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Lord Summerisle: They do love their divinity lessons.
Sgt. Howie: But they are... are naked!
Lord Summerisle: Naturally! It's much too dangerous to jump through the fire with your clothes on.
-- The Wicker Man, Anthony Shaffer, 1973

Beltane is the summer season of the ancient Celts, the antithesis of winter and Samhain, and the last of three springtime festivities in their calendar, following Imbolc and Ostara. The festivities associated with Beltane were usually celebrated midway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice.

Beltane means "fire of Bel" (or, possibly the "bale-fire", from the Old English root word bael meaning white), Bel (Bel, Bile, Beli, Belenos), the bright and shinning one, one of the pantheon of Celtic gods, representing the sun. Bel is both the father husband of the Mother Goddess

Like Samhain Eve, the eve of Beltane is a time of transition when the worlds of the living and the dead are temporarily conjoined.

Beltane as a festivity is principally a springtime fertility ritual. On Beltane, believers celebrate the sexual union of the God and the Goddess which brings new life into the world as the light half of the year begins. Couples often celebrate by enacting the consummation themselves, and it is considered very good luck to conceive on Beltane, as the child is considered to be chosen by the God and Goddess.

The Maypole

Many Neopagans dance the Maypole as part of Beltane festivities. The Maypole is a phallic symbol, but its origin is in the Bile Pole of the Celts. The Bile Pole is similar to the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, in that it connects the heavens, the earth, and the otherworld. Traditionally the Maypole is made of birch, although other woods are used today. Long colored ribbons are attached to the top of the Maypole, which is festooned with flowers and greenery. Boys and girls stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other, and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merrimakers meet at the base.

The weaving of the Maypole is also considered by some to be a magickal act.

The Fires of Beltane

Celebrants often leap through or over a fire, sometimes naked and sometimes clothed. The fires of Beltane are considered sacred and purifying. Some people believe it also ensures fertility.


Other symbols that are part of Beltane include eggs, rabbits, and very young animals of all types. Anything that is symbolic of new life, sexuality, conception, or birth is appropriate for Beltane. Many of the symbols used at Easter have their origin in Beltane. When the Celtic lands were Christianised, the people did not entirely give up their practices, but adapted them to their new faith.

See also Wheel of the Year.

Also known as: Mayday, Walpurgasnacht, Galan Mai, Shenn da Boaldyn, Bealtinne, Beltine, Beltain, Beal-tine, Beltan, Bel-tien, Beltein, Bealtuinn and Bealtaine be continued, sjc /Talk