As regular readers of this blog will know, I am really interested in Pagan and Wiccan traditions and folklore. It is something that has always fascinated me, and since moving to Cenarth in West Wales that interest has grown. There is something magical about nature here that has really found it’s way through to my very cynical soul!
I am currently exploring what it means to be a green witch – a path I feel more and more drawn to. Green witchcraft is linked very closely to nature, and green witches incorporate wood, plants, herbs and flowers into their practice. They work closely with the cycles of the moon and the seasons of the year.
So for a green witch, Beltane is hugely important.
Beltane is another of those traditions that have been incorporated into other things. It is the celebration of life, and nature coming into full bloom. Traditionally, people would gather to eat and drink and have fun. Fires would be lit on hilltops as a sign of protection, and to honour the Celtic sun god, Bel.
Beltane was the festival that Christians lawmakers and rulers found the hardest to ban. People who relied on nature for survival, who needed their crops to thrive, may have ‘converted’ but they didn’t want to anger the Sun God. So they carried on lighting their fires. This might also have something to do with the fact that there was a tradition of couples sloping off into the countryside together – this apparently also helped the fertility of the crops, and any resulting babies were considered an honour. Couples would also marry on Beltane, jumping over the Beltane fire as part of the ceremony.
Whatever your beliefs, Beltane feels like a good time to appreciate the world around us, and consider what our impact might be. I often feel very powerless in the face of the catastrophic environmental devastation humans are inflicting on the world. It is, after all, a gift to treasure. Perhaps a return to these older ways might put things into perspective – a green witch is careful to respect nature, and to sincerely acknowledge and be grateful for anything they take or use, appreciating the gift that is given. This seems to me the way we should be treating the Earth and the resources it shares with us.
So a time for celebration then, in anticipation of the (hopefully) long, warm summer days to come, and also a time of gratitude.
Wishing you a very merry Beltane!