Beltane will be upon us soon, and in Calgary, we are grateful for the snow finally melting, and the first little shoots of green grass making their way to the surface. The only flowers available were grown in green houses. Local flowers are still tiny seedlings waiting in nurseries and garden centres for their new homes.
For us, Beltane is the true beginning of spring. And in the name of spring, a thorough cleaning/cleansing of the home is in order. Since our new place is still coasting on the pre-move-in professional clean, I mean to finally finish unpacking, and run a smudge stick around the entrances and exits.
Our move to a new townhouse has returned me to container gardening. I am hoping to grow tomatoes, beets, lettuce, sage, strawberries, and a few other fruits and flowers. I am all about maximizing the growth possible in a small area this year, which will entail quite a lot of research on my part.
Container Garden (Photo credit: starjewel)
Like Imbolc, Beltane is a fire festival; and with the returning warm weather, bonfires are almost a required part of the celebration. Of course, if you are like most people and do not live where you can build a bonfire, an outdoor fire pit, or even a candle on your balcony will do the trick to honour the fire component of the holiday.
Deities associated with Beltane are typically fertility deities – Cernunnos, Hera, and Pan, to name a very few; as well as virginal sovereignty goddesses such as Artemis, Flora, and Blodeuwedd¹.
For me, the goddess who occupies my thoughts at this time of year is the veiled White Goddess – the mysterious May Queen. In a previous article, I explored her identity as Guinevere from the Arthurian cycle.
This year, my thoughts turn to white flowers, nectar, honey, and the pollen gatherers, bees. With honeybee populations declining all over the world, and harsher, longer winters expected to become the norm, it seems appropriate to dedicate a portion of our spring celebrations to these key members of the natural world. Driven by scent and movement, bees communicate with each other through dance. The possibilities for ecstatic ritual and connective meditation are endless. Think wordless communication, interconnectedness, sweetness, and joy.
Children doing maypole dancing in the Canungra Showgrounds (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland, Australia)
Many Beltane celebrations include the ribboned maypole dance. Folks of all ages can get in on this time old tradition, but it is especially joyous to get kids involved in the dancing and spinning. This Backyard Maypole can be made of varying heights so that adults can easily get in on the action.
The bonfire festivities traditionally begin at sunset on May Eve. The fires of Beltane were symbols of purification and prosperity. Cattle were driven between the fires, and youths jumped the flames and coals as the night wore on. As a fertility festival, any children conceived on May Eve were considered a gift from the gods.
For those who awaken at dawn on May Day, folklore says that bathing one’s face in the morning dew of Beltane will restore beauty and radiance.
Beltane decor is centred around spring. That surging, warming, tingling energy that makes you want to skip like a school girl the minute you step outside your door.
For crafts and decorations, think flowers, butterflies, ribbons, bells, bright colours and anything that speaks of the vibrancy of life. May baskets are a tradition that your kids can get in on. Weave a simple paper basket, fill it with flowers and leave a lovely Beltane surprise for your neighbours.
Wear flower crowns in honour of the May Queen. Use silk flowers for a sturdier, timeless vibrance; or real wildflowers if they are available. A bit of needle felting or even just a couple of pompoms and a glue gun can add lovely, fluffy honeybees to your crown.
Traditional door wreaths or ribbon suspended chandelier style wreaths made from bright spring flowers will add a punch of colour to your home or yard.
If you are looking for a more subtle craft for your celebrations, woven lavender wands are a traditional tool for Beltane. Add tiny silver bells to the ends of your wand’s ribbon for a delightful faery call that will keep your little one busy for hours.
If you have the garden space to have a butterfly garden, a fun May Day activity for kids is to give them each a handful of wildflower seeds, have them make a wish and then blow the seeds from their palms over the tilled, moistened earth of the new garden. My daughter had a great time with this last year.
Bubbles are also a great way to spend an hour or so on a sunny Beltane afternoon.
Food for Beltane is centred both around fertility and the first fresh produce available. At this time of year, I want my meals to be lighter, fresher, and filled with more leafy veg.
After a long winter of heavy starches and root vegetables, Beltane marks the time of year to lighten up and get ready for summer foods. Apricots, artichokes, asparagus, chard, spinach, leeks, chives, strawberries, and sprouts of all kinds become available in the spring.
A nice light zucchini watercress soup, or a creamy spring onion soup are a great start to a Beltane meal. The warmer weather makes me want to get out and start using the BBQ. With a long winter waiting just around the bend, we want to extend patio season as much as we can.
A nice, light grilled fish or chicken with lemon, and some grilled greens mixed in with your fresh veg are a great light tasting main that will fill you up with no guilt. If you want to get fancy, try this Grilled Escolar with Asparagus, Morrels, and Currant Tomatoes by Emeril Lagasse.
MayPole Bundt Cake
Desserts are one of the best parts of the meal, if you ask me. One of my favourite desserts is a simple strawberries and cream. I recently challenged myself to make whipped cream with a hand whisk. 12 minutes from liquid to stiff peaks. It was not easy, and my arms were really achy, but it was the best whipped cream I have ever tasted!
Citrus and spring fruits are great flavours for cakes, ice creams, mousses, and tarts. Try these Honey Grilled Apricots for a light, easy Beltane dessert.
If you are in a baking mood, cupcakes or single serving bundt cakes (click the image above for the recipe), are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Wanna get fancy? Try this May Day Centerpiece Cake.
As you might have guessed, Beltane is the time for love and fertility magic. But if you’re not into adding literal babies to your life right now, fret not. Fertility magic can be used for many aspects of life, from your career to your garden.
Beauty and love charms are potent at Beltane. They can be as simple as charging and wearing rose quartz to bring love into your life, or elaborate as a ritual to cleanse oneself of your personal baggage.
Like Samhain, Beltane is a time of the year when it is said that the veil between worlds is thinnest. Divinations are commonly performed to get a peek at the coming season. Keep your desires and questions clear in your mind as you draw the cards, drink your favourite seasonal loose leaf tea, or gaze into the flames.
- Sunshine Yellow
- Coral Red
- Vibrant Green
- Robin’s Egg Blue
- Rose Quartz
- Orange Calcite
After a winter that seemed, at times, that it would never end, I am so happy to see the sun and warmth return. That gratitude, joy, and hope for the coming growing season is what I want to imbue into my May Day celebrations this year.
There is a lot of work to be done before the hot weather gets here, but I am ready for it.
Make a Wish
 For a fantastic exploration of the legend and lore of Bloddeuwedd, see Allison Leigh Lilly’s The Goddess, the Broom and the Barred Owl