Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beltane

Pagans observe Beltane, or May Day, in a variety of forms. They may also use a different word for the festival. Pagans vary by tradition, and as a result this holiday means different things to different people.

Celtic Reconstructionists place emphasis on historical accuracy. Their celebrations are based on rituals and traditional lore from the surviving Celtic cultures, as well as researching older beliefs of polytheistic Celts. They usually celebrate Beltane (they call it by its Gaelic word, Lá Bealtaine) when the local hawthorn trees are in bloom. If those aren't available, they choose the full moon that falls closest to the event. Many observe the traditional bonfire rites, depending on their location and what the fire hazard level is. Some decorate May Bushes and prepare traditional festival foods.

Wicca, and the pagan religions that are similar to it, celebrate Beltane as a Sabbat. Although they use the name Beltane, which is Gaelic in origin, their festival is closer to the Germanic May Day festival. This festival focuses on fertility, even going so far as to enact a ritual union between the May Lord and May Lady (or Goddess and God, as Wiccans are duotheistic). They consider this a cross-quarter day, celebrated roughly halfway between Ostara and the Summer Solstice.

This is a good time to plant seeds, even in the northern part of the world. If you're living in the north, where there's still snow or at least it's a possibility until May, you can plant your seeds indoors with a heat lamp and transfer them to the outdoor garden after the cold season is completely over.

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