Beltane is a celebration of the greening of the earth, and is almost always celebrated with a big bonfire. It takes place on May Day (May 1) – if you live North of the equator, and November 1 (sometimes October 31st) if you live in the Southern Hemisphere. There are links at the bottom of this page with additional information on Beltane legend, lore, traditions, and practices. This ritual involves casting a circle, a short history lesson about Beltane, an activity, and the sharing of sacred well water, followed by sharing of “cakes & ale” and socialization before closing the circle. If you choose to use this ritual for your own future gatherings, feel free to customize it to your own beliefs, styles, or group dynamics.
This ritual works best with at least two leaders; an orator and an attendant – one will do the speaking and the other to execute the action potions
What you’ll need to prepare for this ritual (as written)
Smudge Wand – preferable white sage or mugwort
Quarter Candles (4 total) in these colors – Red (South,) Yellow (East,) Green (North,) and Blue (West)
Goddess Candle – Large White Candle (I use a three wick candle for the Goddess)
God Candle – smaller Gold Candle
Goblet with sacred well water and napkin (optional, see below)
Bonfire or fire circle of some sort
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed with <> refers to instructions and should not be spoken aloud.
<Opening Statement – A call to action for the participants to stop talking, gather, and prepare to begin the ritual>
“Let it be known to all whom are gathered here that this circle is about to be cast – all who wish to remain here do so with the understanding that this sacred space is one of perfect love and perfect trust”
Smudge Stick Pass to Participants
Join Us As We Call the Quarters
Old Ones of the East, Spirits of Air, We call upon you to join us this night in our circle – guard it with your invisible power; blowing out any lingering negative influences – fill the eastern quarter with intellect. <light yellow candle>
Old Ones of the South, Spirits of Fire, We call upon you to join us in our circle – cleanse those gathered here with your engulfing flames; expel any harmful forces and fill the southern quarter perpetual warmth. <light red candle>
Old Ones of the West, Spirits of Water, We call upon you to join us in our circle tonight – rush in and join our circle; bathing all those who are present with your cleansing waters, regenerating our bodies and the filling the western quarter with hope for the future. <light blue candle>
Old Ones of the North, Spirits of the Earth, We call upon you to join us in this circle – rise like a mist from the sands and soils and join us in our circle tonight; pull forth the positive energies of the planet to encourage us to renew our relationship with everything in nature – fill the northern quarter with awareness and understanding. <light green candle>
Brigid, three-faced Goddess of Fire, we call upon you to grace us with your presence this Beltane. You are the fire in the heads of the Bards, the heat in the forges of the mighty Blacksmiths, and the cleansing flames of the healers. Join us tonight in our ritual, hail and blessed be!
<light Goddess Candle>
Cernunnos (kar nan es), horned god of the forest, we call upon you to join us this Beltane. You are the stag whose antlers provide protection against all predators, you are the guardian of all trees and wild things; join us tonight in our ritual, hail and blessed be!
<light God Candle>
The Story Behind Beltane
The great fire festival of Beltane honors life. This celebration is known by many names, including Belt-an-a in Ireland, Bealtunn in Scotland, Shenn do Boaldyn on the Isle of Man and Galan Mae in Wales; it’s also commonly known as May Day. Beltane represents the peak of spring and the beginning of summer; the bright half of the year and the coming warmth. It’s a celebration of the return of life and fertility to the physical world which surrounds us. It’s a time for sexual awakening in humankind with new relationships, marriages and the adventures of young adulthood. The word “Beltaine” literally means “bright” or “brilliant fire.”
At Beltane, abundant fertility on all levels is at its peak, the sexuality of life and the earth are at their peak and it’s the time when the potential becomes the conception. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness of womanhood. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal; called Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, or the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, or the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. Their union is consummated and the May Queen becomes ripe with child. The May Queen and the May King symbolize the Sacred Marriage of the union of Earth and Sky. This sacred union has happily been re-enacted by humankind throughout the centuries. But it’s so more than just sensuality, passion, vitality and joy; it’s also about conception. Just as the May Queen will be the source of new life, so can we bring life to our brilliant ideas, hopes, and dreams on Beltane.
Ancient customary practices were to have a fertile couple to represent the King and Queen of the May. Dancing around the maypole was a focal point of activity. The Maypole was made of oak, and had ribbons of many colors. Women would grab a ribbon and dance around it and the last woman left holding the ribbon would be crowned the May Queen. Later a wedding feast, symbolically honoring God and Goddess, would be served.
On the eve of Beltane the ancient Celts would build two large fires, created from the nine sacred woods, in honor of summer. These fires were deemed to have protective properties. The tribal herds were ritually driven between them, so as to purify and protect them in the upcoming year. Humans would leap over the Beltane bonfire for many reasons; Young people jumped the fire for luck in finding a spouse, travelers jumped the fire to ensure a safe journey, and pregnant women jumped the fire to assure an easy delivery. Each person had their own reasons for stepping across the flames and no one passed on the opportunity. <have everyone who wishes to, jump over the fire>
Think about what you wish for in the coming year while you’re carefully crossing over the flames.
<This next part is optional and can only be done if you have access to sacred well water>
May Day was a time to visit the sacred wells and the morning dew is believed to have the power of beauty and maintaining youthfulness; before the morning sun, when the grass is still moist, bathe your face and skin in the dew.
Tonight, we share sacred well water that has been blended from sacred wells across the world. These waters date back for centuries and are associated with healing, both physical and spiritual.
<Pass the goblet and folded towel>
<Closing the circle>
Cernunnos, (Kar nan es) Great Horned God, we thank you for your protection tonight and for joining our Beltane celebration. Stay if you will, go if you must, in perfect love and perfect trust. Hail and Farewell! <extinguish God candle>
Brigid, Goddess of Fire, we thank you for joining us in our Beltane celebration tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must, in perfect love and perfect trust. Hail and Farewell! <extinguish Goddess candle>
“Farewell Old Ones of the North, Spirits of the Earth, We thank you for your presence in our circle this night, go in peace leaving us full of your energies, a higher awareness and understanding of the world around us.” <extinguish green candle>
“Farewell Old Ones of the West, Spirits of Water, We thank you for your presence in our circle this night; go in peace, leaving our bodies cleansed and ready to step out with a new found hope for the future.” <extinguish blue candle>
“Farewell Old Ones of the South, Spirits of Fire, We humbly thank you for your presence in our circle and your banishing powers – go in peace and leave us knowing your warmth will always be near.” <extinguish red candle>
“Farewell Old Ones of the East, Spirits of Air, We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight; go in peace leaving us with your intellect and wisdom.” <extinguish yellow candle>
“This circle is open but never broken”
The Fire Festival at Edinburgh is legendary for both its theatrics and attendance. The photo above is the tip of the iceberg.
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