by Kristen Schoeffel
Depending on where you live in the world, you have probably started to notice the first signs of spring. Where I live in Maryland, we typically start to see signs of spring relatively early. The first flowers break through the sleepy earth by early March. By April, the flowering trees begin to bloom, of which, my favorite is the cherry blossom tree. I have one in my backyard and each year I am in awe of it. If you have never seen a cherry blossom tree in-person, you are missing out! They have beautiful pink flowers that typically only bloom for a week. The cherry blossom tree always reminds me just how precious each moment truly is. We never know how much time we will have on this planet and so it is imperative that we make each moment count. This spring, I encourage you to observe nature whenever you can. Notice the fluidity. Nature does not fear change.
Ever since I was little, I have always loved celebrations, therefore, it should come as no surprise that I absolutely love Beltane. Beltane, or May Day, is typically celebrated on April 30th or May 1st. Although these are the traditional celebration dates, I encourage you to celebrate when it makes the most sense in your region. When you notice the flowers in full bloom and you feel that first inkling of summer, that is the perfect time to celebrate! Beltane is often considered the first day of summer. The Earth is abundant with new life everywhere we look. In modern pagan traditions, Beltane celebrates the union of the Goddess and the God, making fertility and sexuality common themes of this sabbath.
If you are familiar with this tradition, you have no doubt heard of the maypole and the spectacular bonfires associated with Beltane. Some people associate the maypole with the World Tree, Yggdrasil, from Norse mythology. Yggdrasil is an ash tree that many believe connects us to life, death, the Earth and the Otherworld. It is the same tree that the All-Father, Odin, hung from for nine days. The maypole is also viewed as a symbol of sexual union, I am pretty sure I don’t need to elaborate on the symbolism for that one.
Maypoles are very easy to make and a ton of fun to dance around! All you need is a sturdy branch from a tree (bamboo is also a great option) that can be placed in the ground and some ribbon! If you want to get fancy you can add flowers to the top or create a flower crown for your maypole. It can also be helpful to have a stake to stabilize your maypole. So, what do you do with the maypole once you create it? Dance and sing of course! You will want to have at least two people. Each person grabs some ribbon and you dance around the pole while alternating going over and under one another. It is quite fun and creates a beautiful pattern. The pictures below are from three years of Beltane celebrations while I was living in Hawaii! We decided to keep the same maypole and just decorate it more and more each year! I encourage you to create your own unique tradition, that is part of the fun!
Bonfires are also a wonderful way to celebrate this seasonal transition. You can choose to create a ritual around your bonfire or just sit with friends. I also enjoy making flower crowns with flowers that have already fallen off the trees. It is easiest to do this with some thread and a needle and simply sew the flowers together. I always feel like a faerie princess with a flower crown! Speaking of faeries, Beltane is also associated with these mischievous beings. Faeries enjoy a good celebration as much as anyone. They also love beautiful things such as flowers and gardens. You can honor them by planting a small garden or some flowers. I know they appreciate it!
No matter how you celebrate, one thing is for sure, the more people you can celebrate with, the better! Our ancestors were connected to their communities in ways we have forgotten. Celebrating traditions that were native to our ancestors brings us closer to them. We are all connected. In our busy, modern lives, we forget the importance of Oneness with nature and each other. Beltane is an opportunity to reconnect and appreciate the Earth’s natural cycles. These cycles can teach us a lot about ourselves if we are willing to listen. What are your Beltane traditions? Let me know in the comments below!
Author: Kristen Schoeffel PhD Metaphysical Holistic Healing; M.Sc. Science & Health Promotion; US Veteran