The Vernal Equitherm (Beltane) is coming! It is the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is well and truly coming and summer is around the corner. Flora is bursting to life even in the northern climes, and fauna frolicks in the verdure. Those in the Southern Hemisphere experience the opposite, as autumn passes into winter. This year, in addition to all your other celebrations, we have an opportunity to celebrate by directly making our voice in support of our Earth heard – along with thousands, perhaps millions, of others at the Peoples Climate March, which happens to fall on April 29th, within a couple days of Beltane. You don’t have to go to Washington – there are local marches all over the country – you can find one near you at this link.
In the Northern Hemisphere, May 1st time is traditionally celebrated in the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year as Beltane. The name derives from the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine or the Scottish Gaelic Bealtuinn for “Bel-fire”. Beltane is reputed as a day of unabashed sexuality, visible in the phallic symbolism of dancing round the Maypole. This sexuality is, of course, approached with respect and consideration.
Glenys Livingstone, author of PaGaian Cosmology, a naturalistic tradition revering the Goddess as a metaphor for the Cosmos, recommends the ritual celebration of beauty, as in the following call and response:
Celebrant: “Name yourself as the Beauty, whom She desires – the Beloved. Speak if you wish, of the Beauty that you are, or simply show us. Let us welcome your Beauty.”
Each one: (wording as you wish … this is a suggestive, and presenting object or photo of Beauty,or describing, as you speak: “I am this Beauty”. AND/OR “I am the Beauty of … . I am the Beauty whom She (the Cosmos/Universe) desires.“ (Put your object or photo on the altar)
Response: Welcome, we saw you coming from afar, and you were beautiful. We saw you coming from afar, and you are beautiful.
Glenys also finds this a particularly appropriate time to use the well-known Charge of the Goddess as an invocation: “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.”
“As I stand here on this celebration of Beltane, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my forebears did, I do now, and so may my descendants do in time to come. The dark half of the year is over and Summer has begun. The earth is alive and the land is fertile. Leaves are once more upon the trees, flowers are blooming all around and insects are searching for pollen. Warmth has returned and it is the season of love and passion, the time of fire. I give thanks for the blessings of the earth mother.”
NaturalPantheist also offers some suggestions for celebrating Beltane inspired by historical practices, folklore or contemporary Neo-Paganism, including:
Light a Bonfire as the ancient Druids did.
Extinguish and relight the main fire of your hearth. This could be a literal fire or the pilot light of your boiler.
Give an offering to the local river. The ancient Celts saw their local river as the embodiment of the land goddess and offerings were left for her.
“Bring in the May” by decorating your house with hawthorn, yellow flowers and greenery.
Do a saining/ cleansing of your house. Walk the boundaries with fire.
Collect dew or the first water of a local well in the morning. The water can be used in healing rites throughout the year.
Eat a meal of seasonal wild greens. There are many wild edibles around now: hawthorn leaves, jack by the hedge, nettles, goosegrass, wild garlic, dandelions and more.
Make a protective Rowan cross charm to hang in the doorway.
It’s a time to focus on fertility and romance, so spend some time with your partner. And have sex — maybe in a forest.
Visit a May Day fair or parade and watch morris dancers or the May Queen being crowned.
Jon Cleland Host, of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo group, suggests making Maybaskets of flowers, running barefoot in the grass, washing one’s face in the morning dew, and writing romantic poetry. Other family traditions we have for Beltane include planting the garden and being outside.
Áine Órga sees May sees May as a time to “step away from your altar” both literally and figuratively:
“If you practice a personal, solitary spirituality, the dark months of the year probably see you spending a lot of time in your sacred space. […] Step away from your altar this month – either literally or figuratively. Speaking literally: make your practice more active than passive. Speaking figuratively: you can step away from your altar by changing up your practice. Take your spirituality outside. Rather than revering the divine at your altar, revere it (her/him/them) outside in the wild. Visit the sacred places of the deities you work with, if you can. If not, find a place that feels sacred to them. Make it theirs.”
Áine associates Beltane with erotic and creative energy, “felt as as desire for life, for the necessities to live like food, water, and air. Or as a desire to express yourself, to connect deeply to the world, and to love yourself completely.” She offers these suggestions for celebrating the energy of desire:
When meditating, focus on the point after you have exhaled all your breath when you feel the desire to take the next breath take hold. Don’t strain your breath, but be aware of the overwhelming need for the expansion of your lungs.
Consider your personal sexuality and sexual experiences as an experience of connecting to Divine energy. Consider the way you feel when aroused, and the feelings that course through you, and divorce those feelings from any other person. Own them entirely.
On the other hand, and particularly if you are in a sexual relationship, consider how your sexuality connects you to another person or persons.
This is an updated version of the yearly Vernal Equitherm post