Beltane (also Walpurgis Night) is one of the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, which in its entirety represents the cycle of life. In this cycle of becoming and unbecoming, death and rebirth, Beltane symbolises the blossoming and celebration of our life force and sensual pleasures.
When do we celebrate Beltane?
As Beltane is one of the lunar festivals in the Wheel of the Year, the celebrations used to be based on the 5th Full Moon of the year (usually between end of April and mid-May); the celebrations starting at sunset of the previous evening and lasting until sunrise.
Nowadays, many follow our solar calendar or celebrate May Day, so Beltane is celebrated in the night leading up to May 1st, right between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere, it takes place on November 1st.
Why do we celebrate Beltane?
For thousands of years people have held May celebrations to honour Mother Nature. Beltane is a festival of love, lust and the joy of life – we celebrate both the victory of the sun as well as the fertility of the Earth and animals (including us humans ;-)). We show our gratitude to Nature for her bountiful offerings, appreciating Life itself.
The traditional maypole is a fitting symbol of fertility: The stem representing a phallus (erected penis), the hoop at the top representing vulva and vagina. Combined, the maypole stands for the union of the masculine and feminine energies that exist in all beings.
It’s a reminder that Nature is joyful and creative at her deepest core, also in an erotic-sensual-sexual way. Because Life is constantly recreating itself, reproducing, procreating, reinventing– and it won’t allow a (literally) man-made morality of punishment, manipulation, control and body shame to restrict its freedom.
We humans are part of Nature, so this time is about reconnecting with our own physical, sensual and sexual self, (re)discovering the pleasures of and in our own body and understanding sexual union as a physical-spiritual experience that happens in complete consent and for the pleasure of everyone involved.
Sex doesn’t even have to mean penetration – it’s about what you enjoy and with whom and in what way you want to connect with another (or several), without one person having to fulfil certain expectations of the other or pretend to be different to please.
If you want to deepen or rediscover the relationship with yourself, your sensual and erotic nature, I’ve prepared a guided self-exploratory journaling and movement practice, where you can explore your sensual and your erotic self in a safe space and release what’s blocking you from truly enjoying your wonderful body: Embodying your Sensual, Erotic Self
In former times, the Celtic and Germanic tribes would decorate their homes with green branches and flower garlands and light large bonfires which were said to have protective powers. All household fires would be doused and then reignited with a log from a Beltane bonfire.
People would hold a feast with lots of food and drinks to celebrate the opulence of Nature, gathering and dancing around the fire or between bonfires, and even driving their cattle around the fires to receive the blessing and protection of Mother Nature. Lovers would jump over the flames or embers together to express their love.
What is the energetic quality of this time?
Nature has now fully awakened from her slumber, stretching her limbs and showing what she has to offer: The blossoming and flowering can no longer be stopped!
Everything around us is enticing in its fullness, pleasure and sensuality – the luscious magnificence of lilacs, apple trees, daffodils, primroses with their infatuating fragrances; the lush greens of the fields delighting our eyes; the warmth of the sun embracing our skin; the intense taste of fruit titillating our palate; busy insects buzzing happily and the lively chirping of birds waking us up in the morning.
It’s time to enjoy this feast with all our senses and celebrate Life itself!
For the Celtic people, this time heralds the beginning of summer, because due to the different angle of the sun, summer runs from May to June in northern countries. That’s why Beltane is also a festival of light and the lighter half of the year, inviting in the light of the sun to stay for a while and keep the frost away.
How can you honour the quality of this time?
You can honour this time in your day-to-day life with little rituals or special moments:
- Savouring with all Your Senses: Appreciate Nature and Life with all your senses – really look at the bountiful colours of Nature, hear the birds chirping and insects humming and buzzing, smell the aromatic fragrances of flowers and herbs, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, taste herbs, fruit, vegetables with full awareness.
- Expressing the Joy of Life: Rediscover your joy of life and do more of the things that light you up; allow your passion and zest for life to be expressed in creative endeavours, e.g., painting, crafting, drawing, writing poetry, cooking, baking, dancing, tending your garden or decorating your apartment.
- Pampering Yourself: Delight and pamper your body and your senses, e.g., in a bathing ritual with colourful flowers, essential oils and candles, a nourishing body cream, romantic or passionate music.
- Birch Tree Decoration: Decorate your home with birch tree branches – birch symbolises light, life, fertility, strength and grace and with their help you’re inviting these qualities into your life.
- Little Offerings: Make little offerings to Nature, e.g., nuts or small pieces of fruit. Wind chimes and colourful ribbons in the bushes or trees delight the elementals and planting fragrant herbs and flowers honours the Earth.
The meaning and themes of Beltane
(Bodily) Love and Eroticism
The Celtic and Germanic tribes already celebrated this time of the year as purest expression of fertility and the raw life force that runs through all beings. At Beltane, large bonfires were lit and feasts were held, and the people would come together and make love in any way they enjoyed, out in the open, on the fields, in the forests, under the starry sky.
This act of love between people who came together in wild ecstasy was said to transfer the human fertility onto the land and ensure a good harvest.
But you don’t necessarily need another person, to express your sexuality und fertility. It’s more about recognising, appreciating and even celebrating one’s own feminine energy, beauty, pleasure and desire.
Do you know your sexual inclinations and preferences? Do you know what really turns you on and gets you aroused? And can you allow that to be and even fulfil it without judgment, or is there sometimes a sense of shame and sinfulness creeping in?
If the latter is the case, I want to tell you: it’s not your fault and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you! Our Christian society has thoroughly ruined the sexual enjoyment of our bodies, especially for women and people socialised or read as women.
If you’re ready to shed the patriarchal layers of conditioning and get back in touch with your sexual pleasure, I invite you to a journey, where you can explore your sensual, erotic and joyful self in a safe place, releasing what might still be holding you back from enjoying your amazing body: Embodying your Sensual, Erotic Self
Savouring with all our Senses
The time around Beltane really spoils our senses with all kinds of delights and treats and invites us to dive in and experience our aliveness in the moment:
- Go out in Nature and allow your gaze to wander over the lush greens and bright colours; feel into your body what the variety of colours evokes in you
- Close your eyes and smell a lilac bush or a flower, taking in all the different nuances of the fragrance
- Let a piece of fruit slowly melt on your tongue, feel its contour and texture, first without chewing, then bite into it and allow the taste to fill your whole mouth
- Stand in the sun, close your eyes and sense the rays on your skin, allow the warmth to embrace you
- Take a moment to yourself after getting up, to sit at an open window, on the balcony or in the garden and listen to the birds chirping merrily and the first insects collecting nectar
So often we’re busy looking back at the past or thinking about the future. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, yet we sometimes forget that life only ever happens in the present moment. Only in the Here and Now can we ever be truly alive, so use all of your senses to get you back here again and again.
The eve of May 1st is also called Walpurgis Night – traditionally the night in which the witches dance on the Blocksberg (or rather the “Brocken” in the Harz mountain range in Germany). It is said that at Walpurgis Night, the witches come together to copulate unashamedly and without inhibition with their lover, the Devil himself …
In my view, this simply shows the demonisation of female sexuality, which is a characteristic of the Christian religion (and the other two major belief-based religions of Islam and Judaism).
The last two thousand years were the (successful) attempt to taboo the pleasure and sexuality of women, people read as women and people socialised as women, and make it solely a duty and service to other people. The *female* part of lovemaking served the satisfaction of men and procreation, everything else – especially the pleasure and enjoyment of it – was deemed “sinful”.
Basically, it was about depriving women of the joy of their own sexual nature, to restrain themselves and be downright afraid of their own power, the creative power of their sexuality and sensuality …
As described above, the Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated the free, consensual physical union as something almost sacred, even a healing experience, an expression of life force in its purest form.
When Christianity spread, the customs of the Celtic and Germanic tribes who honoured the Wheel of the Year, were replaced by more “civilised” versions, to control their sexuality (and thus Life itself). No more free love, no more connection to the land, only a vague memory in form of the may pole with its shaft (penis) and hoop (vulva/vagina) … and Walpurgis Night became the night when lusty witches copulate.
Someone must have been really afraid to go make such an effort in an attempt to suppress this natural power …
I, for one, am looking forward to the world I see slowly emerging, because I see how women and people socialised as women all over the world are starting to rediscover and reawaken this inner power, for their own “use”, for their own fun and pleasure, for the sake of joy!
Beltane in the Cycle of Life
The wisdom of the individual festivals of the Wheel of the Year can always be applied to our bigger cycles of life, which we move through as humans – no wonder, since they represent the Cycle of Life.
Beltane represents the phase of adulthood between 20 and 35 years. Like Nature, we enjoy to have our (sexual) juices flowing, feeling the life force running through our veins.
For many, this is a time to address the question of family planning. Do I want a child, do I want to go on this journey of parenthood? Do I want to focus on my job and career? What’s important to me in my life, what do I value and how can I express my talents and my joy?
How can you celebrate Beltane?
Since Beltane is a festival to celebrate the joy of life, the rituals of this time are all about releasing what’s weighing you down or holding you back, and instead rediscovering your zest for life, appreciating and celebrating yourself and your body.
- Dance your Power: Dancing is an opportunity to shake off anything old, stagnant or burdensome and at the same time invite in joy and sensuality, so you become aware of and feel your full power again.
Play activating music (e.g., drumming, salsa, passionate music) and allow the sounds to move you. Allow your body to express in whatever way feels good, shaking, jumping, sensual-erotic movements to seduce yourself, everything is welcome!
- Self-Love: Stand in front of a mirror – if you’re up for it, do it naked – and look at yourself, your face, your body with kind and compassionate eyes. Let your eyes wander along the contours of your body and observe what happens within you when you do that.
By the way, self-pleasuring can also be a wonderful way to show yourself and your body that you enjoy each other’s company ;-)
- Taking Off Old Clothes: Stand in front of a mirror and imagine how you take off all the old clothes (beliefs) you’re tired of wearing, layer by layer. You can support this practice through physical movement and either pretend to take off your clothes or really do it.
With each piece you name the belief that you let go of, thoughts like “I’m not worthy of this”, “I can’t do this”, “I don’t deserve this”, “I’m not good enough.”.
- Braiding Colourful Ribbons: Take a few strings or cloth in bright colours to symbolise the joy of life, then start braiding them into ribbons. You can use the ribbons to decorate your home, yr garden or Nature outside and enjoy this display of colour.
- May Dance: Meet as a group to play or make music together or dance wildly to the sound of drumming or other rhythmic music. Shake off anything that prevents you from expressing the pure joy of life and gratitude to be on this Earth.
It’s about breaking the shackles that we allow others to put on us, but most often put on ourselves. Dance to the rhythm of Life instead!
- Fire Ritual: Gather in circle and light a bonfire at sunset – it’s a symbol for the strength and warmth of the sun, which is clearly noticeable by now. Stoke the fire all through the night, dance around it, jump across it (only if it’s safe!) and hand over anything burdensome to the fire.
You can of course combine it with the May Dance :-)
Do you have any questions or know other rituals for Beltane that you love celebrating? Send me a message, I‘d love to learn more!
Do you want to reconnect with the cycle of life and with the rhythm that’s running through your veins month after month? I send out weekly personal (electronic) letters, so you can remember the ancestral wisdom stored in your cells.
It’s time to take your life back into your own two hands and trust the wisdom your body holds!
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