The word "Beltaine" literally means "bright" or "brilliant fire" and one of the chief ritual acts was the kindling of bonfires, often on hills and created from the nine sacred woods, in order to bring the sun's light down to earth and honor summer. The fires also celebrated the return of life and fruitfulness to the earth. To jump between two Beltane fires was sure to bring good fortune, health to your livestock and prosperity - young people jumped over for luck in finding a spouse, travelers jumped the fire to ensure a safe journey, and the pregnant jumped over to assure an easy delivery. Sometimes the fire was lit beneath a sacred tree, or a pole covered with greenery was surrounded by the fuel, or a tree was burned in the fire. These trees survive in the Maypole of later custom and they represented the vegetation spirit.
Beltane is the time of sensuality revitalized; the reawakening of the earth and all of her children. Thisis a customary time for Handfastings for a year and a day. Celebration included frolicking through the countryside, dancing the Maypole, leaping over fires and "going a maying". It was also usual for young lovers to spend the night in the forest.
On May Eve people would tear branches from a Hawthorn tree and decorate the outside of their homes. The Hawthorn, or Whitethorn, is the three of hope, pleasure and protection.
Be on the lookout for tomorrow's post to include some Beltane crafts to try your hand at!