earth to grow wonderful flowers and fruits and all the things we eat. We are thankful fu the fertility of the earth, and our job is to keep the land and the soil healthy, to protect the animals and plants and trees so that fertility can continue. The earth is a living being, and all of her creatures are part of her body. Each has a place, a purpose, a special part in the great dance of life.

 

We have known the Goddess as Mother and as Daughter. At Beltane, She becomes the Lover of all living things. As Beltaine is a time of Faerie Magic and the Queen of faeries is represented by the Queen of the May. We could call her by some of the ancient names of the Love Goddess: Aphrodite, Astarte, Flora, Maia, Oshun. Many circles especially like to call her Queen Maeve, the Faery Queen, who comes riding forth from the Otherworld, the realm of dreams, imagination, spirits, and visions, to teach us how to move between the worlds.

 

Probably the best known symbol of "May Day" is the May pole, which in olden times would be raised with great ceremony on the village green. The Pole would be made of a stripped tree, the tallest that could be found, which would be planted in the earth and crowned with a wreath of ivy or flowers. Long ribbons would be attached to the top of the pole and couples would weave the ribbons round and round around the pole, in an intricate dance. Here in Australia, it can sometimes be envisioned as the great rainbow snake from the Aboriginal dreaming, respectfully merging traditional Celtic beliefs and symbolism with those of our indigenous brethren, creating uniquely Australian traditions for a modern pagan.

 

May Day was also the day that our ancestors would re-enact the Great Marriage of the God and Goddess. The May Queen and May King would be crowned with flowers and a day of feasting and celebration would be followed by a night of love. Many pagans wishing to explore a committed relationship choose this time for a "Beltaine wedding",  which might last "a year and a day" or which might last only from sundown to sunrise.

 

Beltaine is directly opposite Samhain on the wheel of the year. Like Samhain and Midsummer's Eve, it is one of the times of the year when the doors between the worlds are opened. It is not uncommon for faeries to be seen on this day. Beltaine is also the time when we celebrate the joys of being alive. We give thanks for all the different kinds of pleasure our bodies give us, for without our bodies we couldn't see, hear, touch, taste, smell, run, dance, jump, sing, dance, or swim.

 

 

Altar Arrangements - The altar for Beltane can be a simple arrangement of flowers in bloom at this time. May baskets can be made of paper strips or created from existing baskets. Branches of Hawthorne (the May tree) or oak leaves and branches (sacred to the Greenman) can form a green background. You might also want to include pictures of the Fair Folk. And be sure to set out a bowl of milk or cream for them at night. Don't worry if the cat drinks it - she's probably a Faery in disguise!

 

Colours - Bright colours abound at this time of year. Some especially connect the colours of purple and green with Beltane - the deep plum of grape wine, the peridot and hunter greens of the forest - and the gold of the sun shining through the trees are natural choices for Beltane

 

Incense, Herbs and Woods - Incenses used for Beltane should be intoxicating, heady, and erotic. Rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, peach, musk, and vanilla. If you want to use herbs to make an incense or spell powder to throw on the fire, woodruff, fern, rose, chamomile, wormwood, and galangal are good choices.Often you will read about the nine sacred woods used in kindling the balefire. Obviously, the trees should all have strong connections to magick, but substitutions can be made depending on where you live.
Oak would be the first choice, the backbone of the fire, so to speak. To that add eight other types of wood. Any and all of these are acceptable: apple, Hawthorne, birch, elder, ash, thorn (blackthorn), grape vine, rowan (mountain ash), holly, willow, cedar, yew and hemlock.

 

 

 

Activities & Craft

 

On Beltaine morning, you may wish to wash in the morning dew, as it is said a woman who washes in the magical dew of May Day is said to gain beauty (according to the famous mother goose rhyme)...

"The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day,
And washes in dew from the hawthorn-tree,
Will ever after handsome be."

   

 

* Go to your favourite grove or forest and have a picnic.

 

* Look for faery rings and leave an offering of flowers, food or pretty stones. At dusk twist a sprig of rowan into a ring. Look through it and you may see faeries.

 

* Weave wreaths of flowers to wear in your hair and spend time with the people you love.

 

* Make a Beltaine basket full of flowers and love and give it to someone in need of cheer.

 

* Acknowledge the importance of the God and Goddess in your life.

 

* Show joy in the life you have been given and share that joy with others.

 

 

 

CRAFT

 

Flower Leis

 

Materials Construction Paper cut in 5cm squares (Pastel colours & white) Drinking straws cut in 2cm pieces String or yarn (approx 1m for each child) White glue or masking tape Hole Punch

Prepare string in advance by dipping about 2cm of each end in white glue and allowing it to dry OR wrap each end with masking tape. This will give the children a firm end to hold and will make stringing the leis easier.

Instructions:

1. Fold each 5cm square of construction paper in fourths and cut as illustrated to form petals. Flowers may also be formed by tearing the petal shapes.

 

2. Punch a hole in the centre of each flower

 

3. Alternating flowers and straw pieces, string your lei. It is easiest to start at the centre and work toward each end.

 

4. When the string is covered to within 3" of each end, tie the ends together in a knot.

 

Leis are presented on many occasions. The gift of a lei can mean "love", "friendship", "welcome" or "goodbye". It is traditional when presenting the lei to someone else to give a kiss on the cheek.

 

 

Beltaine Baskets

 

Materials

        Paper doily or other paper cut in a 23cm circle

        Stapler or glue

        Pipe Cleaner

        Hole Punch

        Scissors

        Small fresh cut flowers with stems about 10cm long

        Paper towel

        A piece or aluminium foil or plastic wrap

Method

1. Cut a slit in the paper from one edge to the centre of the circle.

 

2. Overlap the cut edges and twist the paper so that a cone is formed. Staple or glue the edge to hold the cone shape.

 

3. Punch holes on opposite sides of the top of the cone.

 

4. Form hooks on both ends of the pipe cleaner and put the ends through the punched holes to form a handle. Twist the ends of the pipe cleaner around so that they stay in the holes.

 

5. Dampen the paper towel and squeeze out most of the extra water. Wrap the ends of the flower stems with the paper

towel, then wrap with the aluminium foil or plastic wrap.

 

6. Slide the wrapped flowers into the cone.

 

On Beltaine morning, hang the Beltaine basket on the doorknob of friends or neighbours. Ring the doorbell and hide to watch your friend's reaction to the flowers.

 

 

Flower Chains

 

Materials: a grocery bag full of flowers, such as daisies, dandelions or other common flowers with flexible stems.

 

Method 1

 

1. Make a cross with 2 flower stems as shown.

2. Bend the stem of the top flower around the stem of the bottom flower. Tie a knot with the flower stem and pull lightly to tighten.

3. Lay another flower over the joined stems and tie another knot.

4. Continue with steps 1-3 till chain is as long as you want it. Tie the very last stem around the first one to form a ring. Wear as crown or necklace.

 

 

Method 2

 

1. Use a pin or your fingernail to make a slit in each flower stem about 1" below the flower head.

 

2. Slip the stem of a second flower through the slit in the first stem.

 

3.Repeat step 2 until the flower chain is as long as you want, then slip the last flower through the slit in the first to form a ring

 

 

 

 

FOOD

 

 

 

Fried Honey cakes

(From Wisteria's Faery Recipes)

 

 

These cakes are not unlike those made on the night before Beltane by women around the turn of the century.

These cakes were left in the garden to please Faery visitors.

 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup honey

  • 2/3 cup flour

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Oil for frying

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat the wine & egg in a medium bowl. Combine the flour, cinnamon, salt & sugar in a small bowl. Stir into the egg mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Combine the honey & nutmeg in a small bowl. Heat 2cm of the oil in a frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Drop the batter into the oil 1 tablespoon at a time; fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip into the honey.

Yield = Approx 18. And can also be eaten on Lammas and the Day of the Dryads.

 

 

 

Beltaine Marigold Custard

(from Wicca:A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, by Scott Cunningham)

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1 cup unsprayed marigold petals

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 3 Tbsp. sugar

  • 1 to 2 inch piece vanilla bean

  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten

  • 1/8 tsp. allspice

  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp. rose water

  • Whipped cream

Method:

 

Using a clean mortar and pestle reserved for cooking purposes, pound marigold petals. Or, crush with a spoon. Mix the salt sugar and spices together.

Scald milk with the marigolds and the vanilla bean. Remove the vanilla bean and add the egg yolks and dry ingredients. Cook on low heat.

When the mixture coats a spoon, add rose water and cool. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with fresh marigold petals.

 

 

Elder Flower Fritters (Medieval England)

 

1 egg

1 cup self-rising flour

1 teaspoon Rose Water (see following recipe)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup honey

2 cups elder flowers, freshly picked & cleaned

2 tablespoons brandy

 

Method:

Mix the egg, rose water, honey, & brandy in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the flour & cinnamon; the batter should resemble slightly thick pancake batter. If the batter is too thin, add a little more flour; if too thick, add more brandy. Fold in the elder flowers. Fry like pancakes or drop by the teaspoon into a deep-fat-fryer until golden brown. Serve with a sprinkling of orange water & fresh lemon, or dip into fresh sweet cream.

 

Note 1: If you are not using self-rising flour, add 1 teaspoon baking powder & 1/2 teaspoon salt.

 

Note 2: The French use elder flowers to pack apples. They claim that this enhances the flavour.

 

Variation: If you can't find elder flowers, substitute 1 cup finely diced apples & a hint of fresh mint for similar magical effects.

 

Magical Attributes: Protection from Faery folk, trust, beauty, energy for attraction, & magical ambience. Can also be eaten on Lammas, St. Valentines Day, or Hallow's Eve

 

Yield: About 24

 

 

Dandelion Salad

Ingredients:

 

1 Dishpan full of young dandelion leaves

4 Strips of bacon

1/2 c Sugar

2 T Flour

1 ea Egg beaten

1 t Salt

1/2 c Vinegar

1 1/2 c Water

3  Eggs, hard boiled, diced

Method:

1.            Wash, drain, and cut up tender dandelion leaves.

2.            Brown bacon; remove drippings and crumble

3.            Combine sugar and flour. Add egg, salt, vinegar, and water and mix until smooth.

4.            Pour into bacon drippings and heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.

5.            Pour warm dressing over dandelion.

6.            add crumbled bacon and hard boiled eggs. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

 

 

    Strawberry Crumble

 

Ingredients:

 

1 c Uncooked Oatmeal

1 c All purpose Flour

1 c Brown Sugar

1/4 c Chopped Walnuts

1/2 c Butter or margarine

1/2 c Sugar

3 c Sliced fresh or frozen Strawberry

Method:

 

1. Mix together oatmeal, flour and brown sugar.

2. Add nuts.

3. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly.

4. In another bowl, mix strawberries and white sugar together.

5. Grease a 20cm square pan.

6. Spread half the crumb mixture on bottom.

7. Cover with strawberries.

8. Spread remaining crumb mixture over top.

9. Bake at 175C  for 45 minutes.

 

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or topping.

 

 

 

Jam Filled Lemon Tarts

 

Ingredients:

 

85g softened cream cheese

1/2 cup butter, softened

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

 

Method:

 

Add sugar and lemon.

1 cup flour

Mix in flour. Gather dough into two balls, chill one hour. Roll out dough, cutting 5cm disks out with cutter. Spoon 6-7mm of jam into centre of disc. Gather edges into three equally spaced corners--like a tricorn hat--and roll points over slightly, pinching shut. Bake at 190C degrees until golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes).

 

Tasty jam: rhubarb ginger, apricot, cherry, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM - A Child's Beltaine

 

 

 

The sun comes up
The sky turns blue
Put on your clothes
There's lots to do.

Run out the door
And smell the air
The grass is wet
But we don't care!

Pick flowers to crown
Our new May Queen
Dance in a circle
Laugh and sing

Run and play
We've had such fun,
We're sorry when
The day is done.

Sit on the hill
Turn out the light
Watch the fires
On Beltaine Night

By C.J.Brown
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM - BELTAINE

 

Green and growing,

May flowers blooming,

Love and longing,

Nature dancing.

Amid growing energy

The vibrations of new life

Burst forth in ten thousand different directions.

And like the May queen

I wear bright ribbons and a dress of green.

I dance in the sun and rain

And feel within my breast

The fire burning.

Time to be doing,

To take risks,

To live on the edge,

To spread my wings and fly.

For now, this moment

Life is and I am

Are the same.

 

By Corinne Whitby

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Story - MEAGAN'S BEALTAINE

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Meagan. She lived with her mommy and daddy, her big brother Corwin and her beautiful cat named Starweaver. One day in April Meagan came home and found her mother and Nana making baskets. "What are you doing?", asked Meagan. "Well, soon it will be Beltaine", said her mother Elizabeth, "it's also known as May Day. A long time ago people would celebrate May Day by making baskets and filling them with flowers. Then they would take the baskets to the houses of friends, leave them on the porch, ring the bell and run and hide. Then the friends would have to guess who left them the baskets." Elizabeth's mother Nana nodded, "That's right, I used to get the most beautiful baskets from your late grandfather. I mentioned it to your mother and she thought that it would be a very fitting way to help celebrate Beltaine. Of course, I still can't keep all your holidays straight."

 

"Oh!" said Meagan excitedly, "I know! Beltaine is a fertile...fertul...fertility ritual!" "That's right," said Elizabeth, "and what else happens at Beltaine?" Meagan thought for a minute. "Hmmm. Oh! It's when the Goddess takes over the year again from the God and She starts dating the young God!" Elizabeth and Nana laughed. "Exactly right, my love," said her father Michael from the doorway. He was carrying a large basket full of beautiful flowers from the garden. "Were these what you wanted?" he asked Elizabeth. "Perfect!" she said smiling, "As soon as we finish up these baskets we can start filling them. Meagan, what else do you think we could put in them?" Meagan thought very hard. "I know!" she said, "We can put crystal and ribbons on the baskets and maybe some candy!"

 

Once Corwin got home everyone worked hard to finish making and decorating the baskets. They wrapped ribbons around the handles. They put soft grass and straw in the bottoms of the baskets. They put flowers and crystals and small presents in the baskets. Meagan made a basket for her best friend Cindy. Elizabeth made one for Cindy's mom Anna with herbs in it because Anna was an herbalist. They made a basket for Michael's parents, Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott. Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott were Christian and they wouldn't like hearing about the family celebrating Beltaine but they wouldn't mind having May Day baskets. "Is there anyone missing?" asked Corwin, "Look, there's one basket left over" They checked all the baskets but no one could think of anyone they had forgotten. Meagan remembered the old woman whose house she walked by everyday from school. "Mommy?" she asked, "Could we make one for that lady who lives on the corner?" Elizabeth hugged Meagan while Corwin looked surprised. "Oh Meagan," she said "I think that is a lovely idea! Mrs. Hanson has been all alone since her children moved away. Would you like to make it yourself?" Meagan nodded and got busy making a basket for the old woman who lived on the corner. She hadn't know the woman's name before. She hummed while she worked and hoped that Mrs. Hanson would like her surprise.

 

Soon it was May Day. Beltaine was on a Saturday this year and so they would be having Circle at their house that night. Meagan helped take the baskets around to her friends. But she saved Mrs. Hanson's basket for last. She crept up to the door, keeping low so that Mrs. Hanson wouldn't see her from the windows. She set the basket beside the door so that it wouldn't be knocked over when Mrs. Hanson opened the door. Meagan rang the doorbell and ran quickly to hide behind the bushes to wait. Mrs. Hanson opened the door. "Yes?" she said, "Who's there?" She looked puzzled and almost closed the door when she spied the basket on her porch. "Oh my!" she gasped, "A May Day basket!" Mrs. Hanson took the basket and sat down with it on the porch's rocker. She started crying. Meagan ran up to her. "I'm sorry!" she said, "I didn't mean to make you cry!" She was scared that she had hurt Mrs. Hanson's feelings. "You made this for me?" asked Mrs. Hanson, looking astonished. Meagan nodded, "My mommy was helping me make them for my friends and I thought that you would like one too. Mommy said that people used to do this all the time." Mrs. Hanson dried her eyes, "Your mommy is right. But I haven't had a May Day basket in a very long time.

 

My children used to make them at school for me. I'm not upset with you dear, it's just that seeing this basket brought back many happy memories for me. I miss my children and grandchildren. They all live very far away and I don't get to see them very often." 

Meagan gently put her hand on top of Mrs. Hanson's hand. "Would it make you feel better if I came to visit you once in awhile?" she asked. "Oh," said Mrs. Hanson, "you don't have to do that child, but if you decide you want to, I'll try to have some cookies ready for you when you come. So long as it's alright with your parents. If you really want to come by sometimes have them give me a call and let me know that it's okay for you to come." "Okay," said Meagan, "I'd better get back home now but I'll have mommy or daddy call you". Meagan waved to her new friend as she ran back home. She told her parents about what Mrs. Hanson had said. They called Cindy's mom Anna and talked to her for a while. Then they called Mrs. Hanson and talked to _her_ for a while. They told Corwin and Meagan that they were allowed to go visit Mrs. Hanson anytime they wanted on the way home from school so long as they didn't stay more than 15 minutes. Then they said that they could also visit her at other times so long as they told one of the grownups in the house where they were going and called when they got there. Just like they had to do whenever they went to visit friends. Meagan found out that Cindy had been given permission to visit Mrs. Hanson too. She was excited about sharing cookies with her new friend and her best friend.

 

Soon it was time to decorate the altar for Beltaine. Meagan was excited. They had made a May Pole with ribbons to dance around. There was also a fire pit dug in the Circle area. "What's that for?" she asked the High Priest Jeremy. "Back in the old days people used to run the cattle between two fires on Beltaine to make them fertile and help the herd increase. They would also jump over the Beltaine fire for luck. We don't have any cattle to make fertile but some of us will jump the fire for luck tonight. You're still too small to jump by yourself but we can pass you over the fire by putting you in a chair carry just like we will for Gwennie. You know that she's pregnant and we don't want to take the chance of her falling in the fire." Meagan nodded. She was very excited. So was Corwin. He was still too young to jump completely by himself but Michael said that he could jump just holding arms with Michael and one of the other men. Meagan smiled to herself as she put a flower circlet on her head and got ready for Circle to begin. 

After Circle was over Meagan was very tired. She had had a busy day. Meagan kissed her parents and brother good night and looked for Starweaver. "Mommy! I can't find Starweaver" she said. Meagan's parents smiled at each other. "Don't worry dear," said Michael, "Beltaine is a time of fertility and Star must be helping out. You'll understand when you're older." Meagan stomped up the stairs. "I hate it when they say that" she thought. But she still smiled when she thought about what fun she had had dancing around the May Pole. She climbed into bed and snuggled down. It had been a good day. 

by Kathryn Dyer

 

 

 

   

 

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