Beltane is one of my favorite times of the year. The earth is finally warmed to the core, which is appropriate since Beltane literally means “Bright Fire.” May 1st has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. Beltane celebrates the flowering of life and height of Spring. The Goddess manifests herself in the flora and she becomes the May Queen. The God reaches his maturity and becomes the Green Man and May King. We celebrate the dance of the Maypole to represent their unity. The Pole is the God and the ribbons that twine around it are the Goddess. The Beltane festival is one of flowers, fertility, sensuality and delight.
Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared.
Traditionally, Beltane festivities began days before May 1st or “May Day,” when villagers traveled into the woods to gather the nine sacred woods needed to build the Beltane bonfires. The tradition of “May Boughing” or “May Birching” involved young men fastening garlands of greens and flowers on the windows and doors of their prospective ladyloves before the fires are lit Beltane night. As with many Celtic customs, the type of flowers or branches used carried symbolic meaning, and much negotiating and courting could be worked out ahead of time.
Beltane is a common time for Witches to Handfast. A handfasting is the Wiccan form of wedding. Unlike its Christian counterpart, both parties approach the ceremony as equals (neither is ‘given away’), they write their own vows and make their promises directly to each other, not through an intermediary, although a Priestess and/or Priest may assist them in the ceremony. Many of the phrases and traditions used for weddings of all denominations have their roots in this older form of union. ‘tying the knot’ and “getting hitched” are references to the part of a Handfasting where the couple’s hands are literally tied together with a gold and silver cord whilst they make their promises.
-Jumping the broom? (a phrase less well known today than 30 years ago) refers to the point at which the couple joins hands and leap over the broomstick (which itself is a symbol of the union of male and female) to signify their leap from one life (that of being single) to another (that of being married).
The Great Rite is also appropriate during this Sabbat. You can do this as part of a larger group or as an individual ritual. For this you will need a Chalice of wine and an Athame. As in preceding rituals, you will need to find a time and a place where you will be undisturbed.
Ask for the support of the elements and then visualize the Goddess in her robes of Mother, warm and caring, strong and full of grace, and ask her to be present at your rite. Visualize the God as a young man full of strength and energy and ask him also to be with you.
Take your Chalice and hold it in both hands in front of you at eye level. Focus on the image of the Goddess and say, Behold the Chalice, symbol of the Goddess, the Great Mother who brings fruitfulness and knowledge to all.
Put the Chalice down and take your Athame. Hold this in both hands in front of you, blade pointing upwards, also at eye level, and, focusing on the image of the God, say,
Behold the Athame, symbol of the God,
the All Father who brings energy and strength to all.
Then change the position of your Athame so that you are holding it blade downwards in your right, or strong, hand, take the Chalice in the other hand and, lowering the blade into the wine, say,
Joned in union together, they bring life to all
Kiss the handle of your Athame, say, Blessed Be, and then put it down.
Next take a sip of your wine while meditating on the roles of the Goddess and the God at this time of year.
After you have finished, remember to thank the elements and the Goddess and the God. Any remaining wine can be drunk as part of your feasting or, if you prefer, you may take it outside and pour it on the ground as an offering.
Love And Light,
Rose Ariadne, Your Warm And Caring “Resident Witch In Charge”