6 Modern Ways To Honor May Day's Pagan Traditions
Beltane, the Wiccan Sabbat celebrating the awakening of spring, is held on the evening of April 30. The holiday originally held space for the Celtic god Bel (meaning “bright one”) and the life force that is light. Beltane was a time to embrace new life, fertility, and a general sense of optimism.
In pagan times, people celebrated Beltane by dancing around a large bonfire and getting freaky in the woods. While many may choose to opt out of Beltane’s nudity and promiscuity, there are many ways for the modern bohemian to foster a similar spirit of free-spiritedness and welcome all things spring.
Next to fire, flowers were of the greatest aesthetic import during Beltane. Revelers braided their hair with flowers, scattering blooms throughout their homes and at their doorsteps. Give that tradition a modern twist with a hand-crafted flower crown. Flowers typically associated with Beltane include primrose, marigolds, yellow and orange roses, buttercups, honeysuckles, and jasmine, but feel free to make use of any flowers that draw your eye—or are growing wild in your yard. Don’t forget to add bright, colorful ribbons to your crown to symbolize the May Pole, around which participants danced in the old world.
Set Up an Altar
While you may not be in the ideal location for an al fresco bonfire, you can still incorporate fire magic by way of candles. Set up a small altar in your space. Fill the area with flowers, ribbons, crystals, Tarot cards—any spiritual tools or symbols of manifestation that make sense for the season. Then, light a candle and speak your wishes aloud.
Stumped? Use ours: “I welcome this new beginning. I welcome the spark of life that builds within. The past has been put to rest and a new opportunity have awakened with the song of life.”
Leave an Offering
Beltane is also when the veil between the mortal realm and the magical world is at its thinnest, meaning that elementals are more like to be out and about. If you want to welcome the fairy folk, place a tiny saucer of milk or tiny pieces of oatmeal cookies by your altar to appease them. Who knows—they might even bring you some good luck in. return.
Do Things That Make You Feel Sexy
Beltane may be the holiday of carnal pleasure, but you don’t have to have sex in order to celebrate—unless you want to, of course. Even if it’s a solo act or the simple notion of feeling confident, Beltane is a great time to celebrate your sexuality. Take a long hot bath, wear flowy clothing, or get a massage. Remember, during Beltane, clothing is entirely optional. Do whatever makes you feel alive and in your body, whether that manifests as an at-home facial, making love, or pleasuring yourself. You do you.
Plan a Beltane Feast
As with most holidays, food plays a very important role in Beltane’s festivities. The holiday marked not only the height of spring, but also the time when cattle and livestock were herded out into the summer pastures. Traditional rituals to protect crops, dairy products, and people abounded—nd there were, of course, feasts. If you’re planning a little dinner party for Beltane, grains and dairy products should top the menu. If you’re a baker, whip up some tasty oatmeal cookies. Planning a more sensual night? Strawberries and cream. And if you’re busy or don’t have the energy, ice cream for dinner is wholly appropriate.
Dance It Out
Beltane is all about revelry, dancing, and music, so put on your favorite jams and dance like no one’s watching. Let your body do whatever it wants. When we move naturally we are in flow with the universe, offering physicality to free-flowing energy. So, along with bringing you joy, dancing allows the unseen to dance through you. And that’s pretty magical.
Art by Evie Shaffer