Celebrating Beltane, by Lucya Starza

Maypoles, bonfires, parties - celebrating Beltane on 1st May is an important rite of passage to welcome in the summer. College tutor & eclectic witch Lucya Starza reveals more about this joyful Sabbat...

By: Lucya Starza.   Posted

Celebrating Beltane on 1st May is about enjoying spring, welcoming summer and revelling in the joys of life and love. Beltane in the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year is named after an ancient Irish festival. People have partied - traditionally around a maypole - on or around May Day in many countries and cultures. 

May Day fairs have been held in England since at least Medieval times. According to folklorist Steve Roud in The English Year, these celebrations were traditionally "second only to Christmas in popularity." Further back, Romans held the festival of Floralia for six days, starting April 28, in honour of Flora, goddess of flowers and fertility.

Lucya Starza with her book

May Eve Protection Magic

Before the fun and frolics of celebrating Beltane was May Eve. This was a night when supernatural troublemakers roamed. It's also known as Walpurgis Night, when witches were thought to gather. They were historically seen as troublemakers rather than helpful wise women. People in the UK and in Germany protected their homes and livestock against these troublesome spirits by lighting bonfires. 

In Ireland, fairies are feared. A way to prevent mischief was to hang rowan crosses or hawthorn blossom above the front door. Garlands of hawthorn, also called May blossom, are traditional, too. Professor Ronald Hutton suggests, in The Stations of the Sun, that maypoles might have started as "frameworks upon which garlands… could be hung, to form a focal point for celebration." 

Nowadays Beltane is celebrated more and more. Two famous events are the Hastings Jack in the Green Festival, on England's south coast, and Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival. However, Beltane has become so widely celebrated, there's probably something happening near where you live. 

Celebrating Beltane with a solo rite

If you prefer to celebrate Beltane on your own, here's a solitary Beltane rite from my forthcoming book Pagan Portals – Rounding the Wheel of the Year:

Take a packed lunch to a park or garden and appreciate the greenery. After relaxing in the open air, think about what you like about yourself. This can be hard, but here's one way:

• Make a list of three things you enjoy doing.

• Next to each write that you love the attribute which enables you to do that. For example, if you love dancing, write "I love that I can dance", if you love reading, write "I love being able to read".

• Write at the bottom: "I love that I'm alive!" Beltane is a day to love being alive.

Don't worry what others think. This is about what you love doing. My mum was partially deaf since childhood and unable to sing in tune, yet she loved to sing. She would say, "I have a song in my heart. It doesn't matter if other people can recognise it." It would be fine to write: "I love that I have a song in my heart."

Join our newsletter for updates on our spiritual courses.