Beltane is not purely about fertility and the sexual act. As with all the rituals and rites within Witchcraft the sexual union carries a much deeper metaphorical and spiritual meaning. It reminds us of the principles of universal love and the union between nature and the divine.
During the witch’s holy days throughout the year love is the guiding force. Love means many things and we all have a variety of associations with that one word. Initially when we think about love we all think about the images and feelings from our romantic experiences. Of course, passion is most certainly one facet of love. However, if we think further along the spectrum of love we can also include the commitment, attachment and devotion we feel for family, partners, children and friends. There are many forms and definitions of love, however at Beltane we celebrate universal, worldly and unconditional love. At Beltane, the love shared and expressed through the principle of the sexual union is the love of life itself. It is not cold or unfeeling yet is not attached to anyone or anything in particular, it is devoted life and living. Like the water gushing from a busted dam floods the land around it, it is a direct expression of love and is unstoppable in its representation the zeal and vitality of life. It is the benevolence of our gods flowing through the expressions of love at Beltane.
One of the most important symbolic acts of Beltane is the heiros gamos, the sacred marriage. In mythology the principle of the heiros gamos is portrayed through the many stories that include a hero marrying a goddess, or the triumph of love over evil. Symbolically, the union between the physical polar opposites of male and female represents the merging of universally opposite elements such as light and dark, centre and periphery, and hot and cold. All these oppositional points find their balance through the ritual of symbolic sexual activity at Beltane. As the great myths of the world reveal it is through the meeting of oppositional forces that life renews itself and all life becomes possible.
The heiros gamos is more than a charming mythological theme that we celebrate once a year. It is a living and breathing article of faith that exists within the spirit. A state of consciousness, the heiros gamos is present when ever we become awakened by touch or sensuality. It is the blending of two souls bound in love and the acts of desire they share. It is divine love and love is divine.
The Beltane Fire
In an open and natural setting make a fire for Beltane, ensuring every precaution is taken to ensure the fire is well-contained and has little or no chance of endangering the surrounding area. If possible, use oak for the base fire. Build the fire with branches and logs on smaller twigs. Once the fire is burning toss in the ingredients for the Fire of Azrael.
A handful of sandalwood
A handful of cedar wood
A handful of dried juniper
Watch the fire burn whilst contemplating the theme of union. The fire cannot exist without the union of heat, fuel and air. Make sure to jump over the fire to make ‘Beltane wishes.’ If you re with an intimate partner jump over the fire together to strengthen the bond and ignite the passion. Once the fire is burned out and only embers remain, gaze into the embers for portents of the future.
When building fire outdoors always consider safety first.
Have a bucket of water at hand to douse the fire when finished or in an emergency.
Dig a small pit away from overhanging branches
Circle the pit with rocks or insert a metal fire container
Clear a five-foot area around the pit to soil
Do not use flammable liquids
Once lit, stay with the fire
Keep safe from children and pets
Do not build a fire on a windy day
Extinguish with lots of water
Do not leave smouldering embers
Blessings of love and light