On or around 1st May in the northern hemisphere and 1st November in the southern, Beltane represents the beginning of Summer or the height of Spring. It is thought that the ancients only recognised two seasons, these being Summer and Winter.
Beltane is the time when the Earth is literally buzzing with fertility. Life springs forth in all of its richness, and the land is covered with beautiful flowers; the freshly opened leaves of the trees are a quality of green that they only show at this time of year.
At Beltane the Lady of the Land takes the hand of the Horned God. Some celebrate Beltane on the dates given above, whilst others look to the flowers of the May tree as their signal that Beltane has, at last, arrived.
Beltane meaning ‘bright fire’ or ‘lucky fire’ is held on May 1st celebrates the start of summer, the crop and pasturing season.
Although scholars are non-commital, many believe Beltane honors the ancient continental Celtic sun and healer God, Belenus who was known widely in Northern Italy, south-eastern Gaul, Nordicum and south-west Britain.
Belenus name is believed to have meant ‘Brilliant’ or ‘Bright’ one. In modern Irish Bealtaine is still the name given to the month of May.
Beltane corresponded to the date when cattle could be driven to open grazing and was therefore a time of great importance for pastoral societies.
It was customary to drive cattle between large fires in order to protect them from disease.
TGE Powell in his book The Celts believes that the word Beltane is a combination of the celtic word for fire (tine) and a reference to Belenus.
The lighting of great fires in prominent locations was central to the celebration of this festival, reflecting the rebirth and rejuvenation of the sun.