I’ve often thought the pagan nature festival Beltane, could be celebrated by any group, family or individual regardless of their preferred spiritual beliefs. What better to revere than the natural world around us? The area we live in gives us food, water and shelter; our eco-system lets us breathe, survive and prosper. But more than that there is a certain magic and magnificence in natural settings, something the attuned easily pick up on.
Beltane is a Celtic fertility festival dating back thousands of years and led by the Druids, until they were banished when Christian and pagan worlds collided. The Druid Priests and Priestesses held an oral tradition about their beliefs, with apprenticeships lasting more than twenty years. Because everything was held in memory a great deal of the information was lost in these turbulent times. What remains of Beltane are written histories from other cultures, histories and poems since the advent of writing in Celtic countries and what remains in myth, stories, sacred sites and memory sharing through the generations.
Beltane is fertility and fire festival celebrated in local areas, usually over two days. It celebrates growth and renewal for the land and its people, with fires, traditional attire, feasts and ceremonies on the eve of Beltane, 31st of October in Australia or southern hemisphere. The 1st of November is the day of the well-known maypole, a day of ribbons, flowers, nature appreciation, picnics and thoughts of future prosperity. There are many ceremonies in books or online, or you can do a little reading and make up your own. Beltane celebrations in the northern hemisphere are held in the United Kingdom, Ireland and parts of France and Germany on the 31st April and 1st of May.
It gets confusing in Australia with Halloween on the 31st of October, but when you think about it, Halloween in an autumn festival and doesn’t fit with our spring. That said many families in Australia will celebrate a bit of both or Just Halloween since it is so commercially fixed in everyone’s minds, especially if you haven’t heard of Beltane. This is what happens when you have mass migrations of Europeans to the other side of the world. There is always something of the ancient culture of your forbears that remains with you. Use this strong spiritual connection to celebrate your own spring festival, there are many ancient traditional festivals still going strong today.
Sharon D Bush
Writer Historian Artisan Sage
Sharon D Bush, B.A. Double Major History/Ancient History University of New England