Today many are observing Easter as part of their spring traditions. This time of renewal is something we can see with our own eyes, in the landscape all around us. Grasses are greening, buds are forming on the trees, spring bulbs are anxious to poke up through the earth and stretch out their foliage and blooms.

I feel like I’m opening too. Do you? This is a huge spring for us! There’s so much to look forward to, and I don’t want to miss any of it. As the Wheel of the Year continues to turn, Beltane is on the horizon. Last year at this time, we were curating our first Beltane Ritual Box. It’s been a full turn of the wheel since then and things just keep getting richer and more exciting.

In this week’s blog, I’m sharing the history of Beltane bonfires, and also provide some suggestions for objects you may wish to include when assembling your altar. When we choose to open to the unfolding year, we are blessed with so many small but significant moments. May you keep opening to yours.

All my love, always.

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Beltane’s celebration begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, or April 30th, with main events occurring all day on May 1st. It is a cross-quarter holiday in the Wheel of the Year, marking the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

Historically, Beltane marked the time of year when cattle were released from winter quarters and herded out to pasture for the summer. The medieval Ireland text, Cormac’s Glossary, records one of the first written references to the practice of building two large Beltane fires, between which cattle were herded. Some forced herds to leap over the flames. This was a protection ritual which served a practical purpose, as the heat and smoke helped rid the animals of fleas and other pests.

Likewise, villagers carried torches from the bonfires throughout and around their homes in protective ritual, smoking out pests and stagnant air. They placed yellow flowers in the home and draped garlands of yellow flowers over livestock. A May Bush, or May Bough was of Hawthorn or Rowan, decorated with spring flowers and ribbons and paraded through the village. Later this evolved into the practice of dancing around a Maypole weaving ribbons under a high bouquet while wearing crowns of braided flowers.

An altar is an intimate expression of your experience with this celebration. There are no rules, only suggestions based on those who have come before us:

  • A cloth of lush green contrasted with fiery yellow and gold.
  • Items to represent all the elements—earth, air, fire, water. Some soil, a feather, your candle, & a small bowl of water are simple selections.
  • Flower bouquets or garlands. Hawthorn or Rowan branches.
  • Beltane symbols—bees & honey, fairies, seeds, dandelions, antlers, candles, bells.
  • Animals—Cows, calves, sheep, lambs, deer, fawns, chicks, squirrels, foxes.
  • Symbols of union or unity—circles, rings, goblets and wands.
  • Fresh primrose, honeysuckle, lilacs, marigolds, ferns, & budding branches.
  • Stones of carnelian, citrine, emerald, clamshell jasper, olivine (peridot).
  • Personal spiritual items such as deities, amulets, talismans, or images.
  • Something to represent both the feminine & masculine.

Above all, make it a delight to gather items and create your altar.

Simple is lovely. As is over-the-top elaborate. Let it be who you are.

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