Beltane is a celebration of all things fertility, sex, light, and life! Celebrated on the first of May by the Celts, Beltane was celebrated with parties, bonfires, and, yes, sex. According to the Celtic calendar it is the first day of summer, a time of sun, warmth, and ample produce from the earth.
In traditional earth-loving cultures, like the Celts, Beltane is really THE fertility holiday of the year. In this blog post I’ll talk a bit more about why you should care about Beltane and how it was celebrated, and then I’ll suggest some ways that YOU can celebrate fertility at Beltane!
Our Fertility and the Cycles of the Earth
For those of us taking the scenic route to our babies, I feel like it is important to stay connected to nature and to integrate fertility into our everyday routines. Being aware of the changing of the seasons and the fertility of the earth is a great way to stay in tune with your own fertility in addition to staying connected to nature.
Traditional societies around the world celebrated the wheel of the year and its relation to the fertility of the earth. This makes a lot of sense- traditional societies depended on the fertility of the earth for their nourishment.
We also depend on the fertility of the earth, but most of us are so far disconnected to the land that we forget how important this connection is. May 1st is the perfect time to begin celebrating the changing of the seasons and the fertility of the earth (and yourself) if you haven’t already incorporated this into your fertility mind-body practice.
For more on my personal fertility mind-body practice read this post!
Beltane and Fertility
May 1st, also known as May Day, is the Celtic holiday of fertility. It is a celebration of life and it happens right when Spring is in its peak and the Celts were ready for summer. The energy of the earth is strong, flowers are bursting up everywhere, and the trees are green. Vegetables and herbs are starting to produce food, the little baby lambs of March are running around, and nature is just brimming with life.
You can imagine Beltane as peak fertility for the earth. Now, the Celts took that a step further. As people who come from and live off the earth, Beltane was also considered peak fertility for US, probably because of the large number of human babies also born around this time, and in the coming months.
In case you are interested, research has shown that Autumn is actually peak fertility in terms of conception for humans.
Traditional Beltane Celebrations
This peak fertility became part of the holiday tradition for the Celts, and ritual ceremonies of marriage would have been held between the May Queen (known by other names as well such as the May Bride, Goddess of Spring), and the May King (also known as The Young Oak King or the Green Man). Then, the May Queen and May King would go off into the woods, make some sweet May love, and she would become pregnant. Depending on the community and levels of prudishness, sometimes the ENTIRE ritual would be public. Eeek.
Beltane is a Fire Festival, and so bonfires would have been lit to pay homage to the Sun. Couples would jump over the fire to pledge themselves to each other and to bring fertility. Then, like the May Queen and May King, they would run off to the woods to fool around. If you’ve ever heard of the pagan wedding tradition of “handfasting,” Beltane was the time for these rituals. A couples hands would literally be tied together with ribbon as they promised themselves to each other for a year and day (then they could decide to stay together or break apart).
How to Celebrate Fertility at Beltane
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Beltane today, in your own house or yard. Take the time to connecvt with the sun, life, the fertility of the earth, and your own fertility.
- Make a May basket: Fill a basket with flowers (and treats if you like), and bring it to someone who needs cheering up or a little care. Maybe you know someone who is sick, lonely, or elderly that could use cheer. This generous spirit is the spirit of fertility and abundance! Think about how much you have to share with others.
- Make a May Pole and dance around it- or find a May pole to dance around! The May Pole is a symbol of fertility. Traditionally, the pole would have been made with birch, but you could make it with anything you want. The pole represents male fertility (I’m sure you can, ahem, understand why), and the wreath of flowers at the top represents female fertility. When you walk around with the ribbons spiraling think about the union of male and female, the spiral of Life, and the goodness and fertility of yourself and the earth.
- Re-pledge yourself to your partner. Make the evening of May 1st special by re-committing yourselves to each other. This could be as simple as a few words, a hug, and a kiss, or it could be re-reading your marriage vows by candlelight. Make it a special night of romance and nurturing your relationship. Which brings us to . . .
- Go A-Maying. Okay, so on Beltane couples would go “A-Maying” which basically means they would spend the night in the woods making love. While I think it would be awesome if you want to do that, for this suburban girl that is not a reality. If you live in some wonderful rural isolation or something, then more power to you. Or if you were brave and have a good high fence you could certainly go make love outside though, in your garden, on a porch chair, or by a tree. Be creative! And if not, just make love in your home, in whatever way feels special and right. Maybe open the windows? 🙂
- Wash your face with the morning dew. Okay, I know this sounds weird, but after spending the night making love in the forest, it was traditional for the women to wash their face with the morning dew for extra fertility. You could always sleep in your nice, warm, comfortable bed, and wake up at dawn to go be with nature and splash some dew on your face!
- Decorate your house with flowers and greenery. Flowers, flowers, flowers! If you have flowers in your garden, do some cutting and put them in vases around your home. If not, treat yourself and buy some flowers to decorate with. You can also use greenery- anything to bring nature into your home!
- Have a bonfire! Invite folks over, or keep it between you and your honey. I personally have never jumped through one, and can’t say I recommend it unless your husband is a fire-fighter :-). But you can still enjoy the fire!
- Plant a garden. May is a great time to put in a new gorgeous garden, or to plant some flowers.