And here is what Graham says:
Beltane is a spring festival that's traditionally celebrated on the
first of May. In the UK there is a bank holiday on the first Monday of
May, so there's usually a long weekend around Beltane. It can also be
marked by the mid point of the sun's transit through Taurus, which can
place it around the 8th of May. Often this weekend is marked by fairs
which can be small and local or major events like the ‘Obby ‘Oss
festival at Padstow in Cornwall, and the Sweeps Festival in Rochester,
Kent. Both of these events have a national reputation and can attract
tens of thousands of people. Regardless of size, these usually feature
local stalls, Punch and Judy and there is always Morris Dancing.
is a form of folk dancing that doesn't really exist outside England. It
features traditional dances, with accordians, fiddles and
At this time of year there is a central figure – sometimes a horse
representation, often with a skull on a stick – the hobby horse that
gives the Padstow celebration its name - or a green man. This
will be a figure covered in foliage and ribbons. In some cases they
look like walking trees. Whatever the costume, these are all fertility
figures and the folklore surrounding them usually involves local
customs about girls being kissed or dancing with the green man to
ensure they'd fall pregnant over the next year.
There might have
been a custom of the young people going out into the woods overnight
and then coming back through the community the next morning to bless
the farms that they passed. It's hard to find any concrete evidence but
this was possibly a night of indulgence for the unmarried youth of a
community. It is worth remembering that the idea of chastity before
marriage is relatively recent when compared to the length of time over
which the Wheel has been celebrated.
Also, there appear to be
faint echoes that all festivals had some form of procession through the
area occupied by a tribe. Definite survivors are trick or treating,
carol singing and beating the bounds.
The link between Beltane
Halloween is interesting, because Beltane is exactly opposite Halloween
on the Wheel of the Year. Beltane is about fertility and sex, whereas
(on a basic level) Halloween is about death. These are two sides of the
same coin and are both concerned with the basic physicality and cycle
This is also one festival that hasn't been adopted or
changed much by Christianity, probably because at a high theological
level, Christianity sees the spirit as divorced from the physical world
and trying to rise above it. Paganism on the other hand seeks to
synthesise the two opposites of spirit and physicality. This is
especially obvious at this festival with its carnal overtones. [More...]
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