About Beltaine

Beltaine is one of the four seasonal feastivals of the Celtic calendar, the others being Imbolc (1 February), Lughnasa (1 August), and Samain (1 November).  The day is also known as Cétshamain in Ireland, Cyntefin and Dydd Calan Mai in Wales, as Cala’ Mē in Cornwall, and Kala-Hañv in Brittany.

The May flower is closely associated with Beltaine
The May flower of the Hawthorn Tree is closely associated with Beltaine

Beltaine marks the beginning of summer and the time when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. Traditionally two bonfires are built on Beltaine and the cattle driven between them to prevent disease over the coming year.  Beltaine is a time for the ritual eating of Beltaine cakes made from oats or barley.

Doors, windows, and even the cattle themselves would be decorated with May flower. People would make a May Bush: a hawthorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells.  Household May Bushes would be outside each house, while communal May Bushes which would be in a public spot and decorated by the whole communitiy.  The aim was to bring the blessings of the spirit of the tree. In Dublin and Belfast, May Bushes were brought into town from the countryside and decorated by the whole neighbourhood. Making May Bushes was banned in the 1800’s.

Decorated May bush
Decorated May bush

The first water drawn from a well on Beltane was seen as being especially potent, as was Beltane morning dew. At dawn on Beltane, women would wash their faces with Beltaine dew. The dew was thought to increase sexual attractiveness, maintain youthfulness, and help with skin ailments. Hearth fires would be extinguished and relit to start a new summer with fresh fire.

Beltain was considered the time for getting into “right relationship” with the fairy folk. Cattle would be brought to ‘fairy forts’, where a small amount of their blood would be collected. The owners would then pour it into the earth with prayers for the herd’s safety. Sometimes the blood would be left to dry and then burnt.

Keeping to the ways of Beltaine.

You can decorate your own Beltaine bush in your own home. Decorating the bush will bring the blessing of the spirit of that being to your life.

Beltaine is one of the eight Celtic festivals celebrated by us.

These are open to all and you and your family are welcome to attend.
Check the calendar for this year’s date.

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