How to Celebrate Beltane
If you’re curious about the ancient fire festival and how to celebrate Beltane, keep reading to learn more. We’ll explore what exactly Beltane is, how it was celebrated in the past, how it’s celebrated today, and, most importantly, what foods to make for a Beltane feast.
What is Beltane?
Traditionally celebrated by Celtic neo-pagans to acknowledge the midpoint between spring and summer, this period marks the planting time and is recognized as a time of peak fertility. We are now half way between the Spring Equinox & the Summer Solstice.
During Beltane, we honor the God and Goddess of spring represented by a handfasting, or marriage ceremony. The story goes that the lovers were separated all winter and are reunited in Springtime. Today, we celebrate their reunion during Beltane with food, drink, and multi-colored maypoles, which symbolize female energies wrapping themselves around the male form.
We are clearly In the middle of Spring and there is a noticeable difference in the Earth’s energy compared to the beginning of the season. We can see evidence all around us that the wheel of the Year has shifted. The days are noticeably longer with the sun setting much later than it did at the Spring Equinox. It’s grown considerably warmer outside. At the Spring Equinox new life was just beginning to emerge, but here, at the beginning of May, there is no denying that the Earth has been pushed from its tentative new beginning into full awakening.
Where Does the Word Beltane Come From?
Beltane comes from the Gaelic word that translates into “bright fire”. In fact, Beltane celebrations are often marked with bonfires as a symbol of protection. These fire 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.
However, the Celts weren’t the only cultures to celebrate Beltane. There were many other earth-based cultures that had Spring festivals and celebrations to mark this time of great fertility for Mother Earth. So no matter which earth-based culture was celebrating this period, they all had one thing in common… they saw this fertile time as an incredibly joyful, festive time. It is a time for coming together, to celebrate life.
Celebrating Beltane to Honor Nature's Energy
Today, I encourage you to celebrate Beltane as a way of honoring nature’s incredible fertile energy at this time of year, and as a way to connect with our natural world on a deeper, more meaningful level. I truly believe that by recognizing and celebrating the little shifts in Earth’s natural rhythms, we can become more attuned to nature and feel more grounded in our everyday lives because of it.
Nature has an amazing ability to reproduce itself, and in such a stunning & beautiful way. It’s important to honor this power that nature holds – a power that we, as humans, also hold. Right now, when the Earth is bursting with fertile energy, is a powerful time to acknowledge & celebrate the fertility inherent in all life. Beltane is a time to celebrate all the pleasures in being alive.
Historic rituals for Celebrating Beltane:
- Special bonfires were lit, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. It is said that the fire festival participants would lead their cattle around the bonfire and would even sometimes leap over the fire’s embers.
- People would put out all of their household fires and would then re-light them from the Beltane bonfire.
- Beltane festivals and celebrations would be accompanied by feasts of food and drink.
- Food offerings from the feasts would be made to the fairies or elves in Celtic cultures.
- Doors, windows, barns and livestock would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they were reminiscent of fire.
- In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: typically a thorn bush or branch decorated with flowers, ribbons, bright shells and rushlights.
- Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness.
Ideas for How to Celebrate Beltane Today:
- Set up a Beltane alter and fill it with the symbols of this special season. Think springtime (with lots of greenery), fertility, rebirth, and awakening.
- Have a bonfire. What better way to celebrate the festival of fire than with a beautiful nighttime flame.
- Gather flowers. Decorate your home with fresh flowers and greenery, especially hawthorn,
- Make flower crowns
- Dress in green
- Honor your sacred femininity with a Goddess ritual.
- Craft your own small maypole using found wood, colorful ribbons, and topped with a quartz point or other beautiful gem from your collection. Place this on your altar.
- Prepare a May basket. In days past, As April rolled to an end, people would gather flowers and small goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones on May 1.
- Hold a Beltane feast. Prepare traditional foods that include May wine, fresh greens, oatcakes or bannock, lamb, honey.
Hosting A Beltane Feast
Celebrating Beltane with a feast for family and/or friends is a wonderful way to honor this special time of year.
Foods for a Beltane Feast: 3 Easy Recipes
May Wine –
May wine, also known as Maitrank, Maiwein, Maibowle and Waldmeisterbowle, is the name of a German beverage that uses aromatized wine as a base. May wine is served in the spring, traditionally on the May Day holiday.
May Wine recipe:
- Choose a light German white wine, the younger the better.
- Pour into a bowl.
- Add a half-ounce of dried sweet woodruff (or four or five freshly dried sprigs) and a couple of tablespoons of honey.
- Cover it.
- Let it rest in the refrigerator overnight so the wine is infused with the herb’s essence.
Strain out the herb.
- Place the wine in a punch bowl, add strawberries and serve cold.
In Germany sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is known as the Waldmeister—“master of the forest.”
Foraged Greens & Wild Mushroom Quiche –
I believe in eating ancestrally whenever possible, so for Beltane, I created this recipe for foraged greens and wild mushroom quiche.
Let me just tell you, this recipe was delicious. My whole family loved it! I especially like how the dandelion greens gave it a bit of a kick. You could certainly make it without the dandelion greens, or experiment with your own ingredients.
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 25 min. Bake: 40 min.
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup chopped chives
- 1 cup sliced wild mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- (1 pound) of fresh greens of your choice (I used a combination of dandelion, wild garlic mustard, and ramps), but you can substitute and experiment with whatever fresh greens you have. Spinach and kale work great too!
- 5 large eggs
- 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Muenster, Monterey Jack, or cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- a pinch of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- In a large skillet, saute onion and mushrooms in oil until tender. Add your greens. Cook briefly until wilted. Cool slightly. Beat eggs; add cheese, sour cream, chives, parsley, and mix well. Stir in your greens mixture and salt & pepper; blend well. Spread evenly into a greased 9-in. pie plate or Quiche dish. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Yield: 6-8 servings.
- 1½ cups oat flour (place rolled oats in a food processor. Process until it becomes flour consistency)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 Tbsp butter, melted
- ⅓ cup water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour in melted butter and water. Mix until it forms a dough.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out to desired thickness, between ⅛ to ¼-inches.
- For round bannocks: using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or a glass to cut out circles.
- For rectangular bannocks: Roll out the dough to an 8- x 10-inch rectangle (cut into 16 pieces), or an 8- x 9-inch rectangle (cut into 12 pieces).
- Place the cut dough pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-23 minutes.
- Remove to wire rack to cool. Enjoy with butter, jam, or both!
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