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Summer Begins – It’s Beltane!

By Jaxpagan

The name Beltane means, depending on who you ask, “Fires of Bel” (referring to the proto-Celtic sun god Bel/Belenus/Belor), “Brilliant Fire”, or simply “Bright”. It celebrated the return of the sun, fertility, and – perhaps more importantly to the ancient Celts – the return of their cattle to summer pastures. One of the four major “fire festivals” (along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh), Beltane marked the beginning of Summer.

Like the Jewish day, the Celtic day began at sundown. Festivities for Beltane actually began the evening before May 1st, with the lighting of great bonfires on hilltops, fueled by sacred woods. The cattle, just released from Winter barns, would be driven between two fires to bless and purify them. Pregnant women are said to have passed between the fires to ensure a healthy child, and others did so for purification or luck. People would jump the bonfires as well, believing that provided the same benefits as running between them (though one would hope it gave a double dose, or something). There was feasting, decorating the homes of one’s beloved with flowers and hawthorn branches (a tree of hope and life) and no small amount of Pagan-y sex (young men and women, celebrating Summer, out gathering flowers and sacred branches in the forest all night, yada, yada, yada . . . ).

Like Samhain, Beltane was considered a period of “no time” — a point of transition, it was considered a night when the walls between this world and the others became thin. At Samhain, that meant possibly encountering the Dead. At Beltane, it meant maybe seeing the Faeries. Forget the popular images. Classically speaking, “faery” referred to a range of beings, rarely if ever depicted with insect wings, who came in big and small, pretty and hideous, helpful and malicious. Think less “Tinkerbell” than the nature spirits from Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Talking about faery lore would be its own diary and then some. Suffice to say that how to see, appease, and/or guard against “the Fay” was an integral part of Celtic folklore about Beltane.

Read the original article at: Daily Kos

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