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Beltane (Beltain, Beltaine, Bealtain Bealtaine, Beltinna, Bealtuinn, Bealteinne, Bhealltainn, pronounced: beel-teen or bell-tayn). Bel is shining or brilliant and tene is fire, therefore, Beltane means “brilliant fire”. Beltane is a Greater Sabbat, a Quarter Day and a Fire Festival and is celebrated on April 30th through May 1st, officially beginning at moonrise on May eve. In Irish Gaelic, Bealtaine is the name of the month of May.

Beltane is also known in various traditions and cultures as Lady Day; Samhradh; La Baal Tinne May Eve, May Day, Walspurgis Night, Rudemas, Walburgal, Giamonios, Shenn do Boaldyn, Galan Mae, Whitsun, Festival of Tana (Strega).

Beltane marks the beginning of the Celtic Summer and the start light half of the year. Because Beltane falls opposite Samhain in the wheel of the year, it too is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin and therefore a good time to communicate with spirits, particularly nature spirits, as well as being a good time for divination.

Beltane, marks the emergence of the young God into manhood, the Light God has matured sufficiently to rule and takes over from the Dark God. Nature flourishes and He is stirred by the abundance of energy, He desires the Goddess and They fall in love. They lie among the grasses and blossoms, and consummate Their love; and by performing the Great Rite at Beltane They ensure the fertility of the Earth as the Goddess once again becomes pregnant. The land flourishes under Their love which ensures new life after the harvest.

Beltane celebrates vitality, passion, love, and desires consummated. It is a time for love and sexual union as it represents the union of the Goddess and the God. As another fertility festival, Beltane celebrations may be quite erotic in nature and the Great Rite may sometimes be a part of the ritual. It is also a time to celebrate the coming together of the masculine and feminine creative energies.

Some traditions still elect a May Queen and May King for their May Day festivities. The mating of the God, as the May King of virility and desire, with the Goddess, as the May Queen of fertility and passion, was, to our ancestors, a Magickal act considered necessary for the fertility of the Earth. While Beltane is a celebration of fertility, it is mostly a celebration of taking pleasure and joy in life and enjoying the gifts of the Goddess.

Maypoles, obviously phallic symbols, were the focal point of old festivals and celebrations. Many people arose at dawn to gather flowers and green branches from the fields and gardens, using them to decorate the village Maypoles. The Maypole is a fertility symbol representing the phallus of the God while the flowers, greenery and ribbons that weave around it represent the Goddess. Beltane marks the return of vitality and passion of summer.

Beltane is associated with the Celtic God Bel, also known as Balor or Belenus. Bel is a God of Light and Fire and associated with the Sun, although He is not specifically a Sun God. Bale fires were traditionally built at Beltane, and people would jump over them. Young unmarried people would leap the bonfire and wish for a husband or wife, young married women would leap it to ensure their fertility and couples would leap it to strengthen the bond between them. Cattle were often driven between two Beltane fires to purify them and to ensure a good milk yield.

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