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Bealtine: Blessing the Summer In

By Morgan

To the pagan Celts, Bealtine (pronounced roughly Ball-tinn-eh) , often called Beltane by modern pagans, was one of the most sacred and the people of Ireland and Scotland practiced important holidays of the year and even up until recently Beltane celebrations. Also called Bealltainn in Scotland and Bealtaine or Bealtine in Ireland, this holiday is generally celebrated on May first and might also be called May Day, although some people believe in celebrating it based on environmental signs, such as the blooming of the Hawthorn. It is uncertain what the name Beltane means; some people theorize that it translates to “fires of Bel” while others favor the meaning “blessing fires”.

Beltane stood opposite Samhain on the calendar and in many ways represented opposite themes; where Samhain was a time of harvest and of the Dead, Beltane was a time of blessing and planting (McNeill, 1959) . It was on Beltane that the herds were sent out to their summer pastures, and in the old stories it was on Beltane that many important events occurred such as the Tuatha de Danann first arriving in Ireland. It is said that in ancient Ireland all fires were put out on the eve of Beltane and then the Druids would light a sacred fire at Tara which would be passed from hilltop to hilltop and home to home until all the fires were re-lit. (Wilde, 1991)

Beltane is the beginning of summer and was the time that contracts were renewed, herds moved, and crops planted. For modern pagans, especially Celtic pagans, a great deal of depth can be added to the celebration of this holiday by understanding the folk traditions surrounding it.

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