(most commonly pronounced "BELL-tayn", but also can be "BEEL-teen", "BEEL-tawn-uh", or "B'YAL-tinn")
Also known as: May Day, Bealtaine (Irish Wittan),, Beltane, Old Bhealtainn (Scottish PectiWita), Bealtinne (Caledonii or the Druids), Festival of Tana (Strega), Giamonios, Roodmas, Rudemass (Mexican Craft), and Walburga (Teutonic). Samhradh and La Baal Tinne (Faery Wicca), Walpurgisnacht (German), Walpurgis Eve, Celtic Summer, Floralia, The Great Rite, May Day, and May Eve. It is also known as Cetshamain in Ireland, and is one of the few specifically Irish festivals.
Date: May 1, but can be on the night of April 30th, depending on your tradition or - if you are solitary - simply your personal choice. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on May 1st or the first Full Moon in Taurus.
Symbols: May Pole, Eggs, Flowers, Butter churn, May baskets, crossroads, chalices
Deities: All Virgin-Mother Goddesses, all Young Father Gods, all Gods and Goddesses of the Hunt, of Love, and of Fertility. Some Beltane Goddesses to mention by name here include Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Artemis, Astarte, Venus, Diana, Ariel, Var, Skadi, Shiela-na-gig, Cybele, Xochiquetzal, Freya, and Rhiannon. Beltane Gods include Apollo, Bacchus, Bel/Belanos, Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, Faunus, Cupid/Eros, Odin, Orion, Frey, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and The Great Horned God.
Colors: Red and white are used on the May Pole, otherwise white and dark green. Also appropriate are all the colors of the rainbow spectrum itself.
Herbs: Meadowsweet, primrose, yellow cowslip, hawthorn, roses, birch trees, rosemary, and lilac, almond, angelica, ash trees, bluebells, cinquefoil, daisies, frankincense, ivy, marigolds, satyrion root, and woodruff. For Beltane incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one... frankincense, lilac, passion flower, rose, or vanilla.
The first of May has been celebrated in song and verse for longer than human history has recorded the date. It is a time to celebrate new life in all its forms, and the time when the Goddess and the God are united in sacred marriage, their relationship consummated, an act which symbolically fertilizes the animals and crops for the coming year.
The most common ritual act which celebrates this union is known as the Great Rite. It is the symbolic union of the male and female principles of creation, the union of the two halves of the All-Power which unite to bring all things into being. The Great Rite is usually performed by ritually placing a male ritual tool, usually the athame, into a female ritual tool representing the cosmic womb. A chalice or small cauldron is usually chosen for this purpose. Couples working together will often invoke the deities into themselves and perform the Great Rite de facto, which is also acceptable.
The dancing of the May Pole is another May Day Celtic custom practiced both within and outside of Paganism. The weaving of the red and white ribbons around the pole, like the Great Rite, symbolized the union of Goddess and God.