BELTANE, MAY 1ST, THE beginning of summer, often starts in a rush. The cooler days of spring are fully underway, and the greening of the hedgerows is now in earnest. The first blossoms have already flown on the wind by the time Beltane’s true signifier, the hawthorn blossom finally takes the stage, with its white petals blushed with pink and crimson. It may feel hard to imagine this as the beginning of summer, but looking around all plants and trees are now glowing with life; the air may be cool but the soil is warm, and new growth is everywhere. Seeds sown now will germinate with ease, and even the tiniest outdoor space or windowsill can be used to grow salads and fresh spinach, radishes and spring onions.
The wild places are brimming with feasts for birds and animals, and it’s easy and a deeply soulful experience to share in this bounty. Now is a good time to forage for wild salads of hawthorn and beech leaves, primrose and sweet violet, as well as wild garlic, cleavers and nettles, which are excellent for detoxifying the system and are delicious! Green juices are powerfully nutritious and fresh leaves and herbs can be juiced or chopped up and frozen to add to smoothies and soups later in the year, preserving more of their nutrients than if they were dried. Always be sure of what you are picking and that you have permission - there are loads of books and websites to guide you. Notice what grows around you as the season changes- eating local produce is not only ethical, it aligns you to the subtle energies of the land you live in, with wholesome effects on your entire being; mind, body and spirit.
Take time now to walk in the woods, seeking out the liminal places, the edges of our modern world,where it is easiest to feel the wheel of the seasons tipping towards the glory of summer at last. Feel your feet on the soil, and light a fire beneath the Beltane full moon, on May 26th, to seek the blessings of the good earth, and align with her great rhythms, drawing in her health and vigour.
Our ancestors used to light Beltane fires at this time, especially on the summits of special hills, often known as beacon hills, in celebration and as protection from illness. Children would stay up late, looking for faeries and nature spirits and young people used to leap the flames for blessings and fertility. These fires were dedicated to Jack in the green, the spirit of the wildwood, and the May Queen, the goddess of the land in her aspect of flower maiden, who will give birth to the crops in the harvest to follow. Bathe your face in the dew from a meadow, and walk barefoot in the long grass as the dawn rises, to seek their blessings, and draw them into your life. The May queen and Jack have had many names over the centuries, but they know the trials of mortal men and women- let them inspire and empower you, and lighten your spirits as the summer draws near.
Danu is a celtic shaman and priestess in Glastonbury. Read more at danuforest.co.uk
MAKE YOUR OWN MORRIS BELLS Morris bells are worn by English folk dancers during the dance of the Maypole at Beltane. This is a central part of annual springtime rituals throughout the country. Dancers wear dozens of bells on each leg, wield sticks and/ or handkerchiefs, and dance to lively folk tunes. You can cut lengths of ribbon to the size of your ankles, thread three bells onto each length of ribbon and tie around your ankles with a bow. Dance around wearing your Morris bells to greet the May Day spirits and attract the helpful fairies to your home and garden.