Sunday, April 28, 2013

As Bealtaine Approaches

{altered royalty free photo}

I thought that I would do a quick post sharing some resources and ideas since Bealtaine is just a few days off.
A few years back I did a post on Bealtaine and May Day over at the nefaeria blog, going over some of the history and lore, as well as some recipes, prayers and other celebration ideas. The Tairis website has two fantastic pages with information on Bealtaine {part one, part two} as well as a webpage dedicated to ideas on traditional ways to observe the festival. As well, the Celtic Reconstructionist group Tuacondate shares their 2010 Bealtaine ritual on their website.
To get things started you could make a May bush and on the eve of Bealtaine decorate your home with green boughs and flowers. I have seen a few sources mention yellow flowers being a traditional choice, so you may decide to go with dandelions, woodbine/European honeysuckle, buttercups, cowslips or primroses. I also like to decorate with periwinkles, lady's mantle, daisies, sweet woodruff, ferns and other pretties that are further along this time of year. For bough cutting choices you may want to try hawthorn, rowan, ivy, elder {although some have historically thought that it was bad luck to bring elder into the home}, juniper, and blackberry. Some good possible substitutes for my particular region could be raspberry, Virginia creeper, forsythia, cedar, dogwood, chokecherry or crab apple.
Fire tends to be one of the first things people think of when it comes to Bealtaine, which is the focus of many different activities, including jumping over the bonfire, the ritual smothering and relighting of the hearth {with a communal flame}, and driving livestock between two bonfires for blessings and protection. Should you have the means, lighting a bonfire on Bealtaine Eve could be a great way to kick things off. I do not have a fireplace, so what I like to do is take my "hearth candle" and extinguish it and light a new one that I made for the upcoming year. If doing this idea in a group ritual setting, each person/household could have their own candle, which could be lit from the central one to represent the re-lighting with the communal flame.
Before sunrise on Bealtaine morning I will go out and collect dew and rainwater should there be any, to keep for various uses in the upcoming year. Later on I will usually also get the first "cream" from a friend's well for the same purpose.
If the weather is agreeable, I think that spending a good part of the day outdoors is a great way to celebrate. This time could be used to bless your garden, fields, livestock or to go out and collect rowan wood, as this was apparently the only time that it was proper to collect it to the Gaels.
For inside the house, it is a good time to sain/bless your home and hang rowan and red thread crosses. There are many different recipes appropriate for Bealtaine, and if you are feeling really adventurous, you could have a go at churning your own butter.

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