Tonight is Walpurgisnacht, the Night of the Witches, and tomorrow is Beltane, so Blessed Beltane to all my fellow pagans, and happy May Day to everyone.
In the Northern Hemisphere, now is the time when the Goddess and God run wild in the meadows, and mate under the Flower Moon, coming together to generate new life and growth. It’s the time of the King Stag, going into rut, bellowing for his mate, and the time when the Queens of the Fae come out to walk among us. This is a holiday of passion in all forms, and of fertility, creativity, and raucous joy. The flowers are blooming, the trees have leafed out, and it’s time to kindle the sacred fires.
Beltane brings with it joy and play, and definitely chaos—for the fields are in full growth and everything is tumbling out of the shadow of spring, toward the height of summer. This is a fire festival, and so we light the balefire and dance around it, or scry deep into the flames, divining what we might need to know. Though I urge caution—one of the reasons for jumping the bonfire naked was to avoid catching clothes on fire. Whether you celebrate skyclad or clothed, be cautious! Fire’s a chaotic element, and so I urge you to have water nearby to extinguish any wayward flames. We dance the Maypole–which represents the phallus of the god, while the wreath around the top represents the vagina of the goddess.
There’s an old folk custom where women wake on the morning of Beltane, and go out to the fields to gather dew with which to wash their faces/bodies. This promises beauty all year long:
“The fair maid who on the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.”
26 years ago tomorrow morning, my women friends and I did this, on the morning of my handfasting. We got up at dawn and went out into the chilly apple orchard we were in, naked, and washed ourselves with the dew on the grass. It was cold, but a lovely ritual!
By the way, as a side note, Samwise and I got married on Beltane, which goes against pagan tradition. Over the years, we realized that the tradition is there for a reason. While our wedding was beautiful, we’ve had so many lousy anniversaries over the years—so we’ve taken to celebrating a few days before instead. Because on Beltane, no one is considered married—it’s the time of wild abandon, and whether you party a little or a lot, it’s not the best time to focus on commitment. If we had it to do over again from the start, I think we’d pick Litha—midsummer—to marry on.
So whether you just buy a bouquet of flowers to honor the season, or you plan out a full-fledged ritual, have a wonderful May day, and women—you might slip out early in the morning to wash a few dew drops across your face!