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Erecting the Maypole and dancing around the fire skyclad …

2017/05/01

May Day, or Beltane, is the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celtic peoples. It was celebrated as a festival day to hail fertility as the sown fields began to sprout and wildlife and domestic animals began to reproduce.

Beltane was also considered a time for the pairing (handfasting) of young couples, though not yet their wedding, which would not come until the next Cross-Quarter Day, after three months of seeing how they suited each other.

June weddings came from this tradition of betrothing; given impatience of the couple, the waiting period came to be shortened to a six-week span.  — From The Old Farmer’s Almanac,  Quarter Days and Cross-Quarter Days (edited)

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The Maypole is a popular and familiar image of May Day and Beltane. A symbolic phallic pole, made from the ‘wood’ of a sacred tree, is inserted into the Earth symbolizing the potency of the the chosen pagan god. A ring of flowers is placed at the top of the Maypole represents the fertile chosen pagan goddess. Multi-colored ribbons are entwined during an ensuing weaving dance symbolizing the spiral of Life and the union of the pagan goddess and god, the union between Earth and Sky.  –From Beltane April 30th – May 1st

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According to Beltane, also known as Cétamain,  is a festival held on the first day of May in Ireland and Scotland, celebrating the beginning of summer and open pasturing. Beltane is first mentioned in a glossary attributed to Cormac, bishop of Cashel and king of Munster, who was killed in 908. Cormac describes how cattle were driven between two bonfires on Beltane as a magical means of protecting them from disease before they were led into summer pastures—a custom still observed in Ireland in the 19th century.  Other festivities included Maypole dances and cutting of green boughs and flowers. In early Irish lore a number of significant events took place on Beltane, which long remained the focus of folk traditions and tales in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. As did other pre-Christian Celtic peoples, the Irish divided the year into two main seasons. Winter and the beginning of the year fell on November 1 (Irish: Samain) and midyear and summer on May 1 (Irish: Beltaine). These two junctures were thought to be critical periods when the bounds between the human and supernatural worlds were temporarily erased; on May Eve witches and fairies roamed freely, and measures had to be taken against their enchantments.

Cormac derives the word Beltaine from the name of a god Bel, or Bil, and the Old Irish word tene, “fire.” Despite linguistic difficulties, a number of 20th-century scholars have maintained modified versions of this etymology, linking the first element of the word with the Gaulish god Belenos (Irish: Belenus). — Beltane – Ancient Celtic festival (edited)

Walpurgisnacht is the eve of May 1, celebrated in German folklore to be the night of a witches’ sabbath on the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains of Northern Germany.  It is considered a time when witches’ celebrate, especially on Brocken, on May-day eve, literally “the night of (St.) Walpurgis,” in reference to Walburga, an English abbess who migrated to Heidenheim, Germany, and died there c.780; May 1 being the day of the removal of her bones from Heidenheim to Eichstädt.

Skyclad - La sorcière allant au Sabbat

La sorcière allant au Sabbat. Luis Ricardo Falero, (oil on canvas 1880).

See Also

May Day

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