The ancient Celtic fire festival of Beltane, which begins at moonrise on 30th April, celebrates the abundance of the Earth. Find out ways that you can get involved in local activities here.
Beltane is the Celtic May Day, beginning at moonrise on 30th April. A celebration of fertility, renewal and awakening, it reminds us of the rising power of nature at this special time of year. Traditionally a fire festival (‘Beltane’ is Celtic for sacred fire), it marks the cusp between spring and summer. This is a propitious time for beginning something, and many people choose to marry at this time of year. With life springing abundant from every hedgerow, woodland and field, we can see why our ancestors revered Beltane as sacred to fertility and sexuality. Symbols of this potent time – celebrating the union between male and female – can be seen in such traditional past-times as dancing around the Maypole (the source of many a schoolgirl titter!) and the crowning of the May Queen. After the fires were lit on 30th April, the partying began, and it was not unusual for revellers to come wandering in from the fields with bits of straw in their hair from a night of passion!
As Glennie Kindred writes in her beautiful book Earth Wisdom: “Beltane is a festival for celebrating our friends and lovers, and the potency of union of all kinds.” She suggests getting together with friends in a place where you can stay up all night and watch the dawn, a place where you can light a fire. Bring firewood for the fire, food and drink to share, and dress as the Spirit of the Green Man or Green Goddess. Use music and dance to bring people together in celebration of life and each other. Create a special moment to jump the Beltane fire, leaving behind what is holding you back and calling out as you jump: ‘I leave behind…’
There are many festivals and celebrations across the country marking this expansive time of year, so why not go and join with others to dance, laugh and have fun!
6 MAY – BELTANE AT THORNBOROUGH HENGE, NORTH YORKSHIRE
In the north of England, the land of the Celtic Goddess Brigantia, stands the truly ancient monument of Thornborough Henge. Each year, people gather here for the Celtic festival of Beltane, a celebration of the arrival of summer. From the myths of our ancestral traditions come the Hobby Horse, the Green Man, the May Queen and the Beltane Fool. Join in the fun and connect with the past at this sacred site.
30TH APRIL – BELTANE FIRE SOCIETY, EDINBURGH
If you live nearby, this is one celebration not to miss. Starting in 1988 as a word-of-mouth event, Beltane has grown into a major Scottish festival and now attracts over 12,000 warmly dressed late-night revellers each year. Watch the skies light up over Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill on Monday 30th April from 8pm – 1am – a truly dramatic carnival of fire and light combining a mix of traditions and rituals of both ancient Celtic and modern day culture. Over 300 performers and members of the Beltane Fire Society lead the crowd in rejoicing in our connections to nature and the seasons.
4TH-7TH MAY – HASTINGS JACK-IN-THE-GREEN FESTIVAL, EAST SUSSEX
With dancing at dawn, traditional folk music, a Maypole, a procession, the crowning of a May queen, the release of the Jack in the Green, a ceilidh and morris dancing, this wonderful celebration encapsulates all the fun, frivolity and magic of an ancient festival. Taking place in 1066 country, and spanning a whole weekend, there’s lots for all the family to enjoy.
7TH MAY – MAKE A JACK IN THE GREEN, MUSEUM OF LONDON
Jack in the Green is traditionally celebrated at this time of year as symbolic of the abundant green fertility of the earth and the fun playfulness of May Day. The Celtic Green Man is another manifestation of this leaf-bedecked character. Want to help make a Jack in the Green? Get yourself along to the Museum of London and, once Jack is finished, you can join in the procession and take home a lucky leaf.