Celebrate Beltane Your Way
Whether you know it as May Day, Beltane, Walpurgis or Hexenacht, the spring rite marks a time of fertility and growth. From family friendly activities to uninhibited sexual romps, and everything in between, there’s a Beltane celebration to suit your magickal practice.
Widely celebrated on May 1st., Beltane is one of the four Greater Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year. It’s also a cross quarter day, the midpoint between two quarters—in this case the lesser Sabbats of Ostara and Litha.
The Wheel of the Year comes from the Wiccan tradition established by Gerald Gardner. This seasonal ritual calendar became the accepted standard of Old Tradition practices in the mid 1960s. It’s true not all pagans are witches, and equally true not all witches are Wiccan. Yet many pagans and witches honor these seasonal observations in their practice.
The precise occurrence of Beltane is calculated by the astrological event of Taurus reaching 15-degrees of the sun (May 4th this year). For the astrology challenged, that means there is no fixed calendar date. May 1st. is a suggestion, but it’s okay to celebrate Beltane on any early day in the first week of May.
May Day, Family Festival, or Witches’ Grand Sabbat
The Maypole is arguably the most recognized imagery of Beltane. Like so much of the symbolism and ritual of spiritual traditions, dancing around the Maypole has become part of secular culture.
Wikipedia presents the Maypole as an element of “various European Folk Festivals, around which a Maypole dance takes place.” The entry goes on to say that two historians and scholars, Ronald Hutton and Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, concur that Maypoles were “signs that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned.” It was a time to be outdoors and enjoy socializing. This custom sounds more appealing than ever, after a year (and then some) of pandemic shut downs and social distancing.
Witches and Pagans who follow the Wheel of the Year celebrate Beltane as a time of fertility. Some modern witches place greater attention on human fertility with ribald sexual romps among practitioners. The Maypole in this case is a phallic symbol representing the God. The wreath that descends as the ribbons are twined around the pole represent the Goddess and her ripe womb. Minus the wreath, the pole penetrates the earth, or Gaia’s womb.
The dance is symbolic of the Grand Marriage, or more so, the creation of life. The dancers, weaving in and out around the pole harken to sexual play and frenzy—and sometimes give into those urges.
Night of The Witches
But, was Beltane always centered on this dance of lust? Most reliable research points to early Beltane celebrations marked with a balefire (bonfire). The name Beltane translated as bright fire, or by some accounts lucky fire. It was a celebration of purification, and consecration of animals, farms and fields to fruitful abundance. Cattle and other livestock were guided between two fires to protect against disease and keep them safe from the antics of fairy folk who might spoil their milk.
Folklore also tells of fanning the balefire flames for protection from frolicking witches, who took to the sky that night on their way to their Grand Sabbat gathering. This version of Beltane is also known as Walpurgis (or Walpurgisnacht) and Hexennacht, is celebrated on May eve. A counterpart to Samhain, the liminal time marks a second thinning of the veil between worlds. Enter fairies, spirits and all manner of magical beings, all of them up to a night of mischief.
Sensuality and Sex Magick
Beltane is the most opportune time to practice sexy spells and sex magick! Witches the world over are engaging in fertility rites to celbrate Beltane. You can tap into that energy to heat up a current relationship, or manifest a new one. Try this sensual spell from The Slavic Witch. If you don’t have access to Dame’s Rocket, substitute rose petals (for love), with vanilla (a lusty aphrodisiac).
Just remember when it comes to love magick, be careful what you witch for. As a general rule, casting love spells that interfere with another’s free will is not recommended. On the other hand, casting a glamour on yourself to attract a willing and able love partner is powerful magick.
There is a difference between sexy magick and sex magick. The latter is a conscious act of harnessing the powerful energy raised though passion, lust and the moment of orgasm. The intense energy is directed to a specific purpose. The desired outcome does not have to be sexual in nature.
For example, you might empower a sigil for good health, or to draw money, by directing the energy raised during sexual activity directly into the symbol. LIkewise, you could invoke a spell a the moment of orgasm.
Like any other magick, sex magick requires planning and preparation, It can include correspondences, talismans, and other elements. The sex part is just another (very effective) method for raising energy. It’s like hooking your spells up with extra wattage!
Your partner (or partners as the case may be) doesn’t have to be in on the magick. Although, two minds (or more) focused on the same outcome are that much more powerful. One final note on sex magick—you don’t have to have a partner to practice. Flying solo is dandy and works just as well for raising the energy.
Family Friendly May Day
Many a young child dances around a Maypole clutching the end of a colorful ribbon, innocently ignorant the lustier aspects of Beltane. Their family friendly May Day celebrates botanical fertility with the symbolism of flowers and seeds.
Celebrate Beltane with small children by helping them plant seeds indoors. Try a kitchen herb garden like this one, or start seeds for tender flowers and vegetables that can later be moved to the garden.
Consider planting a money tree on May Day to help your fortune grow. The succulent Jade plant (crassula ovata) is also know as the dollar plant or money tree. It’s believed to bring wealth and good fortune. Plant it with a few coins or folding money in the bottom of the pot, casting a spell for prosperity to grow.
Making May baskets is a quaint tradition with European roots. Celebrate Beltane with this fun bit of May Day magic for kids (or the kid in you). Secretly hang the cheeful baskets on your neighbor’s’ doors, ring their bell and scurry away into hiding.
It’s a bit too early in my realm for planting outdoors, but I can still celebrate Beltane with garden magic—cleaning up perennial beds, tilling and amending the soil, and blessing the land for germination, growth and a bountiful yield.
Nothing says fertility like eggs. Save shells for a few weeks, carefully rinsing them and setting on a towel to air dry, before storing in a small paper bag. When you have a good supply, crush and grind the shells in a mortar, adding your intention for a fertile and abundant crop. Sprinkle the powder in the garden and on flower beds.
Or try this simple garden magick using four raw eggs. Write the words fertile, growth, abundance, and harvest on the eggs using a green marker. Bury them in your garden at the four cardinal points, calling on the elements to help your garden grow.
If your perennial beds are bursting with spring flowering bulbs, celebrate Beltane with flower essence magick. Flower essences are energetic holistic remedies—you may be familiar with Bach Rescue Remedy.
Making your own flower essence is easier than you might think. Simply gather blooms early in the morning and allow them to float on spring water in a clear glass vessel. You can use bottled water and a plain drinking glass. Leave this outside, under the sun until no later than noon. This process leaves an energetic imprint of the plant spirit (or essence) in the water, using the sun’s radiant energy.
As soon as you bring the mother essence in, strain the blooms from the water (I put them in my compost). Fill a sterilized bottle approximately half full with brandy. Add spring water to almost full. To this solution add two or three droppers full of the mother essence. This is your stock bottle. Use the remainder of the mother essence to water house or garden plants.
To make a dose bottle, fill a sterilized dropper bottle half full with brandy. Again, add spring water to nearly full, then add one or two droppers full of the stock essence. This spring flower essence helps lift spirits and brings a renewed zest for life. To use, place a few drops of the essence under your tongue two or three times through the day.
Learn more about flower essences and their use here. Always use flowers that are at their peak and have not been treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides, Use dark amber or cobalt glass for both stock and dose bottles, being sure to label them with the essence name and the year. Stored in a cool dark place flower essences keep indefinitely because of their alcohol content.
Whether celebrationg Beltane as G or X rated fertility right, or as a fire festival of purification and consecration to ensure abundance, this is the season to embrace life and love. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a raucous time of sexual antics—practiced responsibly among consenting adults, and especially with respect to any prudent social distancing this year. Neither is anything lost in choosing to honor the balance of feminine and masculine energies with such tame activities as planting seeds, blessing the gardens, delivering May baskets and making simple flower crowns.