Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May Day-Lá Bealtainne

Well it is May Day... I remember well the May Pole ritual which was still around when I was a child.  And what is May Day? It is a very old celestial festival long celebrated in Europle. In Gaelic Celtic lands it is called Lá Bealtainne.  This is on 1 May, circa halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. 

May Day is still widely observed by the better sort of person and is particularly popular in Celtic areas. The festival ritual was, and still is, observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and throughout the Gaelic Diaspora. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain, Imbolc, and Lunasa.

On our earth, Lá Bealtainne is a transition between the seasons. In ancient times this was when cattle and other livestock were driven to the summer pastures. The old gods were evoked for blessings of fertility and growth for the new growing season. There are many rituals associated with Lá Bealtainne that date from ancient times and some have survived to this day. 

Foremost are the bonfires. In Old Times folk walked around the bonfires as part of a protective ritual. This is done in a Deisealach (towards the right, i.e. clockwise) fashion. People would jump over smaller bonfires also, which is still a common practice.

 Yellow flowers were, and still are, used as decorations on windows, barns, and on the folk and livestock themselves.  The yellow colour is a celebration of the coming summer, the warmth and fertility of the summer sun.  Holy Wells are visited with votives left in the well or on the Faery Tree. 

Lá Bealtainne was similar to Oíche Shamhna (Holloween) in that this was also a time when the Aos Sí moved about and the veil between the Otherworld and our world dropped.  An Dagda presided over Lá Bealtainne, as he does at Oíche Shamhna and the Aos Sí were about at this time. 


So, Remember your ancestors on the Day, and if you can, do light the bonfire and celebrate tonight... If this is not possible, not to worry, just light a candle. It is the fire ritual itself that is important, even a wee fire will do. And, a libation for you and your loved ones and one for the Old Ones as well.  Enjoy your May Day.