BELTANE / MAY DAY


Beltane is one of the four great fire festivals which marks the turning points of the Celtic year.
Beltane is a festival celebrated with flowers, fires & dancing & has its origins among the Celtic peoples of Western Europe & the British Isles, particularly Ireland, Scotland & Wales.
In Germany it is believed that on April 30th, Walpurgis Nacht, witches flew on their broomsticks to mountain top gatherings where they danced round bonfires all night.

There's a wide variety of celebrations for May Day, although most include a maypole dance.Putting up a maypole was a sign that winter was over & it was time to go back out into the world again.
The Maypole was topped with a wreath that symbolized the fertile power of nature.
Ribbons, an ancient talisman of protection, were attached to the pole to ensure the safety of the newborn season.
Ribbons of various colors are attached to the top of the pole,draping down to the dancers who hold the opposite end.
Some Maypoles are painted yellow & black in a spiral design,while others are red & white like a barber's pole.
As the dancers move in a circular pattern, the ribbons are woven along the length of the pole.

There are also often bonfires lit as part of the celebration, with farmers driving livestock between them & sometimes over the ashes.
Some young women would jump the fires to encourage pregnancy or a smooth birth.
Other rites included extinguishing the home’s hearth fire on April 30 & then relighting it on May 1st from the central village bonfire.

The May garland is an emblem of summer & is decorated with bright ribbons, fresh leaves & every type of flower available at the season.
The May doll is hung suspended inside the hoop of the garland.

May Flowers were picked on the evening before May Day & this was often done by children who went garlanding for flowers. These were sometimes assembled together to make posies or crowns. Yellow flowers, such as primroses, buttercups & marigolds were especially popular, possibly as they reflected the sun & summer.
Furze & ferns were also put around the outside of the home.

The young people of the villages & towns would go out into the fields & forests at Midnight on April 30th & gather flowers with which to decorate themselves, their families & their homes.
They would process back into the villages, stopping at each home to leave flowers & to receive
the best of food & drink that the home had to offer.These revelers would bless the fields & flocks of those who were generous & wish ill harvests on those who withheld their bounty.

May flowers were placed in the local well so as protect the water supply & the livelihood of those who used it. 
Mayflower water taken from the well on May Day was said to offer protection & cures.
This water & May morning dew was believed to be good for the complexion.

The flowers were placed on the doorsteps of houses & on windowsills. They were believed to offer luck to the house & offer protection from mystical forces - there was a strongly held belief that these were particularly active around the quarterly days.
It was believed that the fairies could not enter the home as they could not pass such sweet smelling flowers.
They were often put on farm animals so as to protect them from being overlooked by people with the evil eye, who might through envy, steal the productivity of the animals.
The cows were safe-guarded through attaching flowers around their heads & sometimes red ribbons or bits of rowan were tied to their tails.
This was believed to offer them protection from the malign glance of those with the evil eye.
The churn was especially vulnerable at this time so often similar items or iron objects were placed underneath it.

Make a traditional flower basket.Fill it with Beltane greenery & all the flowers & herbs you can find.

The stealing or skimming of water from the well or dew from the fields of a neighbour, by those with evil intentions, was believed to result in a lack of produce achieved by the household or the community.
Water or fire was generally never asked for or taken from the home on May Eve or May Day so as to retain the luck of the house.

May Day was especially associated with butter stealing: the stealing of the butter profit of the home.
All those who visited the house at this time were encouraged to take a dash of the churn.
May butter was often kept & used in small quantities to add to the churn & dairy items for good luck & protection.
People used make the May Eve Churn & the butter of that churn was salted & put away for the coming year.
The power of this butter prevents the milk & cream from being taken by pishoges or any other supernatural power.

Young couples might choose to become handfast on this day, tieing the knot using a ribbon woven around their joint hands as they pledged themselves to each other for a year & a day. If the romance didn’t survive, you were free to love again once the 366 days had passed.


Hawthorn:

Traditionally Beltane began when the Hawthorn blossomed.
It is the tree of sexuality & fertility & is the classic flower to decorate a Maypole with.
It was both worn & used to decorate the home at Beltane.
Sprigs of hawthorn & hawthorn flowers were collected on May Day & taken home to banish evil.

Birch:

Maypoles were often made from birch & birch wreaths were given as lover's gifts.

Rowan:

A tree of protection & healing.
Branches of Rowan were placed as protection over the doors of houses & barns at Beltane to protect from increased Faery activity as they woke from their winter slumber.
Sprigs were worn for protection also.

Herbs & Flowers of Beltane: 

almond tree/shrub, angelica, ash, blessed thistle, bluebells, broom, cinquefoil, clover, 

cowslip:
One of the oldest customs was to make a ball of flowers. The ball was then tossed up & caught as it fell each time, until it either broke apart or dropped to the ground. During the process the names of various occupations were spoken in succession. When the cowslip ball broke or fell, this was believed to indicate what profession the participant would achieve.
Another technique was to say "tissty-tossty tell me true, who shall I be married to," & then begin to
toss the cowslip ball while calling out various names.

daffodil, 

daisy:
In the folk magic tradition,petals are plucked from the flower in order to obtain a yes or no answer to a question.
Words such as "he/she loves me" & "he/she loves me not" are spoken as each petal is removed. 
The final remaining petal reveals the answer to the question.

damiana, 

dandelion:
When the plant is ready to seed, a multitude of fluffy heads appear. Blowing on this causes the seeds to dislodge & the seeds to float in the air similar to a parachute. 
In South Kensington the floating seeds are called fairies & it is believed that to catch one in the air brings good luck. 
In the United States a wish is made & then the seeds are blown up into the air. This is done in the belief that the seeds will carry the wish away. The wish will then be granted at a later time as the new plants grow to fullness.

Dittany of Crete, dogwood, dragons blood, elder, fern, foxglove, frankincense,honeysuckle, sorrel, 

hawthorn:
In Ireland the hawthorn was considered magical & its blossoms were placed on the bedroom dresser to ward off illness. 
On the first of May it was once the custom to sprinkle hawthorn sprigs with holy water & to set them in the fields to protect the crops from the fairies. 
In some of the oldest lore the hawthorn was a protective gateway to the fairy realm.

ivy, lilac, lily of the valley, 


marsh marigold:
In Ireland & on the Isle of Man the marsh marigold was believed to be a protective talisman.
The flowers were picked May Eve  & on May 1 were strewn on cottage roofs to keep evil fairies away. 
If the marsh marigolds were not in bloom, it was considered a bad omen for the coming season.

meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, nettle, oak, primrose, rose, thyme, woodruff.

Colours of Beltane:

The colours of Beltane are green, red, white/silver, pink, pale blue & yellow.Green represents growth, abundance & fertility.
Red represents strength, vitality, passion & vibrancy.
White represents cleansing & clearing & the power to disperse negativity.

Egg Charm For Beltane:

Brown egg is for wishes involving animals & white for wishes involving people & plants.

Using a big needle, pierce a hole in both ends of the egg, making one hole larger than the other.
Using the needle pierce the egg yolk gently & swirl it around to break up the yolk.
Place a small drinking straw in one end & gently blow through the other hole to help gravity do its work.

When your egg has thoroughly dried out, place it on top of a little mound of blue tack to hold it in Decorate the egg with the symbols to represent your wish.
Or you can paint the whole egg in a corresponding colour - red for love, green for prosperity, purple for wisdom or stick rose petals on for love, or feathers for fertility etc..
Pull a thin thread  through the two holes & secure it with a large knot, a bead, or even a matchstick at the bottom to hold it steady.
Find a suitable place to hang an egg.

Clear your mind & focus on your desire for abundance/fruitfulness & its place in your life:

'Little charm made of shell as I hang you here may all be well.
May all things grow.
May all things flow.
Blessings for the turning of the Wheel."

Use these words or any others that you are comfortable with - remember this is all about your intention.

Making a Wish Box Charm:

Beltane is a good time for bringing hopes, dreams & aspirations to life & here is a beautiful charm to help you bring these into manifestation.

A small shallow cardboard box
Rose petals
Sunflower seeds &/or poppy seeds
Paper
A piece of willow bark or piece of willow, an acorn or oak leaf
Something that represents your wish

Take a piece of paper & write your wish on it while visualizing your wish coming to life & growing.
Poke a few holes in the lid - this will help your wish/plants, to grow.
Take your box & sprinkle some earth into it.
Put in your paper wishes, wish symbol & seeds/bark/acorn.
Cover with another layer of earth.
Mix the rose petals with the seeds & scatter them on top.
Cover with a final layer of earth & place the lid on top, leaving enough of the rose petal/seed mixture to scatter on top of the box when you are planting it.

The best time for planting your Wish Box is just after a fresh cleansing rainfall as this gives you a bright new start, but if the season is dry just give the earth a good watering the night before.
Dig a hole two inches deeper than your wish box & lower it into the earth carefully while concentrating on your chosen wish, visualizing it coming to fruition.
Imagine your wish growing with the flowers reaching skyward.
As you cover the box with earth say:

"Dream that lies within the earth awaken now.
Hope that sleeps awaken now.
The stars await as so do I.
Grow true, grow strong, toward the sky."


RECIPES:

The traditional main dish of a May celebration is fish, lamb or pork.
For the vegetarian mushrooms with pasta is a good alternative. 

Hawthorn Brandy:

You will need a bottle of brandy & at least 1 cup of hawthorn flowers, plus a little sugar to taste.
Mix the ingredients together & leave away from direct light, for at least 2 weeks.
Shake occasionally.
Strain, bottle & enjoy.
Hawthorn is a tonic for the heart.

Dandelion & Orange Juice:

1 cups dandelion petals,no green bits
1 l Orange Juice
1 lemon
sugar to taste
Warm the orange juice & lemon together, then add dandelions. 
Add the sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved: strain juice & chill. 

May Cup:

4 glasses of white wine  
8 glasses of cider 
1 glass of brandy 
1 orange, sliced ounce 
30 g ladies' bedstraw (Galium verum)
Mix the white wine, cider & brandy together. 
Add the orange slices & ladies' bedstraw. 
Leave the mixture in a cool place to settle for two hours & then filter the liquid into a jug. 
Serve in glasses. 

Dandelion Salad:

250 g torn dandelion greens
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, toss together dandelion greens, red onion & tomatoes. 
Season with basil, salt & pepper.

Nettle Soup:

50 g butter
700 g potatoes
120 g onions
100 g leeks
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
150 g young nettles, washed & chopped
3/4 cup whole milk or cream
salt & pepper to taste.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the potatoes, onions & leeks.
Toss them in the butter until they are well coated.
Sprinkle with salt & pepper, cover.
Steam on gentle heat for about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock & simmer until the vegetables are just cooked.
Add the nettle leaves & cook until soft.
Whisk in the cream.
Serve hot.

Fairy Cakes:

50 g butter
50 g caster sugar
1 egg
½ cup flour
½ cup cornflour
½ tsp baking powder
milk as required
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Cream butter & sugar.
Beat in egg.
Add sifted flour, cornflour & baking powder alternately with enough milk to make a soft mix, stir in lemon rind.
Grease patty tins or line with paper patty cases & ¾ fill with mixture.
Bake in a 180°C oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until light golden.
When cold, ice with white, pale pink or pale green water icing & decorate with flowers.

Orange White Chocolate Chip Beltane Cookies:

280 g butter, softened
300 ml sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 175C.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt & orange zest.
Cream butter, adding sugar gradually.
Add vanilla & egg.
Add flour mixture gradually.
When flour mixture is thoroughly combined, mix in chips.
Drop dough by scant spoonful onto baking sheet, spacing 2-3 cm apart, flattening slightly with back of fork.
Bake at 175C 10 -12 min or until beginning to brown.
Allow to cool completely on cooling rack.

Honeycakes:

1/2 cup sweet white wine
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
1 cup honey
2/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Oil for frying
1/8 tsp salt
Beat the wine & egg in a medium bowl.
Combine the flour, cinnamon, salt & sugar in a small bowl.
Stir into the egg mixture. 
Let stand 30 minutes. 
Combine the honey & nutmeg in a small bowl.
Heat ca 15 cm of the oil in a frying pan until hot, but not smoking. 
Drop the batter into the oil 1 tbsp at a time.
Fry until golden brown. 
Drain on paper towels. 
Dip into the honey.


Cowslip Cake:

5 eggs
200 g sugar
pinch of salt
150 g butter
250 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 handfuls of cowslips
Whisk eggs with sugar & salt until strong foam forms.
Quickly mix in the flour mixed with baking powder,melted butter & cowslip flowers (only yellow bits).
Pour the mix into the buttered loaf pan & bake at 200C for ca 30 min.

Beltaine Recipes from autumnearthsong.com

MAGIC:

Rain was expected & welcomed : A wet & windy May fills the barns with corn & hay.
A cold, east wind was a bad sign, while frost meant hard times to come.
A wet May & a dry June makes the farmer whistle a tune.
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.

The cattle were driven between two great bonfires to protect them from disease during the coming year.

Between sunset on May Eve & the dawn of May Day, one should stay close to home & never sleep outdoors.
If you must be out & about, a piece of iron in the pocket might give some protection, as will a spent cinder from the hearth, or a sprig of mountain ash.

Many people leave the fairies an offering of food & drink either on their doorstep, or at a fort, lone bush or other fairy dwelling.
A favorite prank of the fairies is to cause people to lose their way by bringing down a mist. One way to protect against this is to wear your coat inside out. This disguise will confuse them and might allow you to escape.
Care should be taken not to keep anything you find of value on the roadway or anywhere. Best of all, don't pick it up.

The first water taken from the well on May Day was variously known as 'the top of the well' or 'the luck of the well'. In evil hands this water could do great harm; but in the hands of the rightful owner, it brought luck, protection & healing.

May morning is a magical time for dew, flowing streams & springs which is collected & used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

A child born on May Day has the gift of being able to see the fairies - but it was believed the child would not live a long life.
Animals born on this day were also sure to be weaklings.

If a girl went out into the garden before sunrise on May 1st, she could find out the name of her future spouse by taking up the first snail or slug she finds. This is put on on a plate sprinkled with flour. A cabbage leaf is placed on top & left until after sunrise. Then, according to the superstition, she will find the initials of her lover traced in the flour.

The call of the cuckoo is ominous - to hear it on your right brings luck; on the left, ill fortune; from a church yard meant a death in the family & before breakfast, a hungry year.










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