Beltain, 1 May, is a celebration of the beginning of summer and the power of the life force. At this fertile time of the year dare to reach out for your wildest dreams. What do you wish to grow in your life right now?
Gather outside with friends and family on the eve of the first of May or at the nearest full Moon (19 Apr). Ask everyone to bring food and firewood to share. Eat and tell stories together round the fire and enjoy the sense of community this brings. Celebrate this opportunity for everyone to be outside and experience the rich moment of transition between dusk and nightfall.
Make headdresses and crowns of flowers and greenery and celebrate your connection to your wild self and the Earth. Begin with a circle of ivy that fits the head comfortably and weave and tie the rest in with raffia. Tie ribbons from your headdress, counting your blessings with each one.
Have a basket of sticks ready and ask everyone to take two sticks; one to represent something they wish to fire up and make fertile and the other something to let go of to help this to happen. Take it in turns to put them in the fire with ceremony. Saying out loud what they are strengthens your intention and resolve and anchors them in your heart.
Pass round a basket of ribbons and each take three. Tie your three ribbons on a tree with three wishes: one for the Earth, one for yourself and one for your family or community.
The Hawthorn or May tree is associated with Beltain, with fertility and with faerie and nature spirits, and even when growing in towns they still retain the spirit of the wild places. Hawthorns are long lived and some may be over 400 years old. Groups of old Hawthorn trees, especially if they grew in threes, were considered to be potent places where time and reality could shift and were treated with great respect. Lone Hawthorns were used to mark and protect the site of a spring or underground water and other places of significance.
It is a safe herbal remedy for children and the elderly alike, and will relieve tension and anxiety and bring a relaxing sleep.
Another name for the Hawthorn is the Bread and Cheese Tree. This refers to the young leaves and leaf buds which can be eaten straight from the tree or added to salads, helping to lower cholesterol. Chop the young leaves up finely and add honey and a dash of vinegar (and garlic to taste). Good with potatoes.
The blossom can be drunk as a tonic tea, which also has a beneficial effect on the heart and circulation. Flower buds and petals can be sprinkled over salads at the last minute or used to decorate puddings, cakes and drinks. Use the petals straight away as they deteriorate quickly. Don’t wash them, but shake out any insects first.
Fill a jar with Hawthorn buds and cover with clear honey. Poke it well to release any air bubbles and let it stand for a week. Delicious on bread or over ice-cream or porridge.
Pieces of Hawthorn are given as a protective charm, a talisman or a token of friendship and Love. It is a beautiful wood and sands up to a lovely tactile smooth finish.