- Censer and incense (to include frankincense)
- Twigs and/or dead leaves to burn and something to burn them in (cauldron, barbecue, etc
- Dew, collected that morning (if possible); if not, water for sprinkling that has been left in sun and moon light for a few hours; or a purification spray
- Chalice and something to drink
Cast the circle
Call the quarters
Light the fire (or it may already be lit before we start)
Light the charcoal disc and ready the incense
High Priestess: Beltane is one of the main cross-quarter festivals of the year, falling half-way between the significant solar dates of Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Traditionally, it is associated with purification and fertility, as nature blooms around us and the days noticeably lengthen. It is a time of celebration, enjoyment, optimism and creativity; a time for partying and play. Beltane honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and, at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception.
High Priest: On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality, joy and conception. It is a brilliant time in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action… and have some fun…..
High Priestess: Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane.
High Priest: This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify and cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. At the end of the evening, the people would take some of the Tein-eigen to start their fires anew. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke between twin fires as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. Those of us who don’t live on a farm or have a large field to work in find other ways to celebrate, and we have incense and a fire pit instead. With the stresses of modern life, it is good to take the time to purify ourselves, and while we tend to do this physically on a regular basis, most of us rarely think to do it ritually.
Add incense to the censer and waft with the feather over each person in the circle.
High Priestess: Another of the traditions of Beltane was to collect and wash with, or roll in, the morning’s dew. This was done particularly by young maidens (and perhaps not-so-young women too), as it was said to ensure that they remained beautiful all year round. Here we have [dew, or water that has been purified by the sun and moon], to help us all be beautiful inside, and perhaps outside as well, for the coming year.
Take round the dew or water and sprinkle or spray on each person in the circle.
High Priest: In symbolism of celebration, partying and enjoyment (of which, more later!), we share traditional oatcakes and drink.
Pass round the cakes and chalice, ending by leaving offerings of each for the Goddess and God.
High Priestess: If we are to become more creative, we will need to make contact with our inner wisdom, inner knowing, or intuition. There are many stories of mythical people who have done this. The best known is probably Gwion Bach. Tending the cauldron of Ceridwen, in which she was brewing a magical potion to give her ugly son the gift of all knowledge and wisdom, he accidentally imbibed three drops, when they fell on his hand and scalded it, taking in at the same time the gift meant for another. After a magical chase, in which the newly-wise young man learns the secrets of shape-shifting, including becoming a salmon – another symbol of wisdom – he becomes a grain of wheat and is eaten by the goddess. What would have been the end of most mortal folk is just a beginning, however, and he is born of Ceridwen nine moons later, as the great Bard, Taliesin. Still furious with him for stealing her son’s gift, she wishes to kill him, but he is so beautiful that she cannot. Instead, she wraps him in a skin bag and places him in a coracle, to be rid of him. On May Eve, he is discovered in a salmon weir by the son of Gwyddno Garanhir; Elphin, the unluckiest man alive until that time. But with this discovery, his luck turns, and he is ever afterwards known as a very lucky man, having received the gift of bardic knowledge and inspiration, in the form of the infant Taliesin.
We all have access to the highest wisdom, and one way to achieve this is to see it as being embodied in our Inner Wise Being, who is connected to the wisdom of our soul and of the Universe, and can guide us in many different ways. Here is an exercise to connect with that Inner Wise Being.
High Priestess: With eyes closed, take a slightly deeper, slower breath; then another; and allow your breathing to settle into a long, slow rhythm. [Pause.] In your mind’s eye, or simply by intention, become aware of a special place. It might be a sun-warmed meadow, a deserted beach, your own private health spa, or simply a space filled with a coloured light – anywhere you can feel relaxed and safe. Settle yourself in, make yourself comfortable and, when you are ready, ask your Inner Wise Being to join you. You may see, feel, hear or sense their presence, or you may not notice any change at this time; but having asked for this contact, be sure you will receive it soon. Sometimes it is necessary to ask three times before you receive what you desire.
You may have a specific question you want to ask this being, or you may just want to spend time with them, knowing they are now there for you to talk with any time you visit this special place. Whatever you would like to do or discuss with your inner knowing, take a few moments now to enjoy being with them. Know that, if you do not receive an answer to your question right now, it will come to you in some way in the next few days. [Pause.]
When you have spent as much time as you wish with your inner wisdom, become aware of your body, standing in this circle; of the wind or sun on your skin. You may want to stretch or wiggle your fingers. When you are ready, open your eyes.
You should now have access to your Inner Wise Being whenever you have need of them. Does anyone want to share what they found?
Allow time for people to say whatever they wish.
High Priest: We hope you’ve enjoyed this Beltane ritual. After the circle has been opened, we will have a picnic and a mini-Eisteddfod, with performances by anyone who would like to entertain us with a song, story or poem.
Dismiss the quarters and close the circle.