The two high sabbats within the annual cycle of seasonal celebrations are Samhain, 31 October, and Beltane, 1 May. Halfway through the Celtic year the festival of Beltane compliments Samhain in that it is the joyful balance to the darker Hallow’s. Beltane is an open-hearted and joyful celebration of life. In Pagan spirituality Beltane focuses on the principle of life as generated by the energies of physical and sexual union.
The name Beltane is derived from the ‘Bel fire’, a fire lit on the first day of May to honour the Celtic god Bel, a sun god also known as Beli or Balor. To symbolically announce the return of light and life the ancient Celts lit Bel fires with wood found in local oak groves.
Another ancient Beltane rite celebrants would cut branches of May, budded hawthorn, and bring it into their homes to mark the return of the goddess. The Maypole is also a sacred object connected to Beltane. It is symbolic of the king’s or god’s phallus and is planted deep into the earth to initiate a season of growth and fertility. The pole is decorated with ribbons and bells, and dancing around the pole is said to invigorate the earth.
In contemporary Beltane celebrations we embrace a liberated expression of our own sexuality and sexual identity. It is a time to examine sexual views, taboos, practices and expressions. Sex is natural part of living and to embrace and live life fully we have to be understanding of our own sexual desires and those of others.
Sexual energy symbolises the merging of individual identity into a collective consciousness. Through the act of sex, both actual and symbolic, two become one. It symbolises the process through which we merge with the divine force of life. In the Pagan view sex is spontaneous and uninhibited, manifesting in one’s own sexual expression and practices.
In love and light