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BELTANE

 

Beltane is a Pagan celebration in May that focuses on love, fertility, and purification.

 

Beltane is the spring Wiccan sabbat that is celebrated on May 1. It is the celebration of fertility of the land by the joining of the young God and Goddess. Handfastings are often performed at this time (the joining of two Wiccans in a ceremonial marriage).

Correspondences of Beltane

Astrology: The Sun is in Taurus during this time

Lunar: Waxing gibbous

Deities: Bel, Mabon, Pan, Apollo, Balder, Freya

Colors: Green, white, black

Herbs: All flowers blooming in May, lily of the valley, rose, hawthorn, apple, heather, yarrow, rosemary, tulips

Altar decorations: Spring flowers or wreaths of flowers, candles

Beltane translates to “the fire of Bel.” Bel is a Celtic god with only a few true stories remaining. He is said to be a god of solar light and fire.

Beltane is the ritual of the first union of the God and Goddess. The God is grown into his power on earth, and into sexual maturity. The Goddess is maiden of the land, taking the seed of the God to fulfill the promise of a fruitful harvest.

Beltane is a fire festival, and is about both sexuality and purification. An old Celtic tradition involved two large fires being set up. The people would pass between these two fires to purify themselves. Water for cleansing was also often used during the preparation of the ritual.

Fertility rituals were common on Beltane, and some covens still do them. There was, and still is, free expression of sexuality among these tribes and covens. Children that were born nine months later would be considered very blessed, special children, and were often raised by the entire coven. It was not uncommon when a child would be fatherless, but it was also not looked down on.

Maypoles were a big part of celebrating Beltane. In the days of the ancients, and in some covens now, the pole would be made from a tree by the man and planted by the woman. Ribbons and cords were tied to the top, which the dancers would grab onto, and they would dance around the pole, weaving over and under each other until the cords and ribbons were wrapped around the pole. Due to the rush of our generation, poles are now merely broomsticks without the thistles, or already carved poles.

To celebrate Beltane, one can focus on their own passion and how they can express that passion. Do something fun as part of your ritual, using flowers, song, dance, movement, or anything that your heart desires. If you are with a group, create and dance around a Maypole. No matter the celebration, remember to think on pure, lasting love. Also remember that, no matter how you celebrate, you should give thanks to the God and Goddess for that beautiful day, as Pagans should observe it.

 

 

 



SAMHAIN

 

Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means "End of Summer", and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat. 

 

It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other being Beltane. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort. 

 

Originally the "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folke became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits. 

 

This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land. 

 

Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow's Eve, (that day actually falls on November 7th), and Martinmas (that is celebrated November 11th), Samhain is now generally considered the Witch's New Year. 

 

Symbolism of Samhain:

Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death. 

 

Symbols of Samhain:

Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms. 

 

Herbs of Samhain:

Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw. 

 

Foods of Samhain:

Turnips, Apples, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry. 

 

Incense of Samhain:

Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg. 

 

Colors of Samhain:

Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold. 

 

Stones of Samhain:

All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.