WHAT IS BELTANE?
Every Pagan holiday does have its connection to the natural cycle of the seasons and the ever changing force in nature.
Powers and Forces in nature that surround us and make life possible were sacred and divine in ancient European Paganism, and although they may have different names in European cultures, the essence and the force beyond the words remain the very same being and entity.
The power of the Sun, I am referring here to the Sun that has been recognized and worshipped. The Sun travels throughout the seasons and also its power is constantly changing, initiating either death and dying in nature, or the renewal process and resurrection of the Sun in Spring.
And still to this day we celebrate Walpurgis Nacht in Germany, and it does have its very own unique power to it. A close relation to Samhain is present, as in both nights the veil to the Otherworlds has lifted and the powers, beings and spirits of the Underworld may pass through the portals, coming into our realm, seeking communication, worship and exchange of power, force and wisdom with the ones who are initiated… with the ones who can whisper with the spirits of beyond.The Sun is traveling deep down into the Underworld with the Rise of Autumn and Winter…. Death, Emptiness, Darkness reigns over nature. With spring the sun begins to renew its power on earth, bringing back fertility, life force and growth. With the Pagan holiday Ostara, the power of Fertility is in full force and will come back into everyones life, turning the wheel of time and the cycle of life once again.
It does not matter how we call it, Walpurgis or Beltane or May Day, these are all names describing a change in seasons.
In Celtic Mytholgy, Beltane represents the triumph of the Sun, Light and Life through the resurrection of the Celtic Sun God Belenus, a marriage between the Sun, the Divine, and the Earth.
In May we Germans celebrate around the Maibaum, a large phallus like tree, we dance around it, sing songs and celebrate the upcoming Summer.
The Maibaum represents the large phallus that is penetrating the Earth, thus giving back life and power of the soil, the exchange of power between the divine, Earth and the Otherworlds.
The Celebration around the Maibaum was known in Germany that in 1741 the cutting of trees was outlawed, mainly because almost everyone wanted to possess their very own Maibaum. And indeed, the Maibaum (May-tree) does have a very old Pagan tradition and message.
Young girls were crafting a wreath with fresh herbs, flowers and branches, hanging it on top of the Maibaum. Boys and Girls were dancing around the Maibaum, having ties in their hands, representing the union of male and female, the rise of erotic power and force, where every human being is connected to the all penetrating power of fertility, between male and female, and between the otherworlds, the sun and the earth.
Walpurgis is a Germanic Pagan Goddess who was blessed and marked as holy and sacred after the rise of christianity, mainly because this was the only way to take over the ancient rites of Walpurigs. One a interesting side note, the monstarey that is dedicated to the British saint Walpurga can be visited in the southern German town called “HEIDEN - HEIM”.
Translated into “the Home of the Pagans/Heathens”.
Walpurga is in fact an old Germanic name and this cannot be denied. The word WAL in Walpurga is old high German language. The high Germanic name “Walus” represents a magical wand, that is a very important attribute of the old and wise Germanic Hagazussa. Thee wise women who can travel between worlds. They were in fact Pagan shamans practicing very old shamanic rites.
A lot of Germanic Gods have the term WALA in their names, the most known would be the Great Vala, who is no one other than Frau Holle, the Goddess Hel.
There are many other terms with WALA as well… WALvater Wotan, WALküren, WALhall, and so on. All of these terms reach back to the old Germanic words Wala or Vala.
From eastern Bavaria to lower Austria Walpurga has been worshipped as a Goddess dressed in white clothes, with shoes that are on fire (=fertility), and a crown made out of Gold, representing the Sun and mirrors in her hand, the so called Seelenspiegel, the mirror of the Souls, representing Resurrection.
Walpurgis Holiday is the last day of April to the first day of May. During that night, all portals to the Otherworlds are open and the union of all powers and forces are celebrated. For she has come back, out of the darkness, bringing forth fertility, sun, lust and sexual union.
Not that long ago, mostly all marriages in Germany have been held in May during the Comeback of Walpurga.
The very famous mountain in Germany is dedicated to her, the Brocken. There all of the so called Hexentaenze, the dances of the witches, have been held and rites and offerings have been practices, all in honor of her force and power. During that night, the mountain of the Brocken transformed into a place of the Otherworlds… Spirits, Witches, Gnomes and wise Hagazussa were communicating with each other, interacting knowledge and wisdom, celebrating the holy union of the human individual with the Sun, the Soil and the Otherworlds.
What could have been more important to the ancient Pagans, who were fully dependent on natural resources and living with the seasons than the rising power of the Sun?
Growing food, herbs, feeding your family from your own soil. All of these things were securing the survival of the people. Those people were mainly farmers. With that being said, the Sun is, in all mythologies, powerful and has been worshipped.
Bel is the Celtic God of the Beltane which translates into the Fires of Bel and is a ceremonial holiday honoring the Sun, Fertility and Growth from the last day of April to the first day of May.
Depending on the region, the God Bel does have many different names in Scotland and Ireland.
Bel is a solar deity representing masculinity, fertility and the life giving forces of the Sun.
The name Belenus translates into the Shining one.
Although Bel is of Celtic heritage he does have many things in coming with the God Mars, thus his name was also worshipped to bless warriors, give them strength for battles to come.
During the bonfires, Beltane cattle were pushed to walk next to the fires, thus giving them strength, potency and good health.
With that being said it is quite obvious that Bel is a solar deity, and thus Bel has been worshipped for the powers of the Sun, turning frozen land into fertile land, keeping family members alive, keeping the livestock alive, blessing mother earth and nature with the process of renewal, spring and finally summer.
On the 1st of May, Beltane is all about his powers and the union of Bel and Mother Earth.
People in Ireland divided the cycle of nature and the year as a whole in two seasons. The darkness and death of nature during winter was celebrated on the day of Samhain, 1st of November, and the second part of the year, the upcoming summer, life and fertility, on the 1st of May.
Beltane derives form the old irish word “ten”, which means fire.
There are many Gods representing Fire and the Sun, as well as fertility. For example, Greek God Pan is linked to sexual union, lust and fertility as well.
That night, as well as Samhain, are nights where the union of everything is acknowledged and worshipped. After the 1st of May, the cattle were, after the ceremonial blessing, guided unto summer pastures where they could grass until the end of summer.
On May Eve it was customary to light a bonfire made out of nine different type of wood and once the fire was burning, a piece of smoldering firewood was taken to every single home and building in the entire community, symbolizing fertility.
Belfire was a central part of the Beltane celebration, including drums, songs and dancing around the fire was taking place and it also has been used as a symbol for fertility and blessings, to each human individual and home as well as livestock, so that they may receive good health and new life-force.
The druids were chanting incantations around the fire, as the fire was believed to be a portal to receive the powers from the spirit realms. Thus, the belfire was a central part of the whole Beltane celebration, unifying everything and everyone with his power and blessings.
Apart from the belfire celebration, I think, that it is very important for the Pagan soul to go out and receive the blessings of the Sun in nature.
This can be done via meditation in the forest or somewhere in the nature, where you can clearly see and feel the vitalization of nature, the renewal process of spring and the change of the seasons.
If you have a vegetable garden, give offerings to the power of the Sun. This can be done via flowers and herbs wreaths, beer or liquor as an offering as well as giving praise and honoring the changing power of nature within your mind.
Meditation and taking a deep look inwards around this time is very important.
You have to feel and sense the change of the seasons, and again, this can be done while being alone in nature, recognizing the growth of the plants and herbs as well as local wildlife, while removing yourself completely from the fast paced modern world and every day life.
Paganism without living very closely with nature and allowing yourself and your mind to free from the modern way of life becomes dead and shallow. Beltane is the day to go out in nature and meditate, sense the green grass, the wildlife and birds, the moss and the trees, allow yourself to fully open it for nature and its powers, and this can be done in the serene silence of the forest.