So what is Beltane anyway?

Common_hawthorn_flowersYes. What is it?

I’m having one of my pondering moments. This time about this wonderful Pagan festival called Beltane.

What is it exactly, to me?

I’ve been celebrating the Wheel of the Year for (cough) years now and to me Beltane is a celebration of the fertility of the land, its flora and fauna. Is it about sex? Of course it is. But not casual sex, it’s about the life-producing sex of the flower whose pollen is taken by the bee, the sex of the flowering tree, the birds nesting.

Weirdly enough it’s not about the sexual activity of that most iconic of Beltane animals, the deer. The Rut happens in Autumn, not Spring, and this offers another insight into the energies of Beltane. The Rut is in the Autumn (some deer species do mate as early as July but they are in the minority) because deer have a long and quite complicated gestation period, and it’s important that the fawn is born with the waxing light in early Spring, after the worse of the cold. The Rut is also the time when the stags have their full antlered crown. Right now at Beltane the stag’s antlers are still growing and covered in ‘velvet’.

Birds have short gestation periods, so they are nesting now.

What about humans? Babies conceived at Beltane will also be born in February. So maybe the Horned God we see and revere so much around Beltane is that link between human and deer, with both species trying to time their mating seasons with the ideal month of birth? So the image of the human male with antlered crown makes a lot of sense as according to our gestation time, May is our ‘Rut’.

So to me Beltane isn’t just about the human sexual world, it is about the land, its flora and fauna, of which we are just one small part, and the way the land bursts forth with that fertility.

But there’s more…

Where does this leave people who don’t want/can’t have children at Beltane? To me the fertility of the land is also mirrored with the fertility of the mind, and not just about one process of the body. So the fresh unfurling leaf, the cracking open egg, the brightly coloured enticing flower, is also the creative and fertile way we live our lives. This fresh flood of fertility, each year, is important to acknowledge as the fresh flood of creativity for those parts of our lives where we are at our most productive, be that work, cooking, our hobbies, our relationship with our loved ones, the list is endless.

As the Sun warms and I see that fresh green and flower-dappled countryside, I can’t help but feel my creative juices flowing more freely.

So I celebrate the fertility of the land and all of its creatures, and I celebrate the creativity of our lives.

Thing is…

I look to the Hawthorn as my signal that Beltane has truly arrived, and although the Blackthorn is in flower, and although social network sites are awash with ‘Happy Beltane’ messages, to me it won’t really be Beltane until the May flowers coat our hedgerows and May trees.

Then I will see the Goddess and the Green Man in full splendour, strength and beauty.

Not long now.

5 responses to “So what is Beltane anyway?”

  1. Beautifully said, Dave. I’ve never looked at fertility of the mind as you just have. But it is true! A massive burst of creativity always gets me this time of year. Thank you for your insights!

  2. I totally mirror this that you say “I look to the Hawthorn as my signal that Beltane has truly arrived”. For me that’s the sign of transition into unity with the pollinating, the start of summer.

    Strangely here in NW Ireland the Blackthorn blossom has still not emerged before its leaves, first time I’ve seen that happen, but the Hawthorn blossom where I live came out May 1st,

    Bluebells are late and are dying off after blooming just a day or two. We seemed to be having a very short Spring here. Best year ever for Primroses, I think, though. I do not remember such large clusters of them, and cowslips too despite being incredibly late.

  3. Hi, Damh, and thanks for a thoughtful post! I really like how you mention those of us who don’t want or can’t have children. I’m childfree by choice, and often find the emphasis on fertility and reproduction in paganism really annoying! It’s good to have a different way of looking at the fertility of nature and creativity that doesn’t automatically mean pumping out sprogs. Thanks again!

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