“May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and neopagan festivals such as Samhain. May Day marks the end of the unfarmable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations. As Europe became Christianized the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and All Saint’s Day. In the twentieth century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again.”
The Witches Almanac for Thursday, May 30th
Thursday (Jupiter): Expansion, money, prosperity, and generosity.
Walpurgis Night • May Eve
The Waxing Moon (from the New Moon to the Full) is the ideal time for magic to draw things toward you.
Moon phase: Second Quarter
Moon Sign: Virgo
Virgo: Favors accomplishment of details and commands from higher up. Focuses on health, hygiene, and daily schedules.
Moon enters Libra 10: 03 am
Libra: Favors cooperation, social activities, beautification of surroundings, balance, and partnership.
The Witches Almanac for Wednesday, April 30th
Wednesday (Mercury): The conscious mind, study, travel, divination and wisdom.
Walpurgis Night – May Eve
The Waxing Moon is the ideal time for magick to draw things toward you.
Moon Sign: Taurus
Taurus: Things begun now last the longest, tend to increase in value, and become hard to alter. Brings out appreciation for beauty and sensory experience
Moon Phase: First Quarter
Moon enters Gemini 4:56 pm
Gemini: Things begun now are easily changed by outside influence. Time for shortcuts, communication, games and fun.
Chapter seven – Flora and Fauna
by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.
Tales of plants and animals that have served witches can fill an entire book. Imagine talking cats, killer trees, flowers that make you fly and lambs that grow inside fruit. These are not fairy tales told just for fun; people actually believed in them, and some were even partially true.
The connection to animals and plants goes back to Stone Age predecessors of modern witches, who are still guardians of the earth. The drawings of animals on cave walls show it clearly. The giant cave bear, for instance, was considered the Master of Animals. The hunters worshiped him, and he granted them permission to hunt. Dangerous animals, such as the saber tooth tiger, the woolly rhinoceros, or the mammoth, could only be conquered, or avoided, by magic and ritual.
Later, many gods, demigods and other powerful entities appeared in animal form. The Celtic god Cernunnos, master of the forest and all its animals, appeared often as a stag. Even more significant are Cernunnos’ many appearances as an antlered man. In this form he looked exactly like the shape-changing sorcerer of the Stone Age.
The imaginary menagerie included domestic animals, like the cat, and those of wood and field, such as the hare. The garden contained the witch’s cultivated plants, and the weeds that flourished near by.
Let’s start with the menagerie. Every witch had her “familiar,” an animal that had been given to her by Satan himself. The animal was a pet as well as a demon, much loved and well taken care of by the witch. It received good food, careful grooming, and sometimes even wore clothes during cold weather. The witch protected it fiercely, and killing a familiar was an invitation to serious revenge. In return, the animal spied, robbed, and sometimes killed for the witch.
Funny as all that may sound, the people believed in this relationship. The witch’s neighbors even thought that the animals talked to the witch in human language. This can explain the terror they held for the villagers. If an old woman regularly talked to her pet, as lonely people usually did, she was doomed. A familiar was also recognized by always being close to the witch, usually following her wherever she went, and by its superior intelligence.
CAT Cats are the ultimate Familiars. Everything about the cat was, and still is, magical. Watch your own cat going about its mysterious business. See how it suddenly looks at a corner of the room, intent on something that clearly isn’t there. It can be creepy on a stormy night, even when you know very well that there is no such thing as a ghost! Sometimes your cat, dozing peacefully, suddenly leaps to the next room as if possessed. You laugh at its antics, but what did it really hear there? Even today, wonderful and loveable as they are, cats hold a terror for some people. Some won’t stay in a room alone with a cat. Look at the changing eyes – the pupils are narrow slits during the day and large and round at night. Changing just like the moon. So they imagined that the cat saw the future with those moon-like, magical eyes, and probably also ghosts and goblins. Cats could also forecast the weather. If they played wildly, high wind was expected. If they sat with their back to the fire, no doubt a cold spell was due. And if they washed their ears carefully, rain was imminent. The most feared cat was the black one, considered Satan’s property at the all times. During the Middle Ages people senselessly slaughtered cats for no reason other than the belief that they were demons.
GOAT The goat connection may be even more significant than the cat. It goes back to antiquity. A powerful clan in ancient Greece, the Palentids, claimed they were originally descended from a sacred goat. The horned and hoofed Greek goat-god, Pan, is one of the most important entities of Witchcraft. Thor, the Norse god, was worshiped before the other gods of Valhalla. Some say he existed as early as the stone-age. Thor drove a great chariot, pulled by two giant, powerful goats. They symbolized thunder and lightning. Medieval legends say that the Devil created the goat. Satan himself often appeared with goat’s horns, and sometimes changed his shape completely into a goat. During the Sabbaths, he traditionally came as a three-horned goat, the middle one used as a lamp.
HARE Hares were strongly associated with witches. The hare is quiet and goes about its business in secret. They are usually solitary, but occasionally they gather in large groups and act very strangely, much like a group of people having a conference. A hare can stand on its hind legs like a person; in distress, it utters a strange, almost human cry which is very disconcerting to the listener. Watching such behavior, people claimed that a witch could change her form at night and become a hare. In this shape she stole milk or food, or destroyed crops. Others insisted that hares were only witches’ familiars. These associations caused many people to believe hares were bad luck, and best avoided. A hare crossing one’s path, particularly when the person was riding a horse, caused much distress. Still, the exact opposite superstition claimed that carrying a rabbit’s or hare’s foot brought good luck. There is no logic to be found in superstitions.
SPIDER They are tiny, menacing, and some are poisonous. Yet, they have always been admired for their wonderful weaving and their hunting ability. No wonder they were put on the list of witches’ familiars. Spiders could invade anyone’s house for the witch’s benefit. Also, they could hide in the witch’s clothing and talk to her while she went about her business, perhaps offering her some advice.
CROW The crow is almost too obvious. The medieval villagers considered it ugly, for some reason. Actually, it’s a beautiful, glossy black bird with a truly elegant shape, but there’s no accounting for taste. Perhaps they disliked the crow because it emits a hoarse cry rather than a song, and it’s obviously quite good at stealing things from farmers. The villagers thought the crow spied for the witch all day by flying anywhere it wanted, and then reported at night. And it could easily accompany her on her own flights to the Sabbaths.
BUTTERFLY Few people know how the butterfly got its name. The witch was supposed to change her shape into this insect. She then flew to the dairy, and stole milk, cheese and, of course, butter!
BEE The enterprising witch did not keep bees only for the honey. She didn’t really need that so much. What she wanted was the wax – to make images of her enemies and destroy them in image magic.
TOAD Toads were favorite familiars. They were dressed in velvet, given bells to decorate their legs, and were expected to dance to music (though it’s doubtful they ever did.) The little horns on their head suggested the devil, and the witches used toad’s spittle in their ointments. Toads could predict storms by rushing quickly and suddenly into the water; they could hear the thunder long before humans could. In addition to all these marvelous qualities, old toads had precious jewels growing inside their heads, so it was worthwhile protecting a toad until it reached old age. Of course no one ever saw one – there’s never any jewel in a real toad’s head – but people believed it was incredibly beautiful and protected the lucky wearer from poison.
Let’s step into the magic garden. The witch’s neighbors were quite certain you could recognize a witch by what grew in her garden. If you had a yard full of nightshades, monkshoods, thorn apples and henbanes, it really looked suspicious, because these plants were used to prepare the ointment that helped a witch fly.
The fact that the plants were also good for healing and cosmetic purposes meant little. And some of the plants were not even deliberately cultivated. Deadly nightshade was made into eye drops, monkshood was used to exterminate wolves, and thorn apples and henbanes just sprouted everywhere. They still do. But people found it more exciting to think of them as the witch’s tool of destruction.
It is interesting to note that so many of the plants in the witch’s garden are now recognized as hallucinogenic. All the nightshades, for instance, contain substances called tropane alkaloids. These alkaloids produce hallucinations and trance states. They are also toxic enough to produce insanity and even death if used in larger quantities. The use of hallucinogens go back to ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome. They were also used in Afghanistan, Africa, India and parts of the Middle East. People thought they could help in conjuring demons and as an aid to prophecy. The mixture of Belladonna, henbane and mandrake, when rubbed on the body, produces dreams about flying. These hallucinations feel so real, that many witches believed they really flew. They confessed that to their torturers during their trials, and were burned at the stake. The mixture also produced dreams of changing into animals. Some witches honesty believed they turned into fish or geese, and threw themselves into deep water. Some drowned.
The plants have a good, medicinal side. Henbane is a painkiller. Belladonna is used as eye drops. They were part, in the hand of a good practitioner, of the entire herbal lore, much of which is still in use in medicine. However, the hallucinogens caused more trouble then good, and much of the bad name the Old Religion acquired is a result of using drugs. First, the preparations were given, in some covens, to young people just starting out as witches. The idea was to make the initiation easier and more interesting, but the result was a life-long addiction. It also connected Wicca with the Satanists and with the followers of Voodoo, who used drugs freely. In the history of Witchcraft, these plants and preparations are possibly the worst habit some witches had. It must be noted, however, that not all covens used, or approved of the hallucinogens. Many witches realized that the use of drugs is one of the stupidest and most dangerous habits a human being can indulge in, then as well as now.
BELLADONNA Belladonna, the Deadly Nightshade, was the Devil’s favorite plant. Like many other busy persons, the Devil found relaxation in the hobby of gardening. He tended this particular plant every night of the year, except on “Walpurgis Night,” when he usually prepared for the witch’s Sabbat and neglected his hobby. So this was the night to go harvest some Belladonna, if you needed it. You got a black hen and let it lose. For an unexplained reason, the Devil could never resist a black hen. So he would go chasing it, away from the Belladonna. Now the plant could be harvested without danger to the person. Why should anyone want this poisonous weed, you might ask? Well, if you rubbed it on your horse’s body, it would bring the animal great strength! No record is left of the fate of all those black hens the Devil busily chased all over Europe. Hopefully, they found their way back to the chicken coops.
MANDRAKE The best mandrakes, people thought, grew under the gallows. A mandrake is a strange plant. The shape of its root looks just like a human being. It is lifelike and twisted, and many believed that a small demon lived in it. Capturing the demon brought great power, but it was extremely dangerous. The demon objected to having the plant pulled out of the ground. It caused him great pain, and his agonized shriek could kill the man who destroyed the plant. So a system had to be developed. First, the man stuffed his ears with wax. Then, he dug around the plant until only a few roots held it to the ground. Now he got a dog, attached one end of a long rope around its neck, and the other end around the plant. The man went a certain distance, and then held a plate of food toward the dog. The dog leapt toward the food, and in the process, released the mandrake from the ground. The dog was expected to sacrifice his life for the benefit of his owner. However, as the plant never really shrieked, or made any other effort to revenge its destruction, many dogs simply got a good meal out of it. The trick, now, was to bathe the root in wine and wrap it in silk. This pacified the demon, who now became the owner’s advisor. When all was said and done, the disappointment must have been terrible. After all, a root, no matter how weird it looked, could never talk to anyone, let alone give wise advice. So it was finally established that the tiny demons really preferred the company of witches to that of ordinary mortals.
ELDER TREE If the witch felt like drinking some milk, she entered the elder tree, traveled in it, and settled near someone’s cow barn. The long branches went into the barn during the night, and milked all the cows.
YEW TREE Even without the connection to witches, yew trees had many superstitions attached to them. It was best not to lie down under a yew, despite the nice cold shade. The tree would suck the life out of anyone, as soon as he or she fell asleep. In Sherwood Forest, as in all of England, Yew was used to make bows and arrows. Robin Hood used them all his life. When he was about to die from his wounds at his last battle, he asked his merry men for a favor. He wanted to shoot one last arrow and be buried where it landed. They brought him his old bow, and with a superhuman effort, Robin shot one arrow and died. The men went to look for it and found it had landed in an ancient graveyard, under a venerable yew tree. And so they buried Robin there, in the shade of the tree that gave him so much while he lived. Yew always grew in graveyards, anyway. People believed that the tree drank the poison from the ground which was infected by dead bodies. Naturally, it became known as the favorite of witches – they were known to spend much time in graveyards, anyway.
FIR TREE In Germany, as late as the nineteenth century, people danced around the fir during religious festivals. But the songs were not Christian – they dated back to pagan times. It was believed that an imp lived in the tree, a kind and benevolent spirit. The fir was decorated with lights, flowers, eggs and other such objects. Some believed this was the origin of the Christmas tree.
In the northern countries the respect for the fir is deep seated. It is considered the home for the mysterious King of the Forest. Some people still refuse to cut a fir tree, and if it falls by itself, perhaps during a storm, the wood is not sold, but given in charity.
The garden and menagerie described here were mostly European, but many interesting plants and animals belonged to other cultures. Some were strongly connected to various forms of sorcery.
THE BAROMEZ This combined plant/animal belongs to the Tartars, by the Caspian sea. The Baromez was a lamb. It had superb wool, silky and warm, much sought after. However, it wasn’t born the usual way. In the faraway land where the Baromez lived, certain “gourd trees” produced large fruit. At night, the ripe fruit opened, and the cute, tiny lambs jumped out of the fruit. They were attached to the fruit by an umbilical cord, so they could not free themselves from the tree. This was the job of the enterprising sorcerer/shepherd, who released the lambs, reared them and sold their wool – no doubt for a large profit.
DUCKS Not a particularly romantic animal, you would say. But if you were a sailor, traveling by an unspecified Pacific island, you may have changed your mind. A tree grew with its roots in the water. Giant fruit hung limply over the waves. A sorcerer or witch would come to the tree, sing a strange song, and suddenly the fruit began to open. Inside was fluffy, silky material, attached to the bill of a duck. The duck hung on for a while, drying its feathers in the strong sun. Then it dropped with a thud into the sea and swam away. The sorcerer either let it go or took it home, depending on the ritual needed.
BARNACLE GOOSE Well, if a duck, why not a goose? A real goose, Branta leucopsis, caused trouble during the Middle Ages for both Rabbis and Priests. It nested in the Arctic, and was seen by sailors in grounds which were covered with large barnacles. Naturally, the sailors assumed the bird hatched from the barnacles. The rabbis had trouble deciding if the goose was a fowl, appropriate food for Orthodox Jews, or a Shellfish, forbidden to them. The priests had similar problem. Is it a fish, permitted during Lent, or a fowl, forbidden at this time?
MIRAJ The story of the Miraj comes from somewhere in the Indian Ocean, and it’s probably the funniest magical beast ever invented. It’s easy to imaging two or three hard working witches sitting over a cup of strong palm wine, discussing the hard times, wondering what new enterprise they can come up with. They must have had a good sense of humor, because the Miraj was a killer unicorn rabbit. It looked innocent enough. It was large, yellow, and had a long black horn in the middle of its forehead. The animals around it knew the danger, though, and ran for their lives whenever they saw it coming. The Miraj could eat anything, even animals much larger than itself, such as pigs and cattle. The witch’s job was to charm away and control the Miraj when she noticed one or two infesting the neighborhood. The villagers never saw a Miraj themselves, obviously, but they preferred to keep it this way. After all, what were they paying the witch for? Every profession has its hazards, right? Let the witch face the deadly killer unicorn rabbit!
PENTACLE FROM THE LIBER UMBRARUM BY DOREEN VALIENTE
The five-pointed star or pentagram is one of the oldest signs in the world. It represents, among other meaning, magic itself, the dominion of the spirit over the four elements of the material creation.
The Circle which encloses it, being without beginning or ending, represents infinity and eternity. Another meaning of the pentagram is that it bears a rough resemblance to a human figure, as if standing upright with the arms and legs outstretched. Hence the pentagram in a circle is a symbol of the human being in relationship to the Infinite.
The eight armed figure in the center of the pentagram represents the Eight Ritual Occasions of the Witch’s year, four Greater Sabbats and four Lesser Sabbats. The Greater Sabbats are Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas, and Hallowe’en. The Lesser Sabbats are the equinoxes and solstices. The eight of this symbol plus the five of the pentagram makes 13, the traditional number of the Witches coven.
The three X-shaped crosses around the pentagram represent the three annointing of the initiation ceremony, ‘two above and one below’; that is, two above the waist and one below it. The two spirals or S-shapes represent the ancient symbol of the twin serpents, the dual forces of positive and negative, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, that underlie all manifestation.
The symbols on the three upper points of the pentagram are the two crescents of the waxing and waning moons, and the circle of the full moon. Together they represent the primordial Goddess of Nature, often depicted in triple form as Nymph, Mother and Crone, the three phases of the moon.
The symbols on the two lower points of the pentagram represent the two aspects of the ancient God of witches. They are conventionalized drawings of a horned head and a skull and crossed bones. The former sign represents the Horned God of Life and Fertility, and the latter is the God of Death and what lies beyond.
The History Of Litha
The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John’s Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.
In Sweden, Mid-summer celebration originates from the time before Christianity; it was celebrated as a sacrifice time in the sign of the fertility.
The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, as it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set. In Sweden, Finland and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.
In the 7th century, Saint Eligius (died 659/60) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he’d say: “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.”
As Christianity entered pagan areas, MidSummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. The 13th-century monk of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, who compiled a book of sermons for the feast days, recorded how St. John’s Eve was celebrated in his time:
Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve, of which there are three kinds. On St. John’s Eve in certain regions the boys collect bones and certain other rubbish, and burn them, and therefrom a smoke is produced on the air. They also make brands and go about the fields with the brands. Thirdly, the wheel which they roll.
The fires, explained the monk of Winchcombe, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells. The wheel that was rolled downhill he gave its explicitly solstitial explanation:
The wheel is rolled to signify that the sun then rises to the highest point of its circle and at once turns back; thence it comes that the wheel is rolled.
On St John’s Day 1333 Petrarch watched women at Cologne rinsing their hands and arms in the Rhine “so that the threatening calamities of the coming year might be washed away by bathing in the river.”
How To Hold a Beltane Bonfire Rite (Group Ceremony)
The Beltane bonfire is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The fire was more than a big pile of logs and some flame. It was a place where the entire community gathered around — a place of music and magic and dancing and lovemaking. It was customary to light the fire on May Eve (the last night of April) and allow it to burn until the sun went down on May 1. The bonfire was lit with a bundle made from nine different types of wood and wrapped with colorful ribbons. Once the fire was blazing, a piece of smoldering wood was taken to each home in the village, to ensure fertility throughout the summer months.
- This was typically the time of year when fairs and markets were held, and as most country villages had a common or a green of some sort, there was always room for merriment. Depending on where you live, you might not have enough space for a big bonfire or dancing — and that’s okay. Just make do with what you have. An alternative to a large bonfire might be a small fire bowl (they’re usually available at discount stores and home improvement chains) or even a tabletop brazier. If you’re in an apartment and space is at a premium, consider building your fire in a small cauldron or other heat resistant bowl.
- Beltane is the spring counterpart to Samhain. While in the autumn, everything is dying, in spring it comes alive, glorious and bursting free from the earth. Beltane is about fertility and sex and passion and life. This ceremony is designed for a group, and includes a symbolic union of the May Queen and the King of the Forest. Depending on the relationship between the people playing these roles, you can get as lusty as you like. If you’re doing a family-oriented Beltane celebration, you may choose instead to keep things fairly tame.
- For this ritual you’ll need the following:
- A bonfire — set it up ahead of time, and designate someone to be in charge of lighting and tending it
- A May Queen — if possible, select a woman to play this part who is still within her childbearing years
- A King of the Forest — any adult man can play this role, but it’s even better if he’s someone who is actually partnered with the woman playing the May Queen
- Drums and other noisemakers
- Optional: a crown of flowers for each of the females present
- Optional: a headdress of antlers for each of the males present
- First, have the group circle around the fire, with the May Queen and the King of the Forest on opposite sides. The High Priest (HP) or High Priestess (HPs) should welcome everyone with something like this:Beltane is here! It is a time when the earth is fertile and full.
Long ago, our ancestors planted their fields at Beltane.
The fields that lay fallow for months are now warm and waiting.
The soil that was dormant for the winter now begs us to plant our seeds.
The earth is awakening and ripe, and this is a season of love and passion.
It is a season of fire.
- At this point, the fire starter should begin lighting the bonfire. The HP or HPS continues:As our fires grow, lighting up the night sky, the fire within us grows stronger.
It is the fire of lust and passion, knowing that like the earth, we too are fertile.
Tonight, the God emerges from the forest. He is known by many names —
he is Pan, Herne, Cernunnos, the Green Man. He is the God of the Forest.
Tonight is the night he will chase and capture the maiden.
She is the Queen of the May, Aphrodite, Venus, Cerridwen.
She is the Goddess of fields and flowers, she is Mother Earth herself.
- As the HP introduces the God of the Forest and the May Queen, they should each step forward into the circle. The HP says: Bring fertility to the land! Let the hunt begin!
- At this point, the May Queen and the God of the Forest begin the chase, traveling sunwise around the circle, weaving in and out of the other participants. Remember, the May Queen wants to make love to the God of the Forest. This is a fun chase, a joyful courtship, not a mock rape; make sure both parties understand this and prepare accordingly. She can even allow him to get close to her, pretending she’s ready to join him… and then slipping away at the last second. They should travel the circle three times in the chase, and finally stop at a point in front of the bonfire — hopefully, it will be burning well by now.
- While the God of the Forest is pursuing his lady love, everyone else in the circle starts drumming. Start of slowly — after all, a courtship can take some time to get started. As the couple begins to speed up, increase the tempo of the music. If you’d like to chant instead of or in addition to drumming, go ahead. There are many popular traditional chants in Wicca and Paganism, and nearly all sound good when you sing them with a group. When the May Queen and the God of the Forest finally complete their three-times journey of the circle, the drums should stop abruptly.
- The HP says:Fire and passion, love and life, brought together as one.
At this point, the May Queen says to the God of the Forest:
I am the earth, the womb of all creation.
Within me, new life grows each year.
Water is my blood, air my breath, and fire is my spirit.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.
The God of the Forest replies to her, saying:
I am the rutting stag, the seed, the energy of life.
I am the mighty oak that grows in the forest.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.
- The couple kisses, long and passionate. If they’re feeling really lusty, they can fall to the ground and roll around for a while — feel free to cover them with a blanket if you like. This kiss (or more) is the symbolic union of the male and female spirit, the great rite between man and woman. Once the embrace is broken, the HP calls out:The earth is once more growing new life within! We shall be blessed with abundance this year!
- Everyone else in the circle claps and cheers — after all, you’ve just guaranteed that your village will have hearty crops and strong livestock this year! Celebrate by dancing around the bonfire, drumming and singing. When you are ready, end the ritual.
- * Note: if you have a woman in your group who is trying to conceive, she is absolutely the best choice for the role of May Queen. Her partner or lover may act the part of the God of the Forest, or another man may stand in as a symbolic consort.
What You Need
- A bonfire
- A couple willing to play the parts of May Queen and God of the Forest
- Drums and noisemakers
Beltane Activities and Correspondences
Colors- Green, Yellow, Pink, Blue
Foods – Strawberries, Cherries, Fruits, Salads, Wine
Goddesses – Aphrodite, Asherah, Belili, Brigid, Danu, Freya, Flora, Gwenhwyvar, Hina, Ishtar, Maia, Mary, Oiwyn, Oshun, Ostara, Sappha, Tonantzin, Vesta
Gods – Beltene, Cernunnous, Cupid/Eros, Manawyddan and Pan
Activities and Rituals – fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one’s property, feasting
Stones/Gems – Emerald, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz
Other Names – Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain),May Day, Fairy Day,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch)
3 parts frankincense
2 parts Sandalwood
1 part woodruff
1 part rose petals
a few drops jasmine oil
a few drops neroli oil
-Make paper baskets (use yarn as a handle) and place real or silk flowers in each basket. Hang them on door knobs of nieghbors and family members but don’t let them know you did it!
-If you have children, make necklaces out of diasies and place them around their necks for the day to bring protection to them.
-Begin planting for the season.
-Create a MayPole and dance around it with your family or friends.
-Make a dish of fruits, berries, nuts and leave in the wood for the animals and fae folk to enjoy
– This is a night for bonfires, torch-lit processions and the high revelry of witches, preferably in high places. It is prime time for the Great Rite, a night (like Samhain) when the Goddess descends into women. Cailleach Beara (Cally Berry, Brighid’s crone aspect) turns to stone this night and does not to return until Samhain. Beltane Eve also marks the setting of the Pleiades
May Wine Cup – Makes 6 – 8 Glasses
1 Bottle White Wine (sweet or dry depending on your taste)
12 Sprigs Sweet Woodruff
1/2 cup Strawberries Sliced
Edible flowers (to be sprinkled on the top after all ingredients have been mixed together)
Method : Soak the dried woodruff overnight in the wine. the following day mix the wine, strawberries and woodruff in a large bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Strain out woodruff, add the decorative flowers and serve cold.
Legends and Lore of Beltane
By Patti Wigington
- Like Samhain, the holiday of Beltane is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin. Some traditions believe that this is a good time to contact the spirits, or to interact with the Fae. Be careful, though — if you visit the Faerie Realm, don’t eat the food, our you’ll be trapped there, much like Thomas the Rhymer was!
- Some Irish dairy farmers hang a garland of green boughs over their door at Beltane. This will bring them great milk production from their cows during the coming summer. Also, driving your cattle between two Beltane bonfires helps protect your livestock from disease.
- The pious Puritans were outraged by the debauchery of Beltane celebrations. In fact, they made Maypoles illegal the mid 1600’s, and tried to put a halt to the “greenwood marriages” that frequently took place on May Eve. One pastor wrote that if “tenne maiden went to set (celebrate) May, nine of them came home gotten with childe.”
- According to a legend in parts of Wales and England, women who are trying to conceive should go out on May Eve — the last night of April — and find a “birthing stone”, which is a large rock formation with a hole in the center. Walk through the hole, and you will conceive a child that night. If there is nothing like this near you, find a small stone with a hole in the center, and drive a branch of oak or other wood through the hole — place this charm under your bed to make you fertile.
- If you go out at sunrise on Beltane, take a bowl or jar to gather morning dew. Use the dew to wash your face, and you’re guaranteed a perfect complexion. You can also use the dew in ritual as consecrated water, particularly in rituals related to the moon or the goddess Diana or her counterpart, Artemis.
- In the Irish Book of Invasions, it was on Beltane that Patholan, the first settler, arrived on Ireland’s shores. May Day was also the date of the defeat of the Tuatha de Danaan by Amergin and the Milesians.
- Babies conceived at Beltane are considered a gift from the gods. They were sometimes referred to as “merry-begots”, because the mothers were impregnated during Beltane’s merrymaking.
- In Cornwall, it’s traditional to decorate your door on May Day with boughs of hawthorn and sycamore.
- Eating a special oatcake called a bannock or a Beltane cake ensured Scottish farmers abundance of their crops for the year. The cakes were baked the night before, and roasted in embers on a stone.
Calendar of the Sun
Walpurgisnacht Day VIII – May Eve
Altar: Upon a black cloth lay eight candles, with a ninth one for Odhinn’s nine days, a figure of the World Tree, two nails, sterile needles, a sterile blade, a marker, and all the runes.
Offerings: Pain. Blood.
Daily Meal: Fasting again, from the night before to this day’s Hesperis.
Walpurgisnacht Invocation VIII
Great Odhinn, half-blind and limping,
Worn through by his travels,
Came before the Norns, the three Fates,
Urd the elder, grey and wrinkled as stone,
Pulling the threads of life from her long white hair
And spinning them fine and strong,
Verdandi the weaver, fair and brilliant,
On her loom of many colors,
And Skuld the dark maiden in armor
On her great black horse,
With her blade that slashes life away.
And Odhinn said to them, Give me magic,
That I may have understanding of all things,
That I may work great wights of power,
That my knowledge shall grow.
The Norns said unto him, What price
Shall you pay for this knowledge, O Odhinn,
Once King of Asgard, once keeper of Valhalla,
Once Lord of the Aesir, All-Father of the Gods,
Now a one-eyed, limping beggar on the road
With no home before you and no home behind you,
With dirt on your hands and dust in your mouth,
And the birds of ill omen flying about you,
What price will you pay for this wisdom?
Would you be wounded even unto the death?
And Odhinn said, I will pay any price you ask,
O givers of Fate whom all must obey.
I do surrender myself into your hands.
And so the Norns took Odhinn’s body,
And brought it to the great World Tree,
Yggdrasil, on which lie all the Nine Worlds,
And they nailed him to the tree,
Crucified him onto the great ash
And left him there to live or die.
And Odhinn’s blood ran down the tree
In rivers, and they gathered it
Like fine red thread, and spun his Wyrd,
And wove it into tapestry, and stood ready to cut it
Should he fail in his quest.
Odhinn hung on that windswept tree
For nine days and nine nights,
And the worlds whirled by him
And the blood ran down him
And the hail pelted him like knives.
And in the moment before he died,
His vision cleared, and he saw before him
All the runes, their magic, their wisdom,
And he seized them, crying out,
And fell from Yggdrasil’s arms
Back onto Midgard’s hands,
And opened his eyes into a new dawn,
And it was Spring in the world,
And the time of renewal was upon it,
So Odhinn rose to his weary feet
And found that the path before him
Led him in only one direction,
And that was home.
Cauldron of Changes
Blossom of Bone
Arc of Eternity
Hole in the Stone
(Each member comes forth one at a time, and one who has been chosen to do the work of the ritual takes a sterile needle and pricks their finger, and each leaves blood upon the figure of the World Tree as a sacrifice. Then each closes their eyes and takes blindly a rune from the altar, and a message from Odhinn shall be seen therein. That rune should be then drawn upon their flesh, in marker for those who have not the courage to bleed more, and cut lightly with a blade for those who would know more of Odhinn’s sacrifice. Great care should be taken that the cuts do not get infected, as that would be a poor omen. There should be silence until Hesperis, and then release from silence, as the time of Beltane will begin.)
Gather Round the Maypole Friends
Twist and Turn and Back Again
Dancing, Laughing, Joyful Glee
Now pair off lovers, Secretly
In Love’s embrace
The Goddess Grace
The May Queen and Consort Lay
Entangled Limbs on this Sweet Day
Gather Round the Maypole Friends
Twist and Turn and Back Again
The Lovers Rest in Quiet Heaps
In Fall the Bountiful Harvest Reaps
The ancient Celts called this holiday Beltane and began celebrating at sunset on April 30th. It marked the beginning of summer, the time to move with the flocks up to the summer pastures. Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain (‘opposite Samhain’), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas.
In Germany, April 30th is Walpurgisnacht, the night when it was believed that witches flew on their brooms to mountaintop gatherings where they danced all night around bonfires. Like Halloween, this is a night when witches, fairies and ghosts wander freely. The veil between the worlds is thin. The Queen of the Fairies rides out on a snow-white horse, looking for mortals to lure away to Fairyland for seven years. Folklore says that if you sit beneath a tree on this night, you will see Her or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides by. If you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you.
Many May Day customs involve flowers and green branches. Flowers are woven into wreaths to exchange as gifts between lovers or to hang on doors as decoration. Hawthorn is particularly auspicious since it begins blooming when the weather is warm enough for planting. Anyone who went out into the woods and found a branch of flowering hawthorn would bring it triumphantly into the village and announcing the start of planting season. However there were warnings about bringing hawthorn into the house, since it would invite the fairies in.
The Maypole is a symbol with many meanings. Often celebrated as and considered a phallic symbol, it also resembles the garlanded trees associated with moon goddesses. In the Phrygian rites of Attis, celebrated around the spring equinox, a fir tree was chopped down, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a tomb. Resurrected three days later, it was decorated and danced around. In some places, May Day ceremonies took place beneath a sacred tree, which was not uprooted. These trees represented the world-tree, the axis between heaven and earth. The Maypole dance is a round dance of alternating male and female dancers, weaving in and out, plaiting ribbons as they go. Maypole dances fulfilled social and sacred functions. They helped people flirt and mingle socially and they also raised energy.
Bring the May into your life by bringing home green branches, flowers and branches of flowering trees. Transform your house into a bower by making a wreath to hang on the door or to crown your version of the Goddess. This is a time for giving gifts. Gather flowers with special messages for friends and relatives. Make up your own explanation of the meaning of each flower and give it along with the bouquet. For friends at a distance, send pressed flowers or May Day cards or packets of flower seeds.
If you can, stay up all night, preferably outdoors. At least go for a walk in the night on April 30th and listen for the bells that herald the approach of the Fairy Queen. And you can run around, under cover of darkness, leaving May baskets of flowers on doorsteps. On the first of May, wear your most colourful clothes or dress all in green (the colour of the fairies). Consider wearing a flower in your hair.
Treat yourself like a Goddess. Take a long luxurious bath in scented water. Anoint yourself with oils. Crown yourself with flowers. Indulge yourself. Sip your May wine. Honor your sexual choices. In your journal, recall the times when sex was magical, when you felt alluring or you fell in love. Write about smoldering glances, the times your body caught fire, the sweetness of a first kiss or caress. If you have a partner, celebrate sex as a sacred activity. Make the time you spend together and the space you inhabit special. Light candles or strew the bed with rose petals. Notice how your lover represents the God or Goddess to you. This is the time to celebrate attraction and pleasure.
By Rowen Saille
Walpurgisnacht or the night of Walpurga is the Nordic tradition’s answer to Beltaine. The festival comes from the name of a saint born in Wessex in 710. Also known as Valborg, Walburga, Walpurgis, Wealdburg, and Valderburger, she was alleged to be the niece of Saint Boniface and the daughter of a Saxon prince. She was canonized on May 1, 779 and the Swedish calendar still bears her name for that date.
Pagan tradition associates the Feast of Walpurga or Walpurgisnacht with the fertility traditions celebrated around April 30 th on the modern calendar. Walpurga was honored with the traditional ways of celebrating the new spring: Bonfires, ritual dances, fertility charms and prank-playing. In German folklore, the celebration of Walpurgisnacht is the time when witches meet on Brocken Mountain and to hold revels to the gods and goddesses. In Sweden the young collect the new greens with which to adorn the houses and welcome the growing season.
For the Asatru, Walpurgisnacht is a night of mystery and magic. The lady of magic is Freya and as the Norse goddess of fertility she is particularly appropriate as a focus of rites to celebrate this season. Modern traditions include fertility dances, merriment, and fun during May Day. Freya is often honored in blot (sacrifice or ritual) to insure a fertile growing season and bring good wishes to bear. Walpurgisnacht (or May Day eve) often includes a rite particular to Freya called seidr (pronounced saythe). This holiday along with Winter Nights is a time when the folk look to the seidkona (seid-worker) or a vitki (rune-worker) to get a glimpse into what the year or season will bring.
This season of the year is a perfect time to scry in a fire or work with runes. Bonfires to purify and for luck are lit and danced round or jumped over. It is a time to purify and renew the self. Set up a maypole and dance with your family, friends or spiritual group to tie in wishes for the season. Drumming is an excellent way not only to keep time to dance the Maypole but also to raise the energy and focus the conscious mind.
Foods for celebration: Stews and the first fresh greens of spring are particularly appropriate. The ancients would have used some of the last of stored foodstuffs to create a stew base adding to it the new fresh greens available. “Stone Soup” (where individuals each bring an ingredient to add to the cauldron or stewpot), though also common at Freyfaxi feast, gives an opportunity for a group to gather and add their own ingredients to the soup with their energies for well-wishes. Sharing the “first fruits” imparts the luck of the spring while preserved food stores illustrate the “wealth” and wisdom of the folk for being good stewards and surviving the hard winter months. By eating the stew, the gathered kin internalize the good wishes for all.
Enjoy the Feast of Walburga and Walpurgisnacht. Bring joy to this time of new growth and renewal with your own celebrations, and share these traditions with love ones to bring luck and magic to the season of fertility.
The name Beltane implies “fire of bel” and is also known as May Eve, and May Day. It signifies the height of Spring and the sensuality of life. This date has been considered one of the power points of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the “Tetramorph” figures featured on Tarot cards (Tetramorph means Four Elements) Astrologers know these figures as the symbols of the four signs of the Zodiac – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius – which align with the four Great Sabbats of the Craft. Beltane is also one of the three spirit-nights of the year when the faeries can be seen. To welcome the magick of the Faeries into your home on this Sabbat try my Beltane aromatherapy blend;
3 drops Rose EO
3 drops Vanilla EO
3 drops Honeysuckle EO
Burn in diffuser or aroma lamp and feel the magick unfold : )
Beltane celebrations traditionally begin with the lighting of Beltane bonfires at moon-rise on May Day eve to light the way for Summer. A ritual in form of the Maypole dance is performed, representing the unity between the Goddess, manifesting as the May Queen and Flora ( Ribbons), and the God ( Pole).
Cakes and Wine
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (unsalted)
1 cup mashed peaches
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
cinnamon to taste
Mix flour, baking powder, and brown sugar together, cut butter into mixture , add egg and peaches, add some cinnamon to taste. Drop tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 F for about 15 – 17 min.
About The Author: Freya is ordained High Priestess in the Order of The White Moon, Founder of the school and circle of Sisters In Freya’s Moon, Reiki Teacher, Celtic Shaman Practitioner and have a doctorate degree in Naturology with diplomas and certificates in related fields http://www.sistersinfreyasmoon.com
Calendar of the Sun
Walpurgisnacht Day IV
Altar: Upon a brown cloth set shovels and hoes and other tools, four candles, and the rune Jera.
Offering: Do manual labor, especially of a sort that is difficult or unfamiliar for you.
Daily Meal: Coarse bread. Cheese. Raw vegetables. Root tea. An ancient workman’s lunch, served individually to each one, to be eaten alone on workshift during Mesembria, which is a work-hour today.
Walpurgisnacht Invocation IV
The earth breaks beneath our hoes,
And she receives our sweat and toil
As we work her for our survival.
Long, long ago, Odhinn the All-Father,
Lord of Asgard and Keeper of Valhalla,
Put on the ragged cloak of a peasant,
Wandered down the road alone,
And worked among the peasants
For his daily bread. Day after day,
He who had been enthroned in the sky
Learned the toil of the lowest on earth,
Learned the count of the drops of sweat
That fall like salt rain upon the soil,
Learned the blistered hands and the aching back,
The heat of the sun on bare skin,
The satisfaction of a single turnip
Pulled from the soil on an empty belly.
He who had ordered the life and death of so many
Learned what it was to work for his bread,
And to fear death without it.
On this day we honor his second sacrifice,
The giving up of privilege,
And we put our hands into the earth,
Never forgetting that to be low is to close to Her,
And therefore to be sacred.
(All step forward and take tools from the altar, and then dispense to their various jobs. All work should be done in silence, and alone, today, until Hesperis when the energy changes.)
Calendar of the Sun
Walpurgisnacht Day II
Altar: Upon a black cloth set the candle from the previous day plus a second one (each day of Walpurgisnacht adds another candle), a broom, a sheaf of grain, and the figure of a dog.
Offerings: The exercise for Gymnastika shall be running.
Daily Meal: Grain and greens.
Walpurgisnacht Invocation II
On this night the White Lady runs.
On this day she flees the Wild Hunt
In the guise of a white deer,
Her hoofprints flee along the track,
For she is Spring’s creature, and the Winter
Is far behind, chasing her, trying to bring her down.
But we will not let her fall,
We will not let her be caught,
We will not let ourselves be trapped
In the winter’s sadness,
For all things must come to an end,
And the green season is upon us.
Sheaf of grain in her hand,
She rides her broom like a steed,
Sweeping the winter away before her,
While the Wild Hunt bays at her heels,
Until the very dogs of the Hunt turn aside
And run instead at her side,
Whining for her attention,
Putting their noses into her hand,
And she has conquered them
As she will conquer the year.
Hail, Lady of the unknown name,
Waelbyrga, Waluburg, Holda’s child,
We who have run from our foes
And yet found that the best defense
Is to turn them into friends,
We salute you!
(The broom should be passed from person to person, and every room of the house should be swept with it, as a purification. Each chants wordlessly, or with any simple chant, during this.)
Calendar of the Moon
Willow Tree Month
Colors: Yellow, silver, and pale willow-green
Altar: Upon cloth of yellow, silver, and pale willow-green place three white candles, wreaths of willow-branches, a large clay bowl of water, flowers if they are available, and a silver moon.
Offerings: Contemplate an emotion, and how you use it, and how it uses you.
Daily Meal: Vegetarian, preferably cold food. Fruits. Only spring water to drink.
Call: Now is the time of the Willow Goddess.
Response: Now is the time of the Green Man’s courting.
Call: Now is the time when leaves are full.
Response: Now is the time when gold gives way to silver.
Call: Now is the time when Sun gives way to Moon.
Response: Now is the time when Lord gives way to Lady.
Call: Now is the time of the search and the quest.
Response: Now is the time of magic dew on the fields.
Call: Now is the time of the phallus rising.
Response: He seeks the doorway that is wet with spring rains.
Call: He seeks the moon in the river.
Response: He seeks the fishes in the winnowing basket.
Call: He seeks the fruit of Persephone.
Response: He seeks the mountain of the Muses.
Call: We crown his head with flowers….
Response: That he may reach the sky.
Call: We crown his head with ribbons….
Response: That he may touch the earth.
Call: We bring forth the pole from earth to sky.
Response: We lay the line from earth to sky.
Call: We blow like the wind from earth to sky.
Response: We fall like the rain from sky to earth.
Call: We descend like the sunlight from sky to earth.
Response: We climb like the trees from sky to earth.
Call: We are the children of earth and sky.
Response: We are beloved of sky and earth.
We all come from the Goddess, and to Her we shall return,
Like a drop of rain, flowing to the ocean.