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BeltaneKevin Tuck, http://www.rgbstock.com

The disjoint from Christianity is emphasised by the fact that the Gods associated with Beltane are either Green Men, or semi-human goat or deer Gods, like Pan. This image especially has been used to represent the Christian devil. On the other hand, many churches feature Green Men discretely carved into the rafters. I think in a rural community the church recognised that fertility was still needed on the farm.

At this time of year in a traditional farming calendar, two fires would be lit and the  livestock driven between them, through the smoke, to clear their coats of ticks and other parasites. While this is clearly now outdated, Beltane fire festivals still exist into the modern day, being especially popular in Scotland. 

Beltane is the third of the Spring festivals and is the one most closely connected with fertility and especially the male aspects of that. It's a traditional fire festival in the middle of an earth sign.  Along with the Morris Dancing and Punch and Judy, May-poles are another important aspect of this festival. They work on many levels, firstly in that they have alternating young men and women dancing together. Secondly on a symbolic level this is the intermingling of male and female energies to create new life. Finally, it is also a phallic symbol. Male energy is quick and instinctive, rising sharply before dying off. When it meets the constant, nurturing female energy then life is created.

This process can apply to literal procreation or to the formulation of ideas and plans, or to the execution of magic powered by the Wheel. In terms of developing progress with plans or intents, this would be a time of year to push forward, in small bursts of energy followed by a period of rest.

Good colours for this day are bright and vibrant – usually greens and reds. When we decorate for this season, we use bells as well as these colours. These give us a nice visual echo back to Morris Dancers, both in colour and in sound. This festival should occur at the end of spring, a time of maximum growth, when summer is just around the corner.

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