For my May blog post, which I am posting early here towards the end of April, I want to talk a bit about the celebration of Beltane.
Other than Samhain, Beltane is probably one of my most favorite Pagan holidays. Beltane takes place on May 1st, and in many places, it is still known as May Day. The themes for this holiday are fertility, love, and unification. The dominant mood can best be described as flirtatious.
What is Beltane?
Samhain is to the dead as Beltane is to the living. It is a celebration of life and all things that are part of the living world. This includes nature, animals, and human beings. It is the last Spring holiday right before the Summer Solstice. Like Samhain, the veil between worlds is thin. There is a greater emphasis on the fairy folk (Fey and faeries), and supportive magick from other planes is more available in our world.
Fertility is the primary theme of Beltane, but this is also a holiday of love and unification. These two principles are a big part of fertility and experiencing joy in life. For most Pagan adults, this means that Beltane is also a celebration of the pleasures of life, including sex and sexuality. Since Children are not adults, families with children obviously place little to no emphasis on sex. Instead, they typically celebrate the fun things you couldn’t do in Winter because of the snow or cold.
The God and Goddess at Beltane
All Goddesses that are associated with love are the focus of Beltane. The Goddess of Beltane is the lover, and a few names for her include Venus, Aphrodite, and Oshun, though there are many others.
The God is revered as the Green Man, protector of nature. Often depicted as a face peering through branches and foliage, the Green Man is also associated with planting and growth. These are two more Spring related themes that mix well with Beltane.
Altars at Beltane
Flowers are the most common object placed on altars. Some will also place offerings for the fairy folk on the altar. Milk is said to be predominantly a favorite of the Fey. Colors associated with Beltane are red and white, and many use candles and altar cloths of these colors.
As always, different Pagans have different traditions. It would not be possible to include every practice, but what follows are three traditions that are especially suited for Beltane.
The May Pole
The May Pole and its dance is perhaps the most common tradition amongst Pagans celebrating Beltane.
There are a few theories among historians as to the reason for the May Pole and its dance.
I was always taught that the May Pole is symbolic of male genitalia. It is a phallic symbol that has ribbons of different colors alternating attached to it. The dance involves interweaving the ribbons around the pole – a sign of fertilization. Men and women are often paired up and pass the ribbons between them as they dance around the circle. This is symbolic of male and female energy entwining and thus creating.
Some historians, however, suggest that this is totally inaccurate, at least from a historical perspective. They say it’s far more likely the May Pole was used simply as a symbol for the resurrection of Spring. It served the practical purpose of allowing people to have fun after many months of not being able to.
A third group will tell you that the pole represents the World Tree, and the dance is about the journey one takes between the worlds. The World Tree theory is popular among many shamanic practitioners and those of Norse heritage. For those who haven’t read my other articles, the World Tree is a giant tree growing between all worlds. One can use this tree to travel to different worlds which are not part of our ordinary everyday reality.
Regardless of which version you believe, women will often wear flowers in their hair or head wreaths to add to the festive spirit. Each version has a different reason for this. In the fertility version, it’s so the lady comes off as more seductive and alluring. In the Spring fun version, it’s simply to add to the fun and enjoyment of the celebration. In the World Tree version, it’s to help one more quickly return to this world and be protected while traveling to other worlds.
Most Pagans acknowledge the dance itself raises tremendous energy for creation and manifestation. This is regardless of which version you believe. (Though, honestly, in my humble opinion, this makes the most sense with the fertility version. Perhaps I’m just biased because this was my own training.)
Interacting with the Fey
A lesser-known tradition and not as widely practiced involves interacting with the fairy folk. I was always taught the optimal time to interact with the Fey is on Midsummer Eve. Still, I have discovered over the years that many choose to interact with them at Beltane as well.
Though there are many ways to do this, a few ways include:
- Leaving offerings (as previously mentioned).
- Washing your face with the morning dew (said to be a blessing from the Fey).
- Staying up outside (especially in the woods or a forest) all night long.
Some believe that the Fey will come to you in the hour right before sunrise. The longer you’ve been in the forest/woods, the more likely they are to bless you with their presence. The more respectful you have been, the more likely they are to bestow a blessing on you.
If you choose to attempt to interact with the Fey, do be careful. Some say they are mischievous creatures and that they have been known to play pranks on individuals. In other cases, there are even a few stories of the faeries cursing those deserving of punishment and delighting in their misery.
The final tradition I want to talk about is the actual act of flirting, which tends to be heightened during Beltane.
What is Flirting?
Flirting is both an action and a mood. As an action, it’s doing something (usually playfully) to try to get someone’s attention. As a mood, it’s typically fun, light-hearted, and festive, with your energy focused on a specific individual for a particular period.
There are three main reasons people flirt.
The first is to attract a romantic life mate. To get the interest of someone you have a crush on or that you feel drawn to and are interested in getting to know better. The hope is that flirting will lead to a serious relationship.
The second reason people flirt is to arouse sexual feelings in another with the hope of eventually engaging in some form of sexual activity or play with them. This is sometimes called coquetry and typically is noncommittal in nature.
We are most interested in the third reason people flirt. That’s to have fun, feel more confident in the self, and make someone else feel good about who they are. The intention here is not to “lead someone on,” but rather to make them and yourself feel good.
This type of flirting, to me, is the heart of the flirtatious spirit of Beltane. When done correctly, there is no doubt that the purpose is to bask in the fun and playful energy you create.
Now that we understand what flirting is let’s look at some ways people can flirt in the spirit of Beltane.
The truth is, anyone can flirt with a Beltane Spirit and have fun on this holiday.
Remember the acronym FLIRT. It teaches you the five ways you can enjoy flirting on Beltane.
“F” is for fun. No matter what you do, make it a point to have fun with it. You want to try and make the person you’re flirting with laugh or blush.
“L” is for light-hearted. Keep the mood light and playful. Never talk about past relationships while flirting, and don’t focus on serious things that may distract from the intention of being flirtatious.
“I” is for interest. Try to focus your interest on only one target at a time. The person you are flirting with should feel like the center of attention. Ask lots of questions, even if you already know the answer. Give the person you’re flirting with lots of time to boast about themselves or their lives. Let them share who they are without fear of being judged or ridiculed.
“R” is for regression.
Become a child again. Be willing to tease, banter, be witty, be imaginative, and over-exaggerate expressions (especially of awe, disappointment, and surprise). If you usually have problems with any of this, just pretend your target is your younger brother or sister. Go out of your way to unapologetically try to annoy them. Do remember it’s supposed to be fun for both of you, though! If it ends up being hurtful, it’s obviously not flirtatious.
“T” is for tender. Tender can be physical, as in gently resting your hand on someone’s arm or holding someone’s hand. Running the fingers through the hair or lightly brushing against someone. In the physical sense, it’s any appropriate touch that conveys care and love for the person. Obviously, the better you know a person and the closer the two of you are, the more physical touch becomes appropriate. If you doubt if the other person will find it suitable, DO NOT TOUCH THEM!
Tender can also be mental, as in opening your heart to someone else’s dreams and desires, especially for their future. When flirting with someone, make an attempt to get them to talk about their future plans and goals and encourage and cheer them on. Let them know you support them and hope and wish the best for them.
Finally, tender can also involve praise and admiration. Make it a point to praise and speak on the things you admire about the person you are flirting with. Everyone enjoys hearing good things about themselves. Beltane is the perfect time to directly share with someone what you have noticed and liked about them.
I have one final note in regards to flirting and Beltane. Some years I enjoy sending “love letters” on Beltane to people (male and female) that have been incredibly influential to me and my life. These letters are written to thank a person for being in my life, and they tell them why they have been and are important to me. They are obviously personalized to each individual. This act of sending a very personalized letter of appreciation can also be considered flirting with a Beltane spirit.
I hope the information contained within this article has helped you to think about and understand the Pagan holiday of Beltane a little bit better. Beltane is supposed to be fun and energizing, and at the end of the day, it should make you smile and be thankful that you are still alive to enjoy life with other living beings. Likewise, if you make it a point to brighten someone else’s life, if just for a day, then you are doing your part to honor and celebrate Beltane.