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Hawthorne Tree  Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Horned God and Goddess at Beltane Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

God Cernunnos Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Beltane Fires Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Dancing round the Maypole Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Click on picture to see Mickie Mueller's Art

Handfasting at Beltane Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Hawthorne Blossoms Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.

Basket of May day flowers Moville Inishowen Co Donegal.
























Beltane (May Day) 1st May

Beltane, the third of the four Celtic fire festivals, was a celebration of the return of life and fertility to the world, and was celebrated on or around April 30. It is sometimes referred to as Cetsamhain which means "opposite Samhain." Beltane was the last of the three spring fertility festivals, and the second major Celtic festival. Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, Winter and Summer.

In ancient Celtic communities, the festival went by many names: Beltane in Ireland, Bealtunn in Scotland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Man and Galan Mae in Wales. The Saxons called this day Walpurgisnacht, the night of Walpurga, goddess of May. As with Brighid, the Church transformed this goddess into St. Walpurga and attached a similar legend to her origin. Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, this festival marked the beginning of Summer and the pastoral growing season.

It celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colours are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight.

The word "Beltaine" literally means "bright" or "brilliant fire," and refers to the bonfire lit by a presiding Druid in honor of the proto-Celtic god variously known as Bel, Beli, Balar, Balor or Belenus. It has been suggested that Bel is the Brythonic Celt equivalent to the Goidelic Celt god Cernunnos.

At Beltane, the Horned One dies or is taken by the Goddess, only to be reborn as her son. He then reclaims his role as consort and impregnates the Goddess, sparking his own rebirth. Other beliefs tell of the Summer God being released from captivity, or the Summer Maiden wooed away from her Earth-giant father. The Hawthorne (Huathe) tree represents the giant and sometimes this wood is used for the Maypole.

Beltane joyfully heralds the arrival of Summer in its full glory. It was believed that if you bathed in the dew of Beltane morn, your beauty would flourish throughout the year.

Beltane was once a time in which one’s cattle were honored in rituals of protection, purification, and fertility. Just as they were driven to their winter pastures at the beginning of the Celtic year at Samhain (Halloween), so were they driven to their high pastures for the summer six months later at Beltane. It was a sacred time, for one’s status and wealth were measured by one’s herds and any threat to their lives and health directly impacted one’s own. Protecting one’s animals, is closely associated with the supernatural world. The Celts knew that seasonal transitions were times of heightened supernatural strength, even danger. Beltane and Samhain were the year’s two great fire festivals, they divided the year in half and marked the time when the veils between the worlds were at their most vulnerable, when spirits moved freely through the portals and enchantment abounded. In respecting such powers, the celebrations called for holy fires, kindled from the trees most revered by the Celts, among these were rowan, birch, apple, oak, hawthorn, holly, and alder. Such magical woods were believed to be “specialists” in protecting and purifying people and animals from disease and infertility. Where Samhain’s autumn fires were a time of thanksgiving, Beltane’s fires welcomed the sun’s return and therefore had specially focused powers of renewal. That is why the Celts at Beltane drove their treasured herds and flocks along a narrow pathway between two banks of burning wood piles, through the holy, incense-like smoke, asking for mighty blessings upon the animals and themselves.

The fires celebrate the return of life and fruitfulness to the earth. Celebration included frolicking throughout the countryside, dancing the Maypole, leaping over fires, and "going a maying". Young people jumped the fire for luck in finding a spouse, travellers jumped the fire to ensure a safe journey, and pregnant women jumped the fire to assure an easy delivery. It was customary for young lovers to spend the night in the forest.

Beltane was the time of sensuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and all of her children. It was the time when tribal people celebrated with joy the vivid colors and vibrant scents of the season, tingling summer breezes, and the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter. It was customary that Handfastings, for a year and a day, take place at this time.

On May Eve people would tear branches from a Hawthorn tree and decorate the outside of their homes. The Hawthorn, or Whitethorn, is the tree of hope, pleasure, and protection. The strong taboo on breaking Hawthorne branches or bringing them into the home was traditionally lifted on May Eve.

Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill and then give it to someone in need of healing and caring, such as a house bound or elderly friend. Form a wreath of freshly picked flowers, wear it in your hair, and feel yourself radiating joy and beauty. Dress in bright colors. Dance the Maypole and feel yourself balancing the Divine Female and Male within. On May Eve, bless your garden in the old way by making love with your lover in it. Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck. Welcome in the May at dawn with singing and dancing.

Today we still have maypoles, but the male god has gone. Christianity kept the Queen of the May, but transformed her into a symbol of virginity, purity and chastity.
Roman Catholics would honour Mary, the mother of Jesus, during the month of May. They would place flowers at statues of Mary and make a crown of flowers to adorn her head.




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Supported by the NE Inishowen Company.